An Investigation into the Reciprocal Relationship of Incremental Innovation Processes and Organisational Structures' Evolvement in Project-Based Low-T

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sci


Despite their role in global economy, low-tech SMEs are seldom the focus of innovation research. However, they account for 99% of all businesses globally, with the majority being low-tech organisations (OECD, 1962 UNESCO, 1968; Godin, 2009). Predominant in research is the argument that industries without extensive spending on research and development (R&D) would be less innovative and dynamic than other sectors of the economy (Rothwell et al., 1974; Mansfield, 1975). This argument is built on a narrow definition of innovation often focusing on developing new products or services. As a result, only highly advanced and technological industries have achieved an important role as the driving force of the economy based on investor and government support (OECD, 1962 UNESCO, 1968; Gatignon et al., 2002; Godin, 2009; Khar Kheng, June and Mahmood, 2013).It is difficult for low-tech SMEs to develop a business plan that reflects their spending on R&D due to their size, budget, and the fact that the incremental innovation process differs from the innovation process for radical innovation. Consequently, they get less support form governments and investors leading to little opportunities to growth and development (, 2017). Radical innovation is done to develop something new while incremental innovation is done to improve something or solve a problem (cf. Norman and Verganti, 2014).A precise understanding of incremental innovation in low-tech SMEs will highlight the drivers behind the appearance of innovation resulting in encouragement of the incremental innovation process and support within the organisations itself (cf. Kwan et al., 2018; Kremer, Villamor and Aguinis, 2019). Moreover, society in general can learn from low-tech SMEs to innovate without an extensive spending on R&D as not every society has a budget for innovation and research i.e. developing countries (cf., 2017). Learning how to provide the right environment and support to foster incremental innovation, meaning to solve problems and improve current situations without a high budget, cannot only change the way how we define who is innovative and who is not. It can help us to develop a more holistic perspective to innovation in terms of its definition as well as influential factors. Today, being judged as non-innovative is a declaration too easily made deciding over the life of millions of people by not supporting low-tech businesses (, 2017; McCarthy et al., 2018).Organisations seem to approach innovation differently, as they are influenced by their organisational structures. The way how an organisation is structured has an influence on how they approach their business and innovation (cf. OECD, 1962; Kirton and Pender, 1982; Miron-Spektor, Erez and Naveh, 2011; Anderson, Potocnik, and Zhou, 2014; OECD, 2018). Figure 3 depicts the value chain of a winery demonstrating innovation appearing differently within these organisations, Winery 2 is innovative in the winery environment and the wine cellar, while Winery 8's innovation is appearing nearly at every part of the value chain. That said, it is important to acknowledge that the focus of this PhD project is not on judging organisations of being agile or hierarchical, moreover this study is about how innovation and structures necessitate each other and appear differently in varied organisational settings.In summary, limited research has emerged regarding the influential powers of incremental innovation processes in its relationship to organisational structure in low-tech SMEs. This underlines the importance of in-depth investigations and gives the potential to make an original contribution to research in organisational and innovation studies. The researcher wants to develop a novel and pragmatic value for the current discussion in the field of incremental innovation and organisational structures in low-tech SMEs, enabling businesses to understand how they innovate and are able to gain support and funding.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000681/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2392182 Studentship ES/P000681/1 01/10/2020 31/03/2024 Laura Fey