Implementing the knowledge-based economy: Market devices as policy instruments

Authors: Erdélyi, P. and Whitley, E.A.

Start date: 16 July 2015

We chart the rise and fall of Business Link as a policy instrument for furthering the knowledge-based economy, while also examining how it was implemented by one particular Business Link Operator in Southern England. We zoom in on the specific policy objective to encourage SMEs to adopt e-commerce, which was singled out by the Blair government as a key innovation that marked a competitive "knowledge-driven economy." Drawing on qualitative data and analysis (including policy documents, media reports and interviews with Personal Business Advisers), we undertake a socio-material description of Business Link's enterprise support activities. We found that the implementation of Business Link by successive UK governments required the construction and operation of socio-technical devices to perform a variety of market functions to address a perceived market failure that was thought to impede the rate of SMEs’ adoption of managerial and technological innovations. We show that the effectiveness and efficiency of these market devices depended on their particular design, composition, and mode of deployment, and that after the Labour government’s 2005 reforms broke the original market devices, Business Link actors created new ones to perform those market functions and fulfil the policy objectives, sometimes in contravention of government rules.

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