Knowledge within small and medium-sized firms: a systematic review of the evidence

Pittaway, L A and Thorpe, R and Macpherson, A and Holt, R (2005) Knowledge within small and medium-sized firms: a systematic review of the evidence. Working Paper. Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, Lancaster University.

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This paper provides a systematic review of the literature on how SMEs use and acquire knowledge. The review was undertaken as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Evolution of Business Knowledge Programme. The paper describes the systematic review protocol and provides a detailed explanation of the methods used. From the review it is evident that SME knowledge research primarily concentrates on the acquisition and use of knowledge, treating it as an asset that is transferred by routines. The findings suggest that research is focused in three main areas. First, focusing on the influence and abilities of the entrepreneur to extract, use and develop knowledge resources. Secondly, research that explores the firm-wide systems and human capital that facilitate knowledge exploration and exploitation. Thirdly, study that examines the institutional context and which is primarily focused on the effectiveness of Government policy. There are also a handful of studies reviewed that reflect a concern with the socially constructed nature of knowledge. From a practical perspective, the review concludes that regeneration policies need to be more flexible and sensitive to the often complex contexts within which knowledge is constructed. From a research perspective, and given the flexible, opportunity-oriented and often novel nature of SMEs identified in these studies, there is a need to consider the relational and embedded qualities of knowledge by which these characteristics are framed; qualities that resist conceptualisation as some form of separable, material asset.

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11 Jul 2011 21:11
Last Modified:
09 Apr 2024 00:36