Entrepreneurship, Cooperation and the Firm: The Emergence and Survival of High‐technology Ventures in Europe

Rana Tassabehji (University of Bradford School of Management, Bradford, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 25 April 2008

317

Keywords

Citation

Tassabehji, R. (2008), "Entrepreneurship, Cooperation and the Firm: The Emergence and Survival of High‐technology Ventures in Europe", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 192-195. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552550810874691

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


This book is a compilation of 12 articles or stand alone chapters divided into three equal parts exploring issues of co‐operation, entrepreneurship and high‐technology ventures in Europe. The articles emerge from the research group SURVIE (Start Up Research and Valorization/Valuation of Intra‐ and Entrepreneurship in Europe) created in 2004. The editors admit that the book is not “overambitious” in its attempt to present a “picture of co‐operation between techno‐ventures and – starters in Europe” (p. 46). They explore this issue from a number of different perspectives to “merely illustrate” rather than “prove anything” (p. 46). That said, the book does present a combination of empirical, econometric and survey‐based studies that provide insight into the process of co‐operation in the emergence and survival of techno‐ventures in some European countries. The chapters focus on start‐ups largely in The Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia and France and this, of course, is not a representative picture of high technology ventures in Europe. However, by including some comparative European studies and a conscious decision to include examples of emerging transitional economies, such as Estonia and Slovenia, the book does attempt to address its objective of being relevant to EU policy makers on building the competitiveness of Europe through innovation, entrepreneurship and inevitably this means co‐operation between European nation states.

The introduction of the book, I found far too long and at times disjointed as there seemed to be too many contributors with different perspectives. Even taking into account the publication timescales and longitudinal studies, some references and statistics used were slightly dated for a subject such as high technology and entrepreneurship (up to 2001‐2003) as others demonstrated it could be done covering more recent data and information (up to 2005‐2007). In many of the chapters and introduction, there is an emphasis on definitions of different terms and concepts used throughout, such as start‐ups, ICT, culture and co‐operation which are helpful and relevant to understanding the context of the themes and issues.

Post introduction, the book is divided up into three major parts (with an equal number of chapters) progressing from the individual to the geographic/environmental and finally to a more holistic view of co‐operation, entrepreneurship and high technology start ups. In Part I, the role of the individual versus that of the institution is considered. In chapter 1, Ulijn et al. examine the influence of national culture on co‐operative attitudes within high technology start ups (HTSUs) towards strategic partners. They do not look at co‐operative behaviour per se, but co‐operative intentions and cultural diversity as a competitive advantage given that strategic partnerships are an importance factor for HTSU success. Ulijn et al. use Hofstede's dimensions of national cultures to conduct a quantitative empirical study adapting Hofstede's country clusters across 13 European countries. They found that different aspects of national cultures impact co‐operative attitudes towards strategic partnerships – namely individualism and masculinity having a negative effect, while individualism had a negative impact on partner diversity. Other factors such as sector and cross cultural experience were also found to have a favourable impact on attitudes towards partner diversity and strategic partners. In chapter 2 the authors adopt a novel narrative/myth approach which attempts to build grounded theory through a series of questions to a mythical high tech venture in the aerospace sector. Verhoeven, Verhoeff, Drillon and Ulijn, use a psychoanalytical approach, adopting the theory of neuroscience (and the four brain areas) to develop a typology of entrepreneurial communities. Although challenging to notions of rigour, the tentative findings that co‐operation between stakeholders is a necessary condition for success in a high tech venture and that personal traits of an entrepreneur are relevant in the development of a high tech venture are far from earth shattering, but it is an innovative contribution that raises more questions than answers and is worth including for the approach alone.

Using an econometric model in Chapter 3, Drnovsek, Kotnik, Nahtigal, Prasnikar and Vahcic examine European transition economies. Looking at Slovenia in particular, this chapter finds that technological opportunities are a significant determinant of innovation intensity but that the effect of co‐operation in innovation on innovation output could not be confirmed, neither could the premise that co‐operation in innovation encourages a firm's own innovation expenditure. The final recommendations are that the absorptive capacity of firms is needed to increase effectiveness of innovation expenditure and public policy must encourage successful projects for co‐operation in innovation. This part of the book concludes with Chapter 4 which recommends a “trialectic thinking” approach to the knowledge marketplace. Ultimately, Brennan and McGowan argue there is a need for change in organisational thinking in order to promote and nurture successful academic entrepreneurship and enhance their supportive role.

