The role of innovation intermediaries in collaborative networks of small and medium-sized enterprises
With Kristijan Mirkovski, Paul Benjamin Lowry, and Libo Liu
The major challenge of European Union’s agricultural industry is to ensure sustainable supply of quality food that meets the demands of a rapidly growing population, changing dietary patterns, increased competition for land use, and environmental concerns. Investments in research and innovation, which facilitate integration of external knowledge in food chain operations, are crucial to undertaking such challenges. This paper addresses how SMEs successfully innovate within collaborative networks with the assistance of innovation intermediaries. In particular, we explore the roles of innovation intermediaries in knowledge acquisition, knowledge assimilation, knowledge, transformation, and knowledge exploitation in open innovation initiatives from the wine industry through the theoretical lens of absorptive capacity. Based on two case studies from the wine industry, we identified seven key activities performed by innovation intermediaries that complement SMEs’ ability to successfully leverage external sources of knowledge for innovation purposes. These activities are articulation of knowledge needs and innovation capabilities, facilitation of social interactions, establishment of complementary links, implementation of governance structures, conflict management, enhancement of transparency, and mediation of communication. Our in-depth qualitative study of two innovation intermediaries in the wine industry has several important implications that contribute to research and practice.