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The above review of literature charts major scholarly efforts on the definition, taxonomy, determinants, process and effects of innovation.
It is obvious that definitional endeavour on innovation has generated a large number of perspectives to the phenomenon of innovation. There has not been, any attempt to unify these diverse notions of innovation. Such an attempt is made here by conceptualising the idea of an innovation-span. It would be churlish to claim that it finally settles the apparent conflict in understanding of innovation but it does represent advancement in our understanding of innovation. As explained above, the notion of innovation-span allows all work on innovation, including the work contained in this thesis, to be juxtaposed in a wider and yet congruent context.
Efforts to ascertain the factors affecting the success of innovation in business organisations too have produced a large number of definite influences. Depending on their research focus and the data availability, innovation scholars have tried to conceptualise a number of determinants and verify their impact on innovation performance of businesses in a region, in an industry or in a group of enterprises chosen, based on some other suitable criteria. Major determinants of innovation reported in literature are classified here, starting with the broad categories of internal and external characteristics of enterprise. Internal characteristics are then divided into strategic and non-strategic variables whereas the external determinants are classified into region and industry specific factors.
This effort allowed crystallisation of this research inquiry. As this inquiry is on innovation and new product development in the Scottish food SMEs, the pursuit of external characteristics of business as an innovation influence is automatically ruled out. The search here, therefore, is for the internal characteristics of case study enterprises that played a role in shaping the direction, pace and outcome of their innovative efforts. It also attempts to discover what part of taxonomy of innovation, discussed in the literature, does the Scottish food SMEs innovations fit into.
This research, however, is more ambitious than what the above discussion would indicate. In fact, if this effort were confined to only to the identification of determinants and taxonomy of innovation in the Scottish food SMEs, the research strategy that used here and the research process that this project passed through, would have been very different.
A research project setting out to understand only the determinants of innovation in the Scottish food SMEs would have been best served by sending out a mail questionnaire designed to judge the presence or absence of determinants already reported in literature to all known small innovative food companies in Scotland. The outcome of such research effort would have been less instructive. Though it would have certainly confirmed the presence or otherwise of innovation determinants in the Scottish food SMEs reported in other contexts and highlighted the distinguishing features of the Scottish food SMEs innovation, it would have fallen short of accentuating the more substantive and interesting issues in the context. As stated above, the phenomenon of SMEs innovation is better understood as a chain of causal events culminating in innovation rather than in terms of a set of discrete influencing variables. The moot question therefore is, if there are a number of businesses in the food sector in Scotland that have successfully created new products then, is there a single identifiable underlying process through which they all have passed. If yes, then what is that process? Alternatively, have they each gone through a different route to reach the same goal (or there are more than one routes but not as many as the number of enterprise)? Then, what are the major points of departure between enterprises in their journeys from ideas to products and what are the influences prompting each departure? Following Bygrave (1989), ‘the enlightened speculation’ here was that there should be one single underlying process, with minor variations. The reasoning was that these companies are similar on many counts. Each of them is small, Scottish, in the food sector and a successful product innovator. It therefore seems intuitively appealing that they would have similar strengths, drawbacks and scope in their efforts to create new goods. The process that they use to develop new products therefore must have many common threads.
In comparison to a discrete and piecemeal nature of innovation that emerges from an analysis of innovation determinants, this visualisation of innovation as a continuous process is more illuminating as it not merely lists the major influences on the innovation process, it connects them through a succession of logical causality. As there is need not merely to understand what the major influences on innovation process in the Scottish food SMEs are but also to know if the process can be replicated in other presently non-innovative but willing food companies, a discrete determinants based view of innovation is, thus, less useful than a continuous process perception of it.