Trends in European Research
on Entrepreneurship at the
Turn of the Century
Lorraine M. Uhlaner
Small Business Economics
21: 321–328, 2003.
2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
ABSTRACT. This article serves as an introduction to the
special issue on Entrepreneurship Research in Europe, a
selection of papers from the XIVth RENT conference held in
Prague, the Czech Republic, November 23–24, 2000. It
provides an overview of the articles and also discusses some
of the themes that bind them together: Networking and the
diffusion of innovations and family business. In addition, the
paper includes a short section highlighting advances in the
Italian entrepreneurship climate as evidenced by data provided
by several of the papers in this issue carried out