Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1999

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Main Discipline: Human Geography, Economics
Lecturers: Professor Bjorn T. Asheim, Dr. Arne Isaksen and Professor Olav R. Spilling
Institutions: University of Oslo, STEP group, Oslo and Norwegian School of Management, Oslo, Norway
Dates: August 2nd - 6th 1999

Going back to Schumpeter, economic development can be analysed in terms of entrepreneurship. In the last decades, it could be argued that the entrepreneurial function has been revitalised. The course will theoretically as well as empirically examine the relationship between this tendency and studies showing that SMEs are becoming increasingly important in post-Fordist learning economies, especially with respect to employment generation.

In a globalised economy, successful, long-term job creation depends on the capacity of enterprises to compete through innovation. In the present knowledge-based economy, the innovation process must be seen as a social, non-linear and interactive learning process, and not primarily as determined by the hegemonic linear model of innovation of the Fordist period.

This interactive innovation model is much more adapted to SMEs, which normally have made little use of linear-based innovation systems, and, represents, in general, an extended view of the range of branches, firm-sizes and regions that can be said to be innovative. In this perspective territorial aspects of the industrialisation process will be emphasised, i.e. the link between territory and innovation, and the course wil especially look into how the combination of entrepreneurship and the new role of SMEs can be of strategic importance for the capability as well as capacity of learning economies to innovate and compete.

The course will give a broad theoretical and empirical introduction to questions related to innovation, entrepreneurship and the role of SMEs. The theories will be presented and critically examined in the context of empirical results from several recent Norwegian research projects on entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as from a large, comparative EU project on SMEs and innovation policy in eight European countries.

Basic Readings

The lecturers
Bj�rn T. Asheim is professor in human geography at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo. He is also associated with the STEP group in Oslo. He has a PhD in human geography from Lund University, Sweden. Professor Asheim has served as an international expert for UNCTAD, OECD and EU/DGXVI, he is the vice-chair in the International Geographical Union Study Group on Local Development, and is member of the editorial board of European Planning Studies. Professor Asheim is well-known internationally for his research in economic and industrial geography. Ongoing research projects include coordinating (together with Dr. Isaksen) an EU/DGXII project on SMEs and innovation policy as well as research for the Norwegian Research Council on regional innovation systems.

Dr. Arne Isaksen is a senior researcher at the STEP group (Studies in technology, innovation and economic policy) in Oslo, where he conducts research on innovation, regional policies and regional cluster development. He has a doctoral degree in economic geography from the University of Oslo. He has published several books in Norwegian, in addition to many international articles, on regional industrial development and regional policy as well as on SMEs and specialised production areas.

Olav R. Spilling is professor of industrial development at the Norwegian School of Management where he is head of the Center for Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship. He has for several years been doing research and published widely on local and regional development, entrepreneurship and small businesses. For the time being he organises three research projects: the importance of small firms in Norway, dynamic enterprise growth in Norway, and gender relations and entrepreneurship.