Thesis 2019: The role of innovation-driven SMEs in upscaling niche innovations within a regional context: An investigation of SMEs developing new mobility solutions in VGR

HANI ELZOUMOR & SPIROS STRACHINIS (2019)

A link to the thesis will soon be found here.

Many writings have addressed the issue of “sustainability” as an essential concept in literature of system innovations and transitions of socio-technical systems. Within this complex process, innovations brought up from system niches are seeds of change because of their radical and disruptive nature. Indeed, system niches can be, under the right circumstances, incubation rooms and spaces of experimentation, learning and networking. As a system niche actor, Small and Medium Sized companies (SMEs), that are innovation driven and developing new technological solutions, can be a source of disruptive and radical innovations, and hence a significant player in the processes of sustainability transitions. In Sweden, Västra Götaland Region (VGR) is the country’s second largest region in terms of population and is a major hub for the automotive industry in the Scandinavian countries. VGR has proposed its own strategy for sustainability transition “Klimat 2030” in which a sustainable transportation system is in its core. However, there is no explicit reference to the role of SMEs and small business entities in such a transformation process of the transportation system. Accordingly, this thesis has the following overarching research question: “What is the role of innovation driven SMEs in upscaling/accelerating niche innovations within a regional context?”

To answer this question, this thesis investigates the role of innovation driven SMEs developing new mobility solutions in VGR by answering two main sub-questions:

  • What is the current role played by innovation-driven SMEs in the mobility system within the VGR?
  • What is the perceived role to be played by innovation-driven SMEs in the mobility system within the VGR?

The study follows a qualitative approach in which a comparative design is adopted. In addition, it relies on primary and secondary sources to collect relevant data. In order to collect primary data, the study has identified the population of innovation driven SMEs developing new mobility solutions in VGR, and then selected a sample of 9 SMEs to conduct semi-structured interviews. The selection of SMEs to be included in the population is based on four technological trends that have the potential to disrupt the mobility system and they are a) electrification, (b) automatization, (c) connectivity and (d) shared mobility. Primary data from selected industry experts and researchers were collected as well through unstructured interviews. Qualitative analysis has been conducted to decide on major themes of the current and perceived roles to SMEs. Based on such analysis, the study has identified bottlenecks facing innovation driven SMEs while creating and accelerating niche innovations. Reached conclusions are expected to have a contribution for VGR in terms of insights that regional authorities should consider, to assist SMEs overcome barriers and scale up their innovations.