Founder-Involvement in R&D and SMEs Performance


  • gianluca Vagnani Sapienza, University of Rome
  • Luca Proietti



Resource orchestration view, competence-based perspective, Founders involvement in R&D, SMEs performance


Objectives. The aim of the paper is to shed light on the pivotal role of founders initial and enduring involvement in R&D and its reflexes on SMEs performance.

Methodology. Starting from theoretical propositions, a conceptual framework was outlined and operationalized in terms of a mediation/moderation model. We further tested it on a random sample of 350 low research-intensive SMEs located in Southern Italy. An augmented cross-sectional design, which measures key variables using different sources at different time points, was employed. We adopted a seemingly unrelated regression to jointly analyze variables and their interactions.

Findings. We observe that founders involvement in R&D matters for SMEs performance. We also found evidence that founders involvement in R&D-SMEs performance association is mediated by R&D resources and innovation outputs. At the same time the founders involvement in R&D-R&D resources association is negatively moderated by founders multiple involvements in the firm activities.

Research limits. Our study is affected by various limitations. As an example, only revenue-based measures are used as a proxy of firm performance. In addition, for controlling heterogeneity in estimates, data refer to a well-defined time window as well as to manufacturing SMEs located in specific geographic areas of Italy.

Practical implications. Our study reveals that founders - with their firm- and context-specific capabilities - while enmeshed with R&D activities, contribute to SMEs performance. Policy makers should create incentives for founders to be involved to some extent in inventive activities. Further implications are also envisaged for both funding and training educational services.

Originality of the study. Building on the intersection between resource orchestration and competence-based perspectives, we conceived and empirically analyzed founders as key actors for inventive resource orchestration at the firm level and how and under what conditions the resource orchestration made by founders is likely to nurture the performance even of low research-intensive SMEs.


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