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Title: Scottish space sector and innovation : a PERIpatetic study of an emerging innovation system and the roles of innovation intermediaries
Author: Vidmar, Matjaz
ISNI:       0000 0004 9349 0976
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis seeks a more effective understanding of Open Innovation (OI) and the available strategies for its development within (geographically–bound) sectoral systems of innovation (GSSIs). Theoretically, it draws upon the competing intellectual traditions (from innovation studies and from science and technology studies) with their different presumptions, which alternatively favour either macro-level positivist or micro-level interpretativist perspectives. These divides prevent a more holistic theoretical understanding of OI, and present a challenge to practitioners, who struggle to operationalise the theories’ insights. Hence, this thesis proposes a novel Practical Epistemology for Researching Innovation, i.e. the PERIpatetic Approach, which aims to integrate multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives for a flexible, problem-driven academic enquiry. This new framework for participatory action research is based on “abductive” theory development, which uses bottom-up empirical engagement to identify emergent challenges to state-of-the-art understanding. The research methodology put forward for this approach is centred on strategic ethnography of innovation, which combines multi-sited mixed-method research design, with constructive embeddedness in the field. The empirical focus of this thesis is on the emergence of the (New) Space Sector in Scotland - mainly made up of small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Here, miniaturisation and cheapening of core technologies and increased access to space data has been driving significant sectoral growth and diversification – which is of interest to entrepreneurs and politicians alike. I approached the field by being embedded within an active intermediary, which wanted to understand and respond to these trends and opportunities. Consequently, this thesis analyses the modelling of OI between macro-level trends and micro-level practices, through a focus on the activities and organisational behaviour of a network of SMEs and opportunities to support them through the work of innovation intermediaries. In its first part, the thesis analyses the UK/Scottish innovation policy in the Space Sector, exposing the dispersion of public investment, which is creating divergent clusters. These clusters attempt to integrate through the concept of “Agile Space” into a collaborative “Living Laboratory”, constructing new markets and developing products. Applying social network analysis and outlining a new concept of innovation moments, I focus on the structures at play within this integrative framing, identifying processes of organisational learning which develop structural absorptive capacity. Thus, I form an integrated multi-level perspective on a (geographically–bound) sectoral system of innovation (MLP-GSSI), which can be applied to other OI contexts and can be adapted for analysing other aspects of complex innovation systems. In the thesis’ second part, the analysis seeks to redress the lack of systemic understanding of the central role of innovation intermediaries, by developing new classification and prototypology of their interventions. To validate and operationalise this new model, I apply it to the network of innovation intermediaries in the Scottish (New) Space Sector. I further contextualise this insight through a detailed case study of two large investments in innovation intermediation in similarly positioned Space Sectors - examining the tension between business development and R&D support for OI-driven smart specialisation.
Supervisor: Rosiello, Alessandro ; Vermeulen, Niki ; Williams, Robin Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: open innovation ; organisational culture ; space science ; knowledge exchange ; intermediaries ; Scotland ; economic development ; innovation systems ; multilevel approach ; PERIpatetic approach