Beyond product innovation; improving innovation policy support for SMEs in traditional industries

R.J.M. Wintjes, D. Douglas, J. Fairburn, H.J.G.M. Hollanders, G. Pugh

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Innovation support measures in the EU are mostly designed to support
product innovation in R&D intensive sectors. To increase the still
considerable contribution to regional employment and competitiveness
from SMEs in traditional manufacturing industries a broader innovation
(policy) mix is more appropriate. This paper draws data from a survey of
more than 300 SMEs from seven regions within the European Union, as well
as case studies, to address the question: How can innovation policy
interventions be improved to support SMEs in traditional manufacturing
industries more effectively? We claim that innovation support should be
sensitive to the way SMEs in traditional manufacturing sectors innovate
and grow. We find that product innovation (and support used for product
innovation) is less likely to generate growth, than (support used for)
process innovation. Also (support used for) marketing innovations and
organizational innovations are of particular importance - together with
internationalization, design and cooperation. The increasingly selective
application procedures applied are not the most efficient to generate
impact, since those who are supported (and those who are supported more
frequently), are the ones who are most likely to take the same
innovative steps anyhow, irrespective of policy support.

Keywords: Innovation, SMEs, traditional sectors, low-tech, policy evaluation,
manufacturing, process innovation
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

SeriesUNU-MERIT Working Papers

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