Innovation processes in SMEs: Exploring the influence of varying degrees of control

DS 87-2 Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 2: Design Processes, Design Organisation and Management, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017

Year: 2017
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Karlsson, Anna; Öhrwall Rönnbäck, Anna; Lind, Erika
Series: ICED
Institution: Luleĺ University of Technology, Sweden
Section: Design Processes, Design Organisation and Management
Page(s): 447-456


Previous research in the field of product innovation management has focused on large firms. This is unfortunate because small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have features that clearly distinguish them from their larger counterparts and also play an important role in the global economy. In addition, SMEs often have more varying control of the whole innovation process – from identification of a customer need to delivering customer value – compared to larger companies. This article addresses this research gap by exploring how SMEs with growth ambitions, and varying degree of control, can leverage their innovation process. The article outlines results from a SWOT analysis utilizing data from a multiple case study of eight SMEs. Both ‘product owning’ companies (with either in-house or outsourced manufacturing) as well as manufacturing industry subcontractors were sampled. The results show indications of the influence of varying degree of control of the innovation process – relating to different phases, how knowledge and competence are considered and being reliant on others – and how SMEs and their offerings can be considered as parts of larger systems.

Keywords: Organizational processes, Case study, Organisation of product development, SWOT, Established SMEs


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