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Exploring Knowledge Intensity in Entrepreneurship: A Quantitative Study of Knowledge, Innovation and Performance in Entrepreneurial Firms

Doctoral thesis
Authors Ethan Gifford
Date of public defense 2017-04-26
ISBN 978-91-981-507-3-5
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE)
Department of Economy and Society
Language en
Keywords Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Firm Performance, Knowledge Intensity, Search, Human Capital
Subject categories Economics and Business


This Ph.D. dissertation investigates the statistical and theoretical relationships between different dimensions of knowledge intensive entrepreneurship (KIE) in Europe and how knowledge intensity and performance in entrepreneurial firms can be related. KIE is modeled as an application of resource-based theory, connecting pre-entry inputs like education and experience to external search activities to innovativeness and firm financial performance, growth, and survival. The data used was collected during a wide-scale EU financed framework project (FP7 - AEGIS), combined with additional panel-based firm level data gathered by the author, in order to investigate knowledge intensity, innovation, and performance in entrepreneurial firms: Moreover, the thesis explores how these concepts might be defined and modeled. Confirmed results indicate: Positive associations between depth of external search with innovative performance and a partial inverse curvilinear association between breadth of external search and innovative performance; Positive yet inversely curvilinear associations between the beneficial aspects of functional heterogeneity (or, knowledge scope) of the founding team with that of financial performance and survival, and negative linear associations between detrimental aspects of functional heterogeneity (or, knowledge disparity) of the founding team with the same response variables; Finally, positive associations were identified between the radicalness of innovations produced both with that of financial performance over time, and with the likelihood of firm survival. Conclusions use these results to reflect on broader relationships between knowledge intensity, innovation and performance in entrepreneurial firms. Recommendations for future research include more advanced modeling of complex latent factors constituting different forms of internal and external knowledge intensity, innovativeness, and performance on the part of entrepreneurial firms. Furthermore, drawing more extensively on existing tools such as resource-based theory may prove more enlightening than constructing new concepts and typologies to explain knowledge intensive entrepreneurship in new light, and policy wishing to promote knowledge intensive entrepreneurship may find it beneficial to focus on the educational and experiential underpinnings of creating such firms in diverse industries including low- and medium-technology industries as well as different types of services.

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