ON THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE AMONG ECO-INNOVATION FIRMS : THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL SOURCES
This study was conducted to explore the external sources of knowledge that are present around the eco-innovation firms. Our study has focused on eco-innovations with the aim to find sustainable solutions, leading the reduction in greenhouse gases, on the extraction of renewable energy sources, since studies have indicated a link between the industrialization and the impact on the climate.
The purpose formulated for this study was to explore the external sources of knowledge that are present around the eco-innovation firms. By conducting this exploratory study we will contribute to existing research by adding empirical evidence to identifying what the external sources of knowledge are and further explore what kind of knowledge eco-innovation firms gain from these external sources. The participating companies in the study was chosen since they represent Swedish firms in the development of eco-innovations with the goal to minimize the environmental impact.
We conducted the thesis with a qualitative approach and the empirical data was gathered from four different companies in the field of wave and tidal power. The four interviews were executed through telephone interviews with both the researches acting as interviewers. The respondents were either the CEO of the company or a board member, since these persons were most likely to possess the relevant information for this study.
In our study we have found the external sources of knowledge to be of significant importance to the eco-innovation firms. Based on our theoretical framework, we have identified the external assets as suppliers, customers, competitors, governmental actors and research institutions. These external sources have different importance depending on the character of the knowledge that is gained. The external sources showed to contribute with important knowledge in areas of R&D capabilities, technology development, market orientation and regulation. By assessing the external sources of knowledge firms will unlock great potential knowledge that would otherwise be very costly. A conclusion was that as eco-innovation firms acquire knowledge by their external assets in parallel there are signals, unconsciously communicated going out to the external environment. Since our study has shown that academic experience among the founders seemed to have been helping the firms in their contact with governmental actors in order to attract subsidies and in the approval process for test sites, this indicates that what seems to be communicated from within the eco-innovation firms to their external environment is certain legitimacy, credibility and reputation that strengthen the relationship with governmental actors.
This study was performed as a multiple case study on four different eco-innovation firms working with development of technology to extract energy from renewable energy sources in terms of wave and tidal power. Our choice to only interview one person on each firm, due to a limited time frame and resources, might make it hard to generalize the findings since there is a possibility of biased data. Other limitations that make it hard to draw to much from the results are the fact of focusing on a limited area on eco-innovation in only one country, since regulations play an important role this might differ between different countries.
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