Development of small and medium-sized enterprise horizontal innovation networks: UK agri-food sector study

Maura McAdam, Rodney McAdam, Adele Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Within the management literature, there is an emergent discourse on horizontal collaboration among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), whereby individual rivalries are overcome by the need for more resources and innovation, leading to increased competitiveness through joint product development. In particular, a number of these horizontal collaborations between SMEs have occurred within the agri-food sector. As a consequence, this article aims to explore the longitudinal development of horizontal innovation networks within an artisan bakers’ network as part of the UK SME agri-food sector. An interpretivist research approach was used, whereby the development and evolution of an artisan bakers’ horizontal network was studied over a 27-month period. The findings, as summarised in conceptual models which draw upon knowledge-based open innovation and social network constructs, illustrate that a complex three-stage life cycle development occurred within the bakers’ horizontal network.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-853
JournalInternational Small Business Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Reference text: Avermaete T, Viaene J, Morgan EJ, et al. (2003) Determinants of innovation in small food firms. European Journal of Innovation Management 6(1): 8–17. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Batterink MH, Wubben EFM, Klerkx L, et al. (2010) Orchestrating innovation networks: The case of innovation brokers in the agri-food sector. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development 22(1): 47–76. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Bianchi T (2001) With and without co-operation: Two alternative strategies in the food-processing industry in the Italian south. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 13(2): 117–145. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Blundel R (2002) Network evolution and the growth of artisanal firms: A tale of two regional cheese makers. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 14 (1): 1–30. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Boschma RA, Lambody JG (2002) Knowledge market structure and economic coordination: Dynamics of industrial districts. Growth and Change 33(3): 291–311. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Brunori G, Rossi A (2000) Synergy and coherence through collective action: Some insights from wine routes in Tuscany. Sociologia Ruralis 40(4): 410–423. Google Scholar
Bunnell TG, Coe NM (2001) Spaces and scales of innovation. Progress in Human Geography 25(4): 569–589. Abstract/FREE Full Text
Burt RS (2002) The social capital of structural holes. In: Guillén MF (ed.) The New Economic Sociology: Developments in an Emerging Field. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp.148–190. Google Scholar
Chesbrough HW (2003) The era of open innovation. MIT Sloan Management Review 44(3): 35–41. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Chesbrough HW (2011) Management Innovation for the Future of Innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Google Scholar
Coe N, Hess M, Wai-chung Z, Yeung H, Dicken P, Hederson J (2004) ‘Globalizing’ regional development: A global production networks perspective. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 29 (4): 468–484. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Cope J (2005) Toward a dynamic learning perspective of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 29(4): 373–397. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Corsten D, Felde J (2005) Exploring the performance effects of key-supplier collaboration: An empirical investigation into Swiss buyer–supplier relationships. International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management 35(6): 445–461. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Craviotti C (2012) Producer relationships and local development in fresh fruit commodity chains: An analysis of blueberry production in Entre Ríos, Argentina. Regional Studies 46(2): 203–215. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (2011) Agri food sector: key statistics. Available at: (accessed 19 May 2012).
Demirkan I (2007) Essays on the evolution of networks in the US biotechnology industry. PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Dallas. Google Scholar
Fisher BM, Gonzalez M, Henchion M and Leat P, et al. (2007) Trust and economic relationships in selected European agrifood chains. Food Economics Acta Agricult 4(1): 40–48. Google Scholar
Galende J (2006) Analysis of technological innovation from business economics and management. Technovation 26(3): 300–311. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Gittelman M, Kogut B (2003) Does good science lead to valuable knowledge? Biotechnology firms and the evolutionary logic of citation patterns. Management Science 49(4): 366–382. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Granovetter M (1973) The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 78(6): 1360–1380. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Granovetter M (1982) The strength of weak ties: a network theory revisited. In Marsden PV, Lin N (eds) Social Structure and Network Analysis. London: Sage, pp.105–130. Google Scholar
Granovetter M (2005) The impact of social structure on economic outcomes. Journal of Economic Perspectives 19(1): 33–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greve A, Salaff J (2003) Social networks and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 28(1): 1–23. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Hanna V, Walsh K (2008) Interfirm cooperation among small manufacturing firms. International Small Business Journal 26(3): 299–321. Abstract/FREE Full Text
Hatala JP (2006) Social network analysis in human resource development: A new methodology. Human Resource Development Review 5(1): 45–71. Abstract/FREE Full Text
Hidalgo A, Albors J (2008) Innovation management techniques and tools: A review from theory and practice. R&D Management 38(2): 113–127. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Hinrichs C (2000) Embeddedness and local food systems: Notes on two types of direct agricultural market. Journal of Rural Studies 16(3): 295–303. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Hogarth-Scott S (1999) Retailer–supplier partnerships: Hostages to fortune, or the way forward for the millennium? British Food Journal 101(9): 668–682. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hyland P, Beckett R (2005) Engendering an innovative culture and maintaining operational balance. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development 12(3): 336–352. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jack C, Anderson D, Connolly N (2012) Training and skills in the agri-food and drinks sector. Paper presented to the 86th Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, University of Warwick, 6–18 April. Google Scholar
Jack S, Moult S, Anderson A, Dodd S (2010) An entrepreneurial network evolving: Patterns of change. International Small Business Journal 28(4): 315–337. Abstract/FREE Full Text
Johannessen JA, Olsen B, Lumpkin GT (2001) Innovation as newness: What is new, how new and new to whom? European Journal of Innovation Management 4(1): 20–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnnisson B, Ramirez-Pasillas M, Karlsson G (2002) The institutional embeddedness of local inter-firm networks: A leverage for business creation. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 14(1): 297–313. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Kampstra R, Ashayeri J, Gattorna J (2006) Realities of supply chain collaboration. International Journal of Logistics Management 17(3): 312–330. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karantininis K, Sauer J, Furtan WH (2010) Innovation and integration in the agri-food industry. Food Policy 35(2): 112–120. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Lamprinopoulou C, Tregear A, Ness M (2006) Agrifood SMEs in Greece: The role of collective action. British Food Journal 108(8): 663–676. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Lamprinopoulou C, Tregear A (2011) Inter-firm relations in SME clusters and the link to marketing performance. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing 26(6): 421–429. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Littunen H (2000) Entrepreneurship and the characteristics of the entrepreneurial personality. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research 6(6): 295–310. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lu J, Beamish P (2001) The internationalization and performance of SMEs. Strategic Management Journal, 22(6/7): 565–586. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Marshall C (2004) The dynamic nature of innovation partnering: A longitudinal study of collaborative interorganizational relationships. European Journal of Innovation Management 7(2): 128–140. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mattiacci A, Zampi V (2004) Uunello di Montalcino: How a typical wine could revive a poor country village. British Food Journal 106(10–11): 767–778. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Melkas H, Harmaakorpi V (2008) Data, information and knowledge in regional innovation networks: Quality considerations and brokerage functions. European Journal of Innovation Management 11(1): 103–124. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miles MB, Huberman AM (1994) An Expanded Sourcebook: Qualitative Data Analysis. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage. Google Scholar
Mitchell JC (1969) The concept of social networks. In: Mitchell JC (ed.) Social Networks in Urban Situations. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, pp.1–50. Google Scholar
Mohr J, Spekman R (1994) Characteristics of partnership success: Partnership attributes, communication behaviour and conflict resolution techniques. Strategic Management Journal 15(2): 35–152. Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Nonaka I, Takeuchi H (1995) The Knowledge-creating Company. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
Nooteboom B, Wim VH, Duysters G, et al. (2007) Optimal cognitive distance and absorptive capacity. Research Policy 36(7): 1016–125. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
O’Keefe M, Fearne A (2002) From commodity marketing to category management: Insights from the Waitrose category leadership programme in fresh produce. Supply Chain Management 7(5): 296–301. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O’Reilly S, Haines M (2004) Marketing quality food products- A comparison of two SME marketing networks. Food Economics 1(3): 137–150. Google Scholar
Perren L, Ram M (2004) Case-study method in small business and entrepreneurial research Mapping boundaries and perspectives. International Small Business Journal 22(1): 83–100. Abstract
Radnor ZJ, Boaden R (2004) Developing an understanding of corporate anorexia. International Journal of Operations and Production Management 24(3): 424–440. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Reynolds N, Fischer C, Hartmann M (2009) Determinants of sustainable business relationships in selected German agri-food chains. British Food Journal 111(8): 776–793. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Romijn H, Albaladejo M (2002) Determinants of innovation capability in small electronics and software firms in southeast England. Research Policy 31(7): 1053–1067. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Ryan J, O’Reilly S, Enright P (2004) Rural enterprise development and sustainability: Innovative approaches to the needs of rural areas: Adding value by networking in the agri-food sector. Report for Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Belfast: Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Google Scholar
Shaw E (2003) Marketing through alliances and networks. In: Hart S (ed.) Marketing Changes. London: Thomson Learning, pp.147–170. Google Scholar
Shaw E (2006) Small firm networking: An insight into contents and motivating factors. International Small Business Journal 24(1): 5–29. Abstract/FREE Full Text
Slotte-Kock S, Coviello N (2010) Entrepreneurship Research on Network Processes: A Review and Ways Forward. Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 34(1): 31–57. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Sousa R, Voss C (2008) Contingency research in operations management Journal of Operations Management 26(6): 697–713. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Simatupang TM, Sridharan R (2002) The collaborative supply chain. International Journal of Logistics Management 13(1): 15–30. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Straete EP (2008) Modes of qualities in development of speciality food. British Food Journal 110(1): 62–75. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Szulanski G (2003) Sticky Knowledge: Barriers to Knowing in the Firm. London: Sage. Google Scholar
Uzzi B (1996) The sources and consequences of embeddedness for the economic performance of organizations: The network effect. American Sociology Review 61(August) 674–698. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Wegner D, Padula AD (2010) Governance and management of horizontal business networks: An analysis of retail networks in Germany. International Journal of Business and Management 5(12): 74–88. Google Scholar
Wilhelm MM (2011) Managing coopetition through horizontal supply chain relations: Linking dyadic and network levels of analysis. Journal of Operations Management 29(8): 663–676. CrossRefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar
Wincent J (2005) How do firms in strategic SME networks build competitiveness? Journal of Enterprising Culture 13(4): 383–408. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yee KT (2011) The Influence of networking on the internationalization of SMEs: Evidence from internationalized Chinese firms. International Small Business Journal 29(4): 374–398. Abstract/FREE Full Text
Yin RK (2009) Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Google Scholar


  • SME
  • innovation networks
  • agri food


Dive into the research topics of 'Development of small and medium-sized enterprise horizontal innovation networks: UK agri-food sector study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this