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Manuscript deadline
01 October 2021

Cover image - Journal of Small Business Management

Journal of Small Business Management

Special Issue Editor(s)

Eric Liguori and Susana Santos, Rowan University
[email protected]

Fred Phillips, University of New Mexico

Xaver Neumeyer, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Raj V. Mahto, University of New Mexico

Steven T. Walsh, University of New Mexico

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Winds of change: The evolving relationship of entrepreneurship, small businesses, technology, and innovation

The role that entrepreneurial and small firms play in the commercialization of disruptive technologies and the economy has been shown to be disproportionate to their size (Phillips and Kirchhoff 1989, Kirchhoff and Walsh 2008, Kirchhoff et al. 2007, Kirchhoff and Walsh 2000). Yet will this continue? The advent of the industry forcing functions of industry 4.0 and the COVID pandemic induced “Low Touch” economy is radically changing the environment where they create value. How are small and entrepreneurial firms evolving to embrace this challenge? Will Entrepreneurial and small firms will continue to play an important role in the emerging business landscape?

The emergence of technology-based harbingers such as digital platforms (Ruutu et al., 2017), internet of things (Islam et al., 2020), blockchain technologies (Kimani et al., 2020), additive manufacturing (Robinson et al., 2019), and (digital) makerspaces (Browder et al., 2019) are adding a layer of extended fluidity. This fluidity enables entrepreneurial action to establish direct links between suppliers and buyers (Elia et al., 2020), engage customers and investors through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding mechanisms (Courtney et al., 2017), and utilize data analytics for additional insights (Dubey et al., 2019; Marinakis et al., 2020). Digitalization, especially, challenges traditional business models by dissolving boundaries and shifting agency of traditional entrepreneurship (Nambisan, 2017). It facilitates new innovation processes and outcomes (Autio et al., 2018) by changing the nature of entrepreneurial activity and thinking (Bagheri et al., 2020; Yusubova et al., 2019). This uncompromising and disruptive nature of technological changes pose some unique challenges for scholars and practitioners.

First, the adoption of a technology requires competence (i.e., technological) and capabilities (i.e. managerial) as well as resources (e.g., financial), which are not always readily available (Mahto et al., 2018). The highly iterative nature of digital products and services requires entrepreneurs and small businesses to quickly acquire the corresponding competencies and resources for effective deployment. In a highly turbulent and fast paced environment, constant need to readapt and readjust technology skillsets may extract emotional toll on entrepreneurs and small businesses. Studies suggest that participants experience frustration and loss of control during adoption of new technologies that reduces technology adoption rates and generates resistance to new technology initiatives (Ayyagari et al., 2011). The problem may be particularly acute for individuals from historically underserved populations (e.g. the poor, women, ethnic or racial minorities) and minority owned businesses lacking resources or competencies (Walsh and Linton 2011, Dy et al., 2017; Neumeyer et al., 2020).

Second, pedagogical approaches, activities, and learning contexts for entrepreneurial actions in new and established firms require readjustment, where entrepreneurs and business owners recognize and exploit new technologies and innovations. While the domain of technology entrepreneurship education and the role of learning on innovativeness has been gaining some attention (Berg et al. 2015; Kleine et al., 2019; Thomä and Zimmermann, 2020), many questions remain unexplored with regards to entrepreneur’s learning and developing new technologies/ innovations (Liguori and Winkler, 2020). The development of multidisciplinary entrepreneurship programs with diverse learners (e.g., business, engineering backgrounds) having complementary perspectives and competencies towards new technologies (Turner and Gianiodis, 2018) in a learning community also represents a potential, but underexplored avenue.