Part II presents a series of articles/chapters from an econo‐graphic view of emergence co‐operation and survival. In chapter 5 Lasch, LeRoy and Yami, deal with the impact of human capital and organisational setting on success of start‐ups. Taking a sample of French regions, this paper explores the choice of localisation on entrepreneurship and the impact of dispersion and agglomeration. They find that organisational setting – size of firm, finance, public aid, client structure and location choice – are more important than human capital in longer term sustainability of high tech start ups. The importance of geography is highlighted for high tech venturing where the local socio‐economic environment are key factors for sustainability with R&D infrastructure, high knowledge potential and opportunities for networking and co‐operation (knowledge externalities rather than pecuniary agglomeration advantages). Continuing the theme, the authors of chapter 6 (Calay, Guyot and Van Hamme), adopt a geographical approach to business creation where spatial correlation by municipality and labour markets are demonstrated to impact business creation in Wallonia, Belgium. Rural areas were found to be more dynamic than areas where working class traditions existed as these did not appear to be conducive to entrepreneurial activity.

Chapter 7 explores the impact of co‐operation and support for high technology start ups between the start ups themselves and with supporting institution. Halman Ulijn, van de Vrande and Umbach's findings suggest that most companies in Germany and Holland believed they received no or insufficient support and feel they are unlikely to receive it in the future. They did however express an interest in co‐operating with other companies. Part II is brought to a close with a macro‐level presentation of EU cohesion policy by Graute and cites examples of projects funded by INTERREG (European Commission Community Initiative to encourage transnational co‐operation on spatial planning) looking at European spatial development and territorial co‐operation policies.

The final part of the book is entitled “The cultural levels of nation, gender, profession, sector and region in emergence co‐operation and survival”. I would challenge that gender is really dealt with in this section as the chapters focus more on a holistic view of culture and co‐operation in high technology ventures. This section though is more current and dynamic that the previous ones and present theoretical frameworks that support analysis of the themes. In chapter 9, Wakkee, Groen and Heerink, develop a theoretical framework for analysing the process of entrepreneurship through the innovation journey in the pursuit of opportunities for their start up business. Underpinned by social system theory, the framework facilitates an analysis of the relationships between exploration and exploitation of new technology innovations and opportunities and how innovation entrepreneurship and social networking are related and reinforce one another. This paper highlights the important role that culture plays in the tensions between exploration and exploitation dilemmas and is an opportunity for more in depth research for the future. Chapter 10 explores the transition from entrepreneurial to professional management firms in a comparison between German and Slovenian ICT start ups. Overall, in their study Prasnikar, Rau, Pahor and Klinar found no major differences between regional companies in transition, and the transition process was largely characterised by functional specialisation of top and middle managers and increased formalisation of decision‐making and communications.

Focusing on the impact of diversity on innovativeness in a multi‐cultural society, in Chapter 11 Vedina, Fink and Vadi study the difference in entrepreneurial characteristics between Estonian and Russian‐speaking workers. Although diversity was found be a main asset in promoting innovation and co‐operation and is important for the initiation and implementation of innovation, the main message emerging is that diversity in the workforce has to be managed effectively and not suppressed. The final chapter presents a model exploring entrepreneurship in networks (EiN). This model outlines relationships between entrepreneurial firms and the value creation process of the firm (already discussed in chapter 9). Kirwan, van der Sijde and Groen highlight the importance of networking and relationships for survival particularly in the absence of regional support which are reported to be inadequate.

Overall, there is not much that is conceptually new in this book. Cooperative strategy, including networks, has already been shown in a variety of research settings to be important for high technology entrepreneurial firms to support their growth and development and also provide a significant source of competitive advantage (Dowling and Helm, 2006; Lechner and Dowling, 2003). The book does, however, provide an interesting overview of the different themes related to co‐operation and provides a rich tapestry of cases across Europe. The editors also attempt to compile articles that bring together culture and psychology with very interesting perspectives. The book definitely achieves the objectives of the editors to provide policy makers, academics, researchers, practitioners and interested others, with an insight into the critical issues related to the emergence and survival of high technology start ups. At a price of £95 for its hardcover, this is probably beyond the affordability of the majority of researchers and academics, but would make a very useful addition to a library or specialist department and would be a good starting point for identifying current and future issues for high technology ventures. Many of the chapters reveal that the support infrastructure is inadequate or non‐existent according to entrepreneurs, highlighting the need for more to be done by policy and decision‐makers. The editors select chapters that adopt different methodological approaches from different disciplinary perspectives making this book thought provoking and providing rich pickings for future research.

References

Dowling, M. and Helm, R. (2006), “Product development success through cooperation: a study of entrepreneurial firms”, Technovation, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 4838.

Lechner, C. and Dowling, M. (2003), “Firm networks: external relationships as sources for the growth and competitiveness of entrepreneurial firms”, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 126.

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