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Innovation and cooperation in the small firm sector: evidence from 'Northern Britain'

Freel, M. and Harrison, R.T. (2006) Innovation and cooperation in the small firm sector: evidence from 'Northern Britain'. Regional Studies, 40 (4). pp. 289-305. ISSN 0034-3404

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Freel M. S. and Harrison R. T. (2006) Innovation and cooperation in the small firm sector: evidence from 'Northern Britain', Regional Studies 40, 289-305. Over the last 20 years, network-based models of innovation-led economic development have grown increasingly popular to both the polity and the academy. In contrast to earlier linear conceptions, innovation is viewed as a systemic phenomenon in which interactive learning and cooperative entrepreneurship are fundamental. The way that systems and, in turn, networks are usually defined is by the volume and characteristics of the linkages that bind them together. Accordingly, drawing upon a recent survey of small firms in Scotland and Northern England (1347 responses), the paper is concerned with mapping the extent of small firm innovation-related networking and understanding the unique contribution such networks make to the successful introduction of new products and processes. Importantly, it investigated the impact of networking on innovation in both manufacturing and services. To this end, the paper notes the positive associations between product innovation success and cooperation with customers and the public sector, and between process innovation success and cooperation with suppliers and universities. It also notes, with caution, the high volume of 'successful' innovators that did not cooperate to innovate.