Success factors for innovation management in networks of small and medium enterprises



Because firms today operate in increasingly turbulent and complex environments, they need to be more proactive and innovative. Networks are gaining in importance, especially for small and medium enterprises with limited resources as R&D cooperations or cooperations along the value chain seem to be the only way to succeed with technologically challenging and promising but also expensive and risky product innovations. One of the key problems of these networks, however, is the question of how to plan, organize and control the innovation processes that are distributed over several partners. Theoretically derived and empirically proven success factors could help as much here as in the traditional success/failure discussion of new product development within firms. This paper discusses the effects of such factors, which partly derive from the traditional success/failure discussion within firms (e.g. market potential, product advantage, technological synergy, proficiency of technological or marketing activities) but also factors derived from recent network research (e.g. trust or dependence on partners). Their effect on new product performance is discussed on the basis of a comprehensive survey with 271 participating networks. The results confirm the traditional success factors, especially the product advantage and proficiency factors. But they also show that network-related success factors (especially network cohesion and organization) are of similar major importance.