Procurement of non-incremental sustainable technology innovations - the case of small entrepreneurial firms supplying New Zealand construction & building industry
Staal, A; Tookey, J; Seadon, J; Mobach, M; Walhof, G
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Motivation Traditionally, the construction industry in New Zealand and in other countries has seen a low productivity and a low track record for successful innovations (Fairweather, 2010). The industry also lags in sustainability (e.g. Nemry, 2008) when seen from a broader or lifecycle perspective. This has a negative impact on private and government spending, on quality and health/wellbeing, and on the environment. This paper posits that the construction industry needs non-incremental (disruptive or discontinuous, i.e. modular, architectural, system or radical) sustainable technology innovations to make drastic improvements in sustainability. Such innovations are often procured (acquired) and (co-) developed by small entrepreneurial firms thus introducing such innovations into the construction and building industry. However it is unclear exactly how entrepreneurial small firms procure non-incremental sustainable technology innovations. Knowledge gap from extant research Often entrepreneurial small firms from outside the industry or at the beginning of supply chains play an important role in procuring innovations (e.g. Baumol, 2002; Johnsen 2011; Gambatese, 2011, Pries, 1995, 2005). There is a wealth of literature on how large organisations procure their goods and services but it often remains unclear how small firms procure these (e.g. Hagelaar, 2014). There is Australian literature (e.g. Hardie, 2006; Hardie 2013) on small firms successfully introducing sustainable innovations in the construction industry. Likewise, there is a growing body of literature (e.g. Johnsen, 2011; Philips 2004) on how large organisations procure non-incremental innovations. There is some literature on non-incremental sustainable innovations in the construction industry (e.g. Hardie, 2013; Sheffer, 2010, 2013). There is research on innovation types in the construction industry (Slaughter, 2000, Hardie, 2006). Literature also suggests (e.g. Hardie, 2011) several barriers to adoption of innovations on a meso (industry) level and on a macro (systemic) level in the construction industry. Utterback (1994) suggested that such (infrequent) non-incremental innovations would trigger more frequent process and incremental innovations, and would hence deliver large benefits to stakeholders. Manley (2008) concluded that despite the importance of product innovation there is not much research within the construction industry. Small firms are not miniature versions of large firms (e.g. Torres & Julien, 2005) and small firm innovation and procurement processes will differ from those of larger firms. Processes are likely to be more informal, holistic, and centred round the firm owner although Meijaard (2004) suggested a wide variety of organisational structures within small firms including formal and complex structures. Entrepreneurial small firms are a small subset of small firms but realize growth and renewal (OECD, 2010). In general there is a research gap on how entrepreneurial small construction firms procure non-incremental sustainable technology innovations.