Regional cooperation among SMEs is a prominent research topic, so far however there has not been any clear evidence with regard to benefits for the individual firm. Against this background, this research cluster examines different types of network relations of SMEs within their regional context and types of benefits they can generate from regional networks. The research focus is on the relation between an SME’s network and different types of benefits, such as competitiveness and innovativeness. Factors influencing regional network activities are also considered for the analysis and involve among others firm characteristics, attachment to the region, or network management.
For a pilot study, a large scale telephone survey among about 800 firms in the LEADER region Triestingtal (Lower Austria) has been conducted. From the results three groups of businesses emerge which focus their networking activities on different spatial scales: The first group represents businesses which are almost exclusively involved in networks within their own region. Firms belonging to the second group mostly have network relations on the federal state level. A third group comprises businesses which focus on the national and international level in their networking activities.
The majority of respondents are convinced of the relevance of regional networking for their own businesses which highlights the importance of this research cluster. About half of the respondents report a positive effect of regional networks on business success in general and the sales volume in particular. For the majority of respondents regional networking does not affect employment from within the region, competitiveness, innovativeness, access to public subsidies, internationalisation, and the costs of products and services.
In this study, respondents’ assessments of effects of regional networking have been contrasted with calculated correlations between network relations and indicators of business success. The study provides evidence for a positive correlation between regional supplier relations and relations to institutional actors on the regional level (such as government bodies) respectively, and business growth, as measured by employment growth.
Businesses which develop network relations mainly within their own region report an effect of regional networking on their business success in general. Thus, they give a positive assessment of the results of their networking activities. Nevertheless, the calculated correlations between network relations and different indicators for business success, found in the literature, cannot provide further evidence for the respondents’ assessments. This leads to the assumption that business success needs to be defined differently for the type of firms which focus on their own region when developing network relations. For them, long-term and sustainability-oriented determinants of business success, such as viability, could be more relevant than growth oriented indicators.
Further research thus will focus on the effects of regional networks, particularly in order to define the relevant determinants of business success. Furthermore, analyses of network relations in regions showing structural differences – with regard to dominant business sectors, business size, and growth performance – will be contrasted.
- Lang, R., Riedler, C. (2013). Erfolgsfaktor Region – Pilotprojekt Triestingtal, RiCC – research report 2013/1, Wien: RiCC – Research Institute for Co-operation and Co-operatives. http://www.wu.ac.at/ricc/forschung/results/researchreports/researchreport2013_1