Business model and innovation orientations in manufacturing SMEs: An Australian multi-case study

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Ronald C. Beckett
Ross L. Chapman


Research studies of SME innovation practice observe some common themes, such as an orientation towards networking, and some differences that may seem activity-related (e.g. production or service). In this paper we suggest the kinds of innovation activity undertaken by an SME will depend on their dominant business model and owner/enterprise attitudes, each one being moderated by purposeful networking. This is illustrated in our review of data from 50 case studies, where combining a CEO narrative analysis with secondary data on the nature of the firm has identified seven generic manufacturing business models. We observe these may be adopted singly or in combination to pursue a competitive advantage, and the dominant business model may change over time as new capabilities are developed and/or in response to market changes.

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Author Biographies

Ronald C. Beckett, Swinburne University of Technology

Ron Beckett is an industry practitioner with more than 30 years experience in the implementation of creative change and innovation management in Aerospace and Manufacturing. His PhD explored establishing learning organisation practices in a high technology company. He frequently works at the academia – industry interface, with a focus on Learning to Compete, and lectures in some related Masters degree subjects. Ron is an Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University, and has held similar appointments at several other universities. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 conference papers, journal articles or book chapters related to the pursuit of best practice in extracting value from innovative ideas, knowledge management and effective collaboration implementation.

Ross L. Chapman, Central Queensland University

Ross is Professor of Management and Director, Postgraduate Studies, School of Business and Law at CQUniversity. Between May 2010 and January 2014 he was Head of the Deakin Graduate School of Business at Deakin University. Prior to that he spent over 20 years the University of Western Sydney where he was promoted to Professor of Business Systems and was appointed to several positions including Head of School and Associate Dean (Research). Between 1979 and 1985, Ross worked for several large multinational companies in technical, QC/QA and R&D management positions. He has taught and researched predominantly in the areas of Quality, Innovation and Technology Management. He is author or co-author of 3 books and over 90 book chapters, refereed journal and conference papers in the above areas.  Ross is currently a Non-Executive Director on the Board of two not-for-profit organisations, and until recently was a Board member of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) where he was the 2011 President.