Third, the emergence of a new ‘ecosystem’ construct (technological harbinger, platform, or entrepreneurial) rewrites some of the key notions about the role of innovations and new technologies to a marketplace and the role of entrepreneurial action in new and small firms (Adner and Kapoor, 2010; Cennamo and Santaló, 2019; Kahle et al., 2020). Entrepreneurial success is contingent on the coordination with platform providers and adjusting to technological shifts due to interconnected nature of digital platforms (Srinivasan and Venkatraman, 2018). New platforms based on these new technologies can thereby act as resource networks, but also impose constraints and obligations that might inhibit entrepreneurial latitude. Many of these emerging technology bases can also help bridge communication and coordination gaps between different types of stakeholders in a proximity-based structure such as entrepreneurial ecosystems (Autio et al., 2018). However, the role of entrepreneurial ecosystems in generating new disruptive innovations and discontinuous technologies is still underdeveloped. Majority of studies focus on incubators and accelerators types examine how such configurations affect the innovative capabilities of entrepreneurial ventures (Albort-Morant and Oghazi, 2016; Wang et al., 2020) giving scant attention to many important issues. Further, other more holistic perspectives such as the role of institutions as external enablers of technology entrepreneurship have remained under explored (von Briel et al., 2018).

In summary, this is an opportunity-rich environment for scholars to conduct new studies at the intersection of technology innovation and entrepreneurial activity by entrepreneurs, small firm owners and corporate entrepreneurs (cf., Prahalad and Hamel, 1997, Alderete, 2017; Dutta and Hora, 2017). This special issue seeks to build the empirical and conceptual basis for an academic discussion on the relevance, nature and implications of technology, innovation on entrepreneurial action and vice versa. We are interested in a variety of topics centered on how innovators, small firms and entrepreneurs are embracing the technology harbingers of I 4.0 and what role will the forcing function of COVID-19 pandemic play – if any – in the creation of a new low touch economy. Therefore, we want to bring together scholars from different disciplines to provide a more holistic perspective on the phenomenon – accepting both quantitative and qualitative efforts – and provide answers to the following questions (not exhaustive):

  • What is the role of the new technology harbingers of I 4.0 embraced by entrepreneurial action in firms of any size creating in the new economy?
  • How is the forcing function of COVID-19 pandemic affecting the pace in which I 4.0 is being empowered?
  • What is the role of technology in promoting and changing entrepreneurs and innovators?
  • What are the effects of new technologies and digitalization on entrepreneurs from historically underserved populations (e.g. minorities, women, the poor)? Will an I 4.0 information-based economy improve the role of the poor and middle class?
  • What is the role of institutions in supporting both technology and non-technology driven venture innovation? How are entrepreneurial ecosystems reshaped by new technologies and innovations and what is the effect on entrepreneurial activities?
  • How can process and practice-theory inform the study of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship?
  • How is the I 4.0 digital, information and knowledge-based economy changing the way (novice) entrepreneurs think, act, and motivate themselves in all firm venues?
  • How do changes in technology affect the interactions and relationships between entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large firms with their stakeholders within an entrepreneurial context?
  • How can new technologies help entrepreneurs, small business practitioners cope with failure or success? How do entrepreneurs experience technostress and what are potential coping mechanisms?
  • What is the role of I4.0 ecosystems in promoting or hampering venture innovativeness
  • What are new technology developments and how could they affect entrepreneurs, small firms, and their ventures?
  • What is the role of virtual communities in developing technology/digital entrepreneurs
  • How are pedagogical practices in entrepreneurship transformed by the need to develop students’ information, data, the new technologies underpinning I4.0, and digital literacy? What are the needs in terms of educational infrastructure?

Quantitative, qualitative, and conceptual papers are welcome. Due to the complex and interrelated nature of technology, innovation, small firms and entrepreneurship, conventional research methods might be of limited use to capture the dynamics, interrelatedness and non-linearity (Neck and Greene, 2011; Santos et al., 2020) of the phenomenon. Thus, we invite scholars to utilize interesting, novel or emerging research methods for their studies.

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Submission Instructions

Extended abstracts should be submitted via the below submission link by May 15, 2021. All manuscripts must be original, unpublished works that are not concurrently under review for publication elsewhere. The editorial team will review all submissions and invite select papers to submit to one of the two journals by June 15, 2021. Full papers must then be submitted between August 15 and October 1, 2021. Final accept/reject decisions will be made by January 15, 2022.

Extended Abstract Submission Link: https://busandentrep.wufoo.com/forms/q136qqvu17c88l3/

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