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ABSTRACT

It is increasingly understood that learning and thus innovation often occurs via highly interactive, iterative, network-based processes. Simultaneously, economic development policy is increasingly focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a means of generating growth, creating a clear research issue in terms of the roles and interactions of government policy, universities, and other sources of knowledge, SMEs, and the creation and dissemination of innovation. This paper analyses the contribution of a range of actors in an SME innovation creation and dissemination framework, reviewing the role of various institutions therein, exploring the contribution of cross-locality networks, and identifying the mechanisms required to operationalise such a framework. Bivariate and multivariate (regression) techniques are employed to investigate both innovation and growth outcomes in relation to these structures; data are derived from the survey responses of over 450 SMEs in the UK. Results are complex and dependent upon the nature of institutions involved, the type of knowledge sought, and the spatial level of the linkages in place but overall highlight the value of cross-locality networks, network governance structures, and certain spillover effects from universities. In general, we find less support for the factors predicting SME growth outcomes than is the case for innovation. Finally, we outline an agenda for further research in the area.