The strategic management of technology as a source of competitive advantage in small high tech firms
This thesis is concerned with the topic of the strategic management of technology as a source of competitive advantage in small high tech firms. The main objectives of this thesis were: to examine the corporate and technology strategy formulation processes within small high tech firms; to identify any change in these processes as the business and its core technologies mature; and to explore the role of the technical entrepreneur in initiating a strategic orientation within such firms. Empirical research proceeded in two phases. Phase One involved a postal survey based upon 519 small high tech firms located in UK science parks. 30 respondent firms were selected for Phase Two of empirical research, where in-depth company interviews were employed to investigate further the phenomena under scrutiny. Successful small high tech firms exhibit a strategic transformation over their life cycle. More formalised strategic management processes are implemented within such firms to support the organisation's evolution from an inward-looking orientation at inception focusing upon technological possibilities generated through R&D efforts, towards an outward orientation as core technologies mature, emphasising the need more closely to identify market opportunities in order to guide R&D activity. This research has confirmed that the professional orientation of company directors will determine whether technological considerations are subsumed within strategic planning processes, or whether they implicitly drive business activities. The required strategic reorientation of the business is unlikely to be achieved where management skills remain focused within narrow technical spheres and thus technological considerations dominate the strategy formulation process throughout each life cycle stage. Ultimately, the key determinant of success in the small high tech firm will be the ability of the technical entrepreneur to initiate a strategic orientation within the firm; this will require that he adapts philosphically and managerially as the firm grows, as core technologies mature and as marketing imperatives become the predominant force within the firm's chosen industry.