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Gatekeepers and Bridges: Technical Cooperation, Innovation and Trans-Regional Brokerage in European SME Networks

Pearson, Mike


Mike Pearson


We study the structures of European technical cooperation networks using social network analysis to examine ways in which some countries’ companies have high reported innovation levels while others are more adept at strengthening their competitive advantage through strategic social capital decisions. Data from a recent large survey on the internationalisation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is used to identify a European technical cooperation network. This network is analysed using social capital and brokerage to reveal measures of centrality, bridging, density and structural equivalence. The longer established European members show similar structural equivalence, while the same is true for the new and smaller member states. Regression analysis shows a strong relationship with innovativeness as dependent variable and structural equivalence and bridging as explanatory variables. The main findings are, firstly, that the innovativeness of a body of structurally equivalent countries is positively related to the gatekeeper role of its countries. Secondly a country’s innovativeness is positively related to the outgoing ability of its firms to bridge structural holes across country boundaries, while it is negatively related to egonet density and occupation of a liaison role. We discuss how this brings enhanced understanding to companies and business development organisations about areas for trans-regional business improvement.

Working Paper Type Working Paper
Publication Date 2013
Deposit Date Oct 6, 2014
Publicly Available Date Oct 6, 2014
Publisher Elsevier
ISBN 0048-7333
Keywords SMEs; brokerage; technical cooperation; innovation; social capital; business development
Public URL
Contract Date Oct 6, 2014


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