Edited by Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen and Isabel Schwinge
Chapter 8: Readjusting the perspective on LMT firms in product supply chains in light of knowledge-intensive activity
The main objective of this chapter is to readjust the prevalent perspective on low-and medium-low-tech (LMT) firms in product supply chains in the debate on innovation and knowledge intensity. With regard to sources of innovation, the prevalent view of LMT firms is dominated by the science and technology perspective that classifies them as supplier-dominated firms with weak internal innovation capabilities (e.g. Heidenreich, 2009). In contrast to this, industrial innovation studies describe more differentiated innovation activities of LMT firms (Hirsch-Kreinsen, 2008). Robertson et al. (2009) criticize the fact that the contribution of LMT customers is often not grasped statistically. Other studies show that some LMT firms increase their competitiveness by moving up the product supply chain (Bender, 2006). Through interaction with customers and suppliers they create new products, increase their product capabilities or open up new markets, and can also play an important role in high-tech products (ibid.), which has already been stressed by von Tunzelmann and Acha (2005) and Robertson and Patel (2005). There are, besides, indications-with respect to significant environmental changes like intensive international price competition, liberalization of international trade, and rising energy and material costs as innovation drivers-leading to the conclusion that incremental innovations along mature technological paths are no longer sufficient for LMT manufacturing firms (see also Protogerou et al. in Chapter 7 in this volume).
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