The Role of Technology Support Centres in stimulating Entrepreneurship and Innovation in SME Clusters
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The Innovative Product Development Centre (IPDC) was established at the University of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands region of the UK with a mission “to help small and medium sized companies improve their business, secure jobs and contribute to the economic regeneration of the West Midlands Region”. Since 2000, the IPDC has helped several hundred enterprises to develop their businesses through innovation and new product development. Demand for help is high, which reflects a healthy desire by the SMEs to innovate. The assistance given is time limited, but its impact on the business is extremely varied. This paper will discuss the role that a university based product development and technology centre can play in supporting a regional agenda for developing entrepreneurship and innovation in SMEs. Using case studies drawn from the experiences of working with SMEs from the West Midlands region, the paper will consider key issues such as: • Entrepreneurial leadership in SMEs • Formalised approaches for managing NPD • Technology support for innovation • Product innovation • Business networks and entrepreneurial clusters The paper will conclude that university based centres like IPDC can play a vital role in regional development programmes by helping minimise the risks for entrepreneurs to develop new products or adopt new process technologies. Importantly, investments in such centres by regional development agencies can be pivotal for stimulating access to new technology for the exploitation of entrepreneurial clusters and creating attractive inward investment opportunities.
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