This body of research seeks to understand the range of factors that play an important role in managing the innovation process and entrepreneurial success. Three fundamental principles are guiding our research in this area.
Our research looks at various kinds of small enterprises, including, and looking beyond, the new technology-based firms and the high-tech small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), addressing SMEs in low and medium technology (LMT) sectors or SMEs of low absorptive capacity. Our research includes cases such as start-ups and other SMEs in the emerging 5G technology (Profitnet Digital) and the most innovating SMEs in the EU (CoachCom 2020 and INSPIRE) as well as small social enterprises (SPARK), SMEs of low absorptive capacity (RAPPORT) and SMEs in LMT sectors (INSPIRE).
Our research sees entrepreneurial development as a wider process, going beyond the personality of the entrepreneur to include elements such as organisational practices, the enabling environment, empowering support programmes and facilitating policies. A series of research and enterprise projects have explored the critical role of organisational learning in the formation of innovation capabilities and the advantages, but also the challenges, of using a peer learning environment through learning networks to enable small business to grow (Profitnet). Another strand of our research has looked into programmes supporting links between small businesses and the research base, namely universities and public and private research and technology organisations (RAPPORT). One of our current projects, INSPIRE, is looking at strategies and practices to professionalise and make effective open innovation for SMEs.
In line with the CENTRIM philosophy, our research also actively looks for ways to make an impact on small enterprises, their ecosystems and the conditions in which they are called to operate. The outcome of our research has been used to set-up an international peer-to-peer learning network among SMEs, Profitnet, which has helped more than 1,500 SMEs in UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Republic of South Africa. Profitnet has been selected as best practice for research impact by a number of reputable bodies like ESRC in UK and Vinnova in Sweden. Similarly, a series of projects (CoachCom 2020) have researched the notion of innovation coaching for SMEs. The outcomes of these projects have informed the development of the innovation coaching system for the flagship SME support programme of the EU, the SME Instrument programme, which more than 1,600 innovative SMEs have participated in so far.
Our research is driven by the belief that the entrepreneurial process is complex and affected by a wide range of factors. We seek to understand these factors as well as the complex interaction between them. Understanding these factors and their interactions enables enterprises to scale-up, providing due returns to their owners, their employees as well as to their economy.