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Innovation typology in tourism

Among public institutions, universities perform the major part of R&D in most countries (Edquist 2005). In the tourism sector, however, only some firms work together with universities. Nonetheless, universities as well as research centres are able to perform the necessary R&D for the industry.

Public institutions have usually more investment capacity in R&D than SME’s. However, funding of research in universities might be provided by both public and private sectors. In this regard, most of the studies carried out in universities and research centres are funded by public institutions. Nevertheless, the contributions of public institutions to science-based research should increase in the tourism sector. Furthermore, linkages between universities and the industry should be enhanced. As a result, advances in research could be transferred to the industry, which would acquire this knowledge and increase innovation performance.

Universities also contribute to innovation in the sector by providing qualified employees. As a result, the level of professionalization increases. Furthermore, qualified personnel provide new knowledge to the sector.

Consequently, universities and research centres support innovation by transferring new knowledge to the sector. They may also participate in the development of innovations, in collaboration with other organizations.

Government and other Public Institutions

The participation of public institutions is fundamental to innovate in tourism. Institutions often motivate collaboration between actors in a destination. If organizations are reluctant to participate in networks and share information, usually because they do not want to be imitated, public intermediation can reduce uncertainty and support collaboration. However, this task is especially difficult if firms see each other as competitors.

The degree in which the public sector influences collaboration differs among destinations. Often, public institutions do not support collaboration or are influenced by several important actors thus not taking the whole industry into account. Porter (1998) indicates that the role of institutions should be rather indirect than direct. Accordingly, region’s success should be based on the labour of business firms rather than in public intervention and policy making. Sundbo et al. (2007), however, emphasize the role of institutions in tourism and point out that the institutionalization of the tourism industry may improve the levels of innovation activity. Consequently, the public sector should motivate innovation in the destination and create the appropriate environment.

The public sector also performs expensive R&D processes that neither universities nor private firms are able to carry out. Besides, government funding represents the major economical source for the development of R&D activities in universities. Nevertheless, institutions may also slow down the process of technological change, because they are usually less flexible and more bureaucratic than private organizations.


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