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SE networks literature review


The research aimed to review the literature on the effectiveness of networks, following on from a 2009 SE internal survey and literature review. This report focuses particularly on the economic benefits of networks, the impact of networks on enhancing and promoting innovation and the role of the public sector.


The methodology consisted of a review of evidence from recent academic and industry literature and previous evaluation studies. The report reviews: some of the principles behind networks; the determinants of success; the development of networks; the performance and measurement of networks; and the need for facilitation.


The report identifies three key benefits of networking: social capital; innovation; and direct quantifiable economic impacts. It suggests that networks are not an end in themselves and the most successful networks are demand-driven and have a clear and strong purpose. Establishing the over-arching purpose of a network is vital in attracting the right members, developing an appropriate structure and setting goals and targets. The report finds that participation in networks generally was not strongly correlated with performance: however, if the network had a specific aim of improving innovation, this had a positive impact. Successful networks require considerable input from collaborators, whether in terms of time, financial investment or experience. Increased trust can lead to deeper levels of collaboration over time within networks. Networks have both tangible and intangible impacts upon performance and innovation, with no 'standard' tool or system to measure the impact. Brokerage and network facilitation is important and the report highlights the role of the public sector in the facilitation of open innovation networks through building strong business environments for clusters to grow, including infrastructure and access to finance.


The review highlights some good practice messages that have emerged from the literature review: networks should have a clear or strong purpose or objective; networks should demonstrate the tangible benefits for collaboration and the benefits should outweigh the inputs; network membership should be demand-led and engaged with industry; networks should have defined leadership and ownership driving it forward; networks should employ the services of an intermediary or facilitator to bring the right 'actors' into a process and manage expectation; and networks should have a continual cycle of renewal and membership 'churn'.

Author EKOS Limited
Published Year 2011
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses