Turning new ideas into wealth: SMEs in the era of disruptive technologies (Vancouver, Canada, 2003)

Turning new ideas into wealth: SMEs in the era of disruptive technologies
Vancouver, June 5-6, 2003

Disruptive technologies upset the status quo, and do so in many different ways. The accelerating pace of discovery gives us new opportunities, but it also means that technologies, and the investments behind them, have become perishable items. A new, chaotic, economic environment is created in which we see, simultaneously, overcapacity and price erosion in 'old' technology, and shortages at high prices for new technologies. Moreover, this change all takes place in a borderless trade environment in which the next surprise can seemingly come out of nowhere.

Small and medium enterprises are at the center of the chaos. They have the apparent energy and agility to adapt to new conditions, to work in asymmetric markets. Paradoxically, their success often lies in what happens when they fail. It is then that we see the entrepreneurs regroup to form something new. What we call SMEs is really a network of innovators and entrepreneurs. The companies they form are just the external description of what the network is at a fixed point in time.

The conference in Vancouver looked at how SMEs grow, die, and re-cycle themselves in this chaotic environment. In meeting unpredictable external challenges, they often respond in unconventional and paradoxical ways. The conference challenged participants to look deeply into an innovation process that goes beyond the normal discovery-investment-ROI view of the world, and where the center of focus is no longer the enterprise but the emergent behaviour of a network of entrepreneurs.

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