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The influence of small town context on access to external knowledge

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Meili Rahel,
Project Urban prosperity beyond the metropolis: Analyzing small and medium-sized towns in Switzerland
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Entrepreneurship & Regional Development
Volume (Issue) 31(9-10)
Page(s) 826 - 841
Title of proceedings Entrepreneurship & Regional Development
DOI 10.1080/08985626.2019.1606288


The relative lack of variety and density of people, companies and knowledge institutions in small towns compel companies to seek new knowledge beyond their location. However, there is only scant research explaining the local characteristics that influence companies’ ability to access external knowledge. In this article, the focus lies on the obstacles and opportunities that arise due to companies’ location in small towns and that emerge when they seek to access external knowledge sources. A multiple case study design with qualitative interview data from five multinational high-tech companies in small towns in the eastern part of Switzerland is used. Also, a theoretical replication of the case study by investigating two single domestic high-tech companies was conducted. The results show that a thin labour market, a lack of urban amenities and the availability of transportation connections to bigger cities are most important for accessing the knowledge of new employees, collaborating with universities and for attending workshops or conferences. On the whole, multinational companies in small towns face the same obstacles and opportunities as single domestic companies in small towns.