Purpose – Small firms rely on a variety of network partners, and in various roles, to initiate and implement innovations. While past typologies of innovation networking were defined at the level of firms or industries, the purpose of this paper is to develop a typology at the level of innovation objects.
Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on survey data of 594 innovations in Dutch small firms, cluster analysis is applied to develop a typology of networking patterns for innovation in small firms.
Findings – In total, six patterns of innovation networking were identified: supplier-based, customer-based, informal-based, bank/accountant-based, science-based and government-based. The supplier-based pattern is most dominant and characterized by modest and simple contributions from networking partners, while governments tend to be involved in innovations marked by voluminous and complex partner involvement. Validity of the typology is suggested by two findings: more voluminous and complex networking patterns are correlated with firms’ internal capabilities, and with the newness and competence requirements of innovations.
Originality/value – For practitioners the typology provides a more fine-grained view on how innovations in small firms are developed. This includes the role of relatives and friends, bank and accountants, and remote partners such as governments – network partners which so far were not covered in typologies of innovation networking.
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