Technological Innovation

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Technological innovation should not be seen as the result of a single idea, but from a bundle or ensemble of ideas, information, technology, codified knowledge and know-how, which may or may not be included within the new product or process (Conway and Steward, 1998). Furthermore, new ideas rarely appear fully formed and articulated from a single source (Allen, 1977; Allen et al, 1983). For example, Allen et al (1983), observed in their cross-national study of technological change in Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) that: “Bits and pieces of what eventually becomes a new idea arrive from a variety of sources...The individuals who introduce the new idea to the organisation, integrate these messages and in that may make their own creative contribution to the process” (P. 201). This may indicate that innovation often originate from a portfolio or network of actors and relationships (Conway and Steward, 1998). In fact, the network perspective to the study of inter-organizational relationships has received attention in a wide range of organizational literature, from sociology to management and economics. From these fields, the network approach has developed which view organizations as embedded in a web of linkages that act as both facilitators and constraints by influencing their interest and capacity to take actions (Powell, 1990; Nohria & Eccles, 1992).

The main benefits of networks are the exchange of information and knowledge, and access to resources (Claro, 2004). Interdependence is seen as an important binding force to the organizations within a network (Lazzarini et al, 2001). Gulati (1999) and Kogut (2002) studied the direct combination of resources through networks and highlighted the role of ‘hub firms’, which initiate the network and play a proactive role in allocating resources. Market researchers in Europe have indicated that stable long-term stable relations between industrial manufacturers sharing R&D facilitates the development of resources and personnel (Johanson & Matson, 1985). Moreover, Swedish construction firms invest in building relationships with other firms and share information that promotes resource integration and innovation and blurs independent identities (Håkansson et al., 1999). Inter-firm networks can be envisaged as ‘relational-cognitive systems’ that foster valuable knowledge and that engage in continuous learning processes (Mariotti and Delbridge, 2001). A network can also be viewed as a space of emerging relationships or the “Ba”, as it has been called by Nonaka and Konno (1998), which is a space that channel and integrates all the knowledge in the network and serves as a framework in which knowledge is activated as a resource for creation.
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