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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 54 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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Michele O'Dwyer, Lisa O'Malley, Stephen Murphy and Regina C. McNally

This paper aims to recount the genesis of a successful innovation cluster among Irish-based divisions of multinational enterprises (MNEs) and Irish universities in the…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to recount the genesis of a successful innovation cluster among Irish-based divisions of multinational enterprises (MNEs) and Irish universities in the pharmaceutical industry. This cluster was actively “narrativized” through the language of obligation, desire, competence and know-how. As such, it is typical of the “hero’s quest” literary genre in which challenges are faced, obstacles are overcome and victory is ultimately won. Importantly, in this story, the cluster was morally and pragmatically charged with dealing with significant challenges faced by the Irish pharmaceutical industry. Broader societal discourses operated as a resource for actors to use in proposing collaboration and innovation as the appropriate response to such challenges. Specifically, through narrative and discourse, actors created the necessary conditions conducive for a cluster to develop. These created a discursively constituted shared purpose which ultimately ensured successful innovation collaboration. Essentially, through narrative and discourse, the key actors identified the collaboration a protagonist in pursuit of a quest. By linking theoretical and empirical insights, the paper offers a conceptual framework that can be used in future studies to understand the emergence of clusters.

Design/methodology/approach

Adopting Wengraf’s (2001) structured approach to narrative interviewing, 18 key actors shared their understanding of how the cluster came into being. Each interview began with a single question intended to induce narrative, in this case “tell me the story of the cluster as you see it.” This allowed participants to be in control of their own story (Wengraf, 2001). Each interview was transcribed in full and appended to notes taken at the time of the interview. Each narrative offered a “purposeful account” (Jovchelovitch and Bauer, 2000) of how and why the cluster was formed and the centrality of the participants’ roles. In line with recognised protocols, in the authors analysis of data, they paid specific attention to how stories were told, the roles assigned to key protagonists, as well as how events and actors were linked in stories (see Czarniawska, 1997).

Findings

This paper further demonstrates how language, metaphor and narrative and discourse (Hatch, 1997) becomes a strategic resource on which actors can draw to create desired realities (Hardy et al., 2000) particularly in terms of collaboration and innovation. Further, this case highlights how dialogue was encouraged throughout the process of establishing the cluster and has continued to be an important element. Rather than imposing some grand design, the SSPC cluster is and always will be emergent. In this sense, in the early stages of collaboration, detecting and supporting existing and emergent communities is essential to success, and shared identity which is the outcome of members’ discursive practices appears to be a powerful driver of collaboration.

Research limitations/implications

There are important insights for cluster and innovation theory development that can be extrapolated from this study. First, context-specific narrative accounts provided in this study further extend the authors’ understanding of the process through which fundamental changes (innovation) in organisational activities are enacted (Ettlie and Subramaniam, 2004). Second, the authors’ understanding of how new ventures are attributed organisational legitimacy through language and story is augmented (Gollant and Sillince, 2007; Pentland, 1999). Third, the authors have articulated how different discourses are mobilised by actors at different stages of development and for different audiences to create desired innovation outcomes, illustrating that innovations can result from advances in knowledge (McAdam et al., 1998). Finally, the authors see how discourse and practice are dynamic as participants articulate their intention to exert further influence on innovation discourse through their lobbying activities.

Practical implications

By focusing on the specific problem of crystallisation, and using the discourse of collaboration, particularised ties emerged around SSPC and this inspired synergistic action. When seeking approval from host organisations, they spoke in terms of return on investment and the potential to add value, part of the discourse of organisational effectiveness. Consequently, the authors stress the benefits of understanding audiences and adjusting discursive approaches on this basis. As such, this study provides evidence that tailored discursive approaches can be used as a resource for managers and practitioners that are seeking to inspire innovation through collaboration.

Social implications

The discourse of collaboration also became a resource upon which actors could draw to articulate how they might respond to the context and realise the vision. Because this discourse is promoted in government reports and embodied in government strategy, the protagonists were able to borrow from the discourse to secure the necessary resources (in this case funding) that would enhance the possibilities of more effective collaboration. This is because different stakeholders engage with discourse in ways that help to create the outcomes they desire. It was noticeable that the leaders within the Solid State Pharmaceutical Cluster recognised the importance of discourse to innovation collaboration, and on this basis, they successfully adjusted the use of terminology in relation to the exchange partners they were addressing. When addressing potential partners within industry and academia, they utilised both the “burning platform” and “Ireland Inc.” metaphors to create generalised membership ties around the need for innovation and action.

Originality/value

First, context-specific narrative accounts provided in this study further extend the authors’ understanding of the process through which fundamental changes (innovation) in organisational activities are enacted (Ettlie and Subramaniam, 2004). Second, the authors have articulated how different discourses are mobilised by actors at different stages of development and for different audiences to create desired innovation outcomes, illustrating that innovations can result from advances in knowledge (McAdam et al., 1998). Finally, the authors see how discourse and practice are dynamic as participants articulate their intention to exert further influence on innovation discourse through their lobbying activities.

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Competitiveness Review, vol. 25 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1059-5422

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Pigment & Resin Technology, vol. 36 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0369-9420

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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 54 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 54 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 54 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 54 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 46 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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Pigment & Resin Technology, vol. 37 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0369-9420

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Anti-Corrosion Methods and Materials, vol. 53 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0003-5599

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