Edited by Bjørn T. Asheim, Arne Isaksen, Claire Nauwelaers and Franz Tödtling
Chapter 1: The Role and Characteristics of SMEs in Innovation
David Smallbone, David North and Ian Vickers 1.1 INTRODUCTION The main objective of the SMEPOL project is to undertake comparative analysis of existing policies and programmes to encourage and support innovation in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in order to establish good practice. Since SMEs have been increasingly recognized by policymakers as a target for policy intervention, an important part of the context for the SMEPOL project is the role of SMEs in contemporary European economies. Another is the distinctive characteristics of SMEs with respect to innovation, since these are likely to inﬂuence the rationale for policy intervention designed to support innovation in them, as well as any barriers they face in achieving their innovative potential. It may be suggested that one of the key underlying aims of policy intervention in this respect should be to help ﬁrms to overcome any size-related barriers that may limit their ability to achieve their potential contribution to the innovative capability of a local, regional or national economy. Although there are variations between policy programmes (within as well as between countries) in the eligibility criteria that are applied, the SME deﬁnition used in the SMEPOL project is that currently used by the EC for statistical purposes: very small enterprises, with less than 10 employees; small enterprises with 10–49 employees and a turnover of less than ᇾ7m; and medium enterprises with 50–249 employees and an annual turnover of less than ᇾ40m. 1.2 THE ROLE OF SMEs IN CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN ECONOMIES One...
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