GREEN NETWORKS: INNOVATIVE CAPACITY OF SMES IN THE DUTCH GREENHOUSE HORTICULTURE INDUSTRY

GREEN NETWORKS: INNOVATIVE CAPACITY OF SMES IN THE DUTCH GREENHOUSE HORTICULTURE INDUSTRY

by Henk J. Schout, Saskia J. M. Harkema

The Dutch greenhouse horticulture industry is characterized by world leadership in high-tech innovation. The dynamics of this playing field are innovation in production systems and automation, reduction in energy consumption and sharing limited space. However, international competitive advantage of the industry is under pressure and sustainable growth of individual enterprises is no longer a certainty. The sector’s ambition is to innovate better and grow faster than the competition in the rest of the world. Realizing this ambition requires strengthening the knowledge base, stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation (not just technological, but especially business process innovation). It also requires educating and professionalizing people. However, knowledge transfer in this industry is often fragmented and innovation through horizontal and vertical collaboration throughout the value chain is limited. This paper focuses on the question: how can the grower and the supplier in the greenhouse horticulture chain gain competitive advantage through radical product and process innovation. The challenge lies in time- to-market, in customer relationship, in developing new product/market combinations and in innovative entrepreneurship. In this paper an innovation and entrepreneurial educational and research programme is introduced. The programme aims at strengthening multidisciplinary collaboration between enterprise, education and research. Using best practice examples, the paper illustrates how companies can realize growth and improve the innovative capacity of the organization as well as the individual by linking economic and social sustainability. The paper continues to show how participants of the program develop competencies by means of going through a learning cycle of single-loop, double-loop and triple loop learning: reduction of mistakes, change towards new concepts and improvement of the ability to learn. Finally, the paper illustrates the importance of combining enterprise, education and research in regional networks, with examples from the greenhouse horticulture sector. These networks generate economic growth and international competitiveness by acting as business accelerators.

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