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Number 01 (03.06.2002)
Subject INNOVALOC: Peripheral environments and SMEs’ dynamism
Interim results of the project
Contribution Innovative activities

We have proposed to conduct a research project relative to SME's capacity to sustain an endogenous development with innovative activities in Less Favoured Regions, through the analysis of four functions: local development, entrepreneurship, co-ordination, and technological learning.

We defend the concept that technological change can only be discussed in a context of interface between institutional interaction (improvement in organisational methods) and historical local development (the learning process). The advantages resulting from interchanges give origin to innovative processes. So, in other terms, besides the intrinsic capacity of the enterprise to innovate, there is the environmental adequacy to innovate.

Local development

A strong emphasis has been put on the analyses of local development in the literature, particularly the role of innovation and its diffusion in the regional or local development. In the bibliographic research we found several comments that could be used to frame this important discussion, even if in general, the studied contexts refer to factors that can be detected in regions that do not suffer from handicaps attributed to their peripheral situations. Certain regions contain a set of local actors and institutions able to better perceive constrains and opportunities to integrate know-how skills, and other capacities able to help the environment to generate and diffuse new information or techniques. Others do not.

Collective learning

Considering that the economic space is a relational space, also the peripheries are fields of social interactions, interpersonal synergies and social collective actions. In isolated spaces, the lack of creativity and innovative attitudes is the result of a deficient collective learning. In such 'local territories', the social interactions work well only if their enterprises (SMEs)’ environment is as rich as in the core regions, contributing to technological and organisational learning. An issue to raise is to know how actors are able, in peripheral regions, to involve in collective and successful co-ordinated attitudes, mainly a collective learning allowing catching up in the spatial division of labour. 'Weak learners' (peripheral regions and firms) need a deep change in their environment in these territories:

  • In a lagging 'local territory', the need is to eradicate lacks of several competencies: in economic and technological policy, in specialised training, in consultancy, in technological resources, etc. – in marketing and markets’ organisational governance, studies, data bases, information, institutions.
  • In the SMEs located in a lagging 'local territory', the need for a more active environment will find out appropriate answers if changes in the 'local territory' is achieved through better co-ordination with regional territories. All the capabilities of a learning economy should be provided: a set of various innovative networks, organisational supports for the learning of tacit knowledge in combination with codified knowledge, an entrepreneurship culture.
Proximity among agents is a tool for building up social capital, only in a learning economy. Learning in Less Favoured Regions will come out if it is openly declared the most important immaterial investment in the cohesion politics. The necessary collective learning is organised trough a lot of conventions, in formal or informal forms, environmentally linked and therefore territorially differentiated.
Contributor Maria Teresa de Noronha Vaz
mtvaz@ualg.pt
Coordinator of INNOVALOC
Reference Info on INNOVALOC
Descriptors D-LO  EP09          E14
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO