Entrepreneurs and organisations: a case study of the Gisborne aquaculture cluster
Johnstone, Bruce Alexander
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This research contributes to the discussion surrounding New Zealand’s entrepreneurial environment and Innovation Framework and addresses the research problem of whether the New Zealand government should seek to support entrepreneurship and innovation through the various knowledge-based or regulatory organisations it owns or funds, and if so, how it should go about accomplishing this. The approach taken was to use qualitative methods to examine how the government’s support for entrepreneurship and innovation was delivered to an emerging cluster of entrepreneurs from the point of view of those entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs were involved in the innovative industry of land-based aquaculture and fieldwork was carried out in the Gisborne Region, on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. This study began by reviewing relevant literature from academic, industry and government sources to identify relevant sub-themes and create a framework for analysis. Fieldwork was undertaken using ethnographic methods to explore how the entrepreneurs experienced the New Zealand entrepreneurial environment and innovation framework in their interactions with knowledge-based and regulatory organisations. Data was gathered primarily by participant observation and semi-structured interviews and transcripts were coded and analysed using NVivo® software. An ethnographic narrative was produced and the interview transcripts analysed for relevance to the sub-themes from literature and to identify patterns that emerged from the data. This research reports that four of the entrepreneurs failed in their ventures due to a combination of factors both within their operations and within the entrepreneurial environment. These factors included technical difficulties maintaining livestock health and growth within an artificial marine environment, an inability to obtain assistance from knowledge-based organisations, problems in dealing with regulatory organisations, difficulty retaining trained staff, uncertainty about the market, and high energy costs. The Māori training organisation, Turanga Ararau, formed the Gisborne Aquaculture Society in an effort to establish a Gisborne aquaculture cluster however, this initiative proved unsuccessful primarily because the society failed to attract the 12 involvement of key stakeholders. This research contributes to the policy and practice of cluster facilitation by examining the extent to which best practice was followed in this attempt to establish a cluster and presents conclusions as to how the process of establishing the cluster could have been improved. This study also reports that the entrepreneurs were cut off from access to knowledge and research resources and received little advice or support from the knowledge based organisations that might have played a role in the development of their cluster. It examines how and why New Zealand’s Innovation Framework might be failing to recognise and support the vital role of entrepreneurs in economic development and suggests how this might be improved. The methodology chapters of this thesis contribute to literature regarding the use of ethnographic methods in entrepreneurship research and a further by-product of this thesis is an ethnographic account of the participant observation and semi structured interviews with the entrepreneurs. This research also provides an insight into the obstacles and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in New Zealand, in particular those involved in the emerging recirculating aquaculture industry.