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Embedded contexts of innovation: BIM adoption and implementation for a specialty contracting SME

Erik Poirier (Department of Construction Engineering, École de Technologie Supérieure, Montreal, Canada)
Sheryl Staub-French (Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Colombia, Vancouver, Canada)
Daniel Forgues (Department of Construction Engineering, École de Technologie Supérieure, Montréal, Canada)

Construction Innovation

ISSN: 1471-4175

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to study the radical innovation process behind the adoption and implementation of building information modelling (BIM) for a specialty contracting small or medium enterprise (SME). This paper offers two distinct perspectives on BIM adoption and implementation, which are underrepresented in the current literature: the SME perspective and the specialty contractor perspective. It also attempts to bridge the gap between the growing literature on BIM adoption and implementation and the established literature on innovation by developing the notion of embedded contexts in the innovation process.


A mixed-method, longitudinal case study approach was used in this research project to study the evolution of the innovation process and its impact on the Organisation over time. The objectives of this research were to investigate and document the different factors mediating the BIM adoption and implementation process for the Organisation across various contexts, the mechanisms put in place to facilitate this process and the perceived impact within the Organisation.


The initial transition to BIM represented a radical innovation for the Organisation. Subsequently, a series of incremental innovations took place to further advance the Organisation’s BIM capabilities. This innovation process is influenced by different layers of embedded contextual factors, which can be mitigated by, among others, a clear strategic approach towards the innovation process. Furthermore, despite a limited sphere of influence, specialty contractors can leverage BIM within their own supply chain to reap significant benefits.


This paper offers an in-depth study of radical innovation within a specialty contracting SME. This study discusses the influence of four embedded contexts on innovation for a specialty contracting SME: the industry context, the institutional context, the organisational context and the project context. It also offers insight into the factors, mechanisms and their impact on the innovation process.



This research study was funded by the Canadian National Research Council – Industrial Research Program (NRC-IRAP) and the Centre Facilitating Research and Innovation in Organisations with Information and Communication Technology (CEFRIO). The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution and continued support by all the members of the Organisation.


Poirier, E., Staub-French, S. and Forgues, D. (2015), "Embedded contexts of innovation: BIM adoption and implementation for a specialty contracting SME", Construction Innovation, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 42-65.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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