Exploring capabilities driving SME development of technological readiness within the marine sector

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Sadeghi Gargari, Negar
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University College Cork
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SMEs contribute to the economy along with industrial expansion. However, there are challenges for SMEs in the present environment to keep pace with the turbulent technological advances, and most new technologies fail to traverse the gap between the proof-of-concept and prototype demonstrated in the relevant environment (valley of death between TRL 3 to 7). This requires detailed real-time information on the challenges of SMEs through the chronological evolution path and required capabilities to develop their technology and bring it to the market. Given the vast quantities of untapped renewable energy, the strategic importance of the sector and the emergence of a cluster of such SMEs, this exploratory study focused on how technology-based SMEs can develop technological, organisational, and managerial capabilities through their technology development to move from proof-of-concept to scalable prototyping through the technology readiness spectrum. For this purpose, the research started with a survey of the existing population for a broad understanding of the subject through 33 quantitative questionnaires. Then, three explorative interviews were conducted to delve into issues raised in questionnaire results, and finally, an in-depth analysis was carried out to assess the issues raised in questionnaires by nine qualitative case studies. The results showed that technology development programs do not only rely on technological capabilities and must prioritise organizational and managerial capabilities and outsource the capability gaps through partnerships with academic institutions, SMEs, large companies, and the customer market. In this regard, consistent learning from prior experiences and knowledge transfer between SMEs and large companies in the marine energy sector and other sectors is crucial for developing technological capabilities. Besides, experimental analysis and testing at test facilities and sites require a robust, scalable idea regarding the facilities' technical specifications. Furthermore, the findings highlighted the crucial role of financial resources, which can be achieved by writing convincing grant proposals or creating a cash flow in the firm. This can be achieved by increasing the focus on commercialization even at earlier TRLs by finding intermediary markets. All this can lead to developing organizational capabilities in a firm. Moreover, the results showed that besides technological and organizational capabilities, managerial capabilities and human skills could help SMEs through the valley of death, which requires training in management and business for technology developers. Finally, the networking and partnership capability is particularly significant to fill the capability gaps, which should be facilitated by government assistance. The research findings will contribute to improving the ability of SME marine renewable energy firms to develop their technology and bring it to the market for societal benefit. Implications for theory, marine energy technology developers and policy offer a deeper understanding of how we can better nurture marine-based SMEs in traversing across the valley of death (TRL3-TRL7) by developing technological, organizational, managerial, and external capabilities.
Technological capabilities , Organizational capabilities , Managerial capabilities , External capabilities , Partnership , Valley of death (VoD) , Technology readiness level (TRL)
Sadeghi Gargari, N. 2022. Exploring capabilities driving SME development of technological readiness within the marine sector. MSc Thesis, University College Cork.