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The Organisation of Entrepreneurial Technology Firms in Several European Countries

Aims & objectives

A growing emphasis in the work of the Programme has been placed on an important element of the rapid development of the ‘new economy’, namely the widespread use of entrepreneurial business models to support clusters of dynamic small firms specialising in new technologies. While this development is often associated with the US economy, research by Steven Casper has examined the impact of national institutional frameworks on the organisation and innovation strategy of technology firms across several European economies. The questions he addressed include: do business models and related organisational structures developed by European firms simply mimic those found in the United States, or have European firms found unique organisational formulas for translating technology investments into commercial enterprises? What are the sources of competitive advantage for European high-technology firms?

Methods & findings

Part of this research focused on innovation dynamics and related public policy dilemmas within the Internet software sector. The work considered differences in the orchestration of human resource competencies across different types of entrepreneurial technology firms. More specifically, it examined what type of scientists and engineers different types of technology firms draw upon, and how are they deployed within organisational structures within the firm. It concluded that trade-offs exist in terms of designing institutions to foster entrepreneurial technology firms. Because different types of technology firms differ in their core organisation, their optimal governance requires their embeddedness in different innovation systems. Thus, while the US has a large lead in fostering new technology firms, as key technological drivers diffuse through the international economy, one can expect that a division of labour will emerge cross-nationally. Casper has also collaborated with Richard Whitley (Manchester Business School) on a broader comparative analysis of the organisation of entrepreneurial technology firms in several European countries. The paper developed a theoretical framework to evaluate the impact of national institutional frameworks on the organisation and innovation strategy of technology firms. The paper used a combination of descriptive statistics and brief case studies to examine the impact of national business systems on the organisation of the software and biotechnology industries in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The analysis broadly supported hypotheses correlating differences in national business systems with variations in patterns of sub-sector specialisation across the biotechnology and software industries. However, it also suggested that factors typically ignored by comparative business system analysis, such as the orientation of basic research systems and telecommunications regulatory regimes, also strongly impact the ability of entrepreneurial technology firms to establish innovative capacity.

Working papers

Casper, S. and Whitley, R. (2002) Managing competences in entrepreneurial technology firms: a comparative institutional analysis of Germany, Sweden and the UK. Centre for Business Research Working Paper No. 230.

Project leader

Steve Casper

Project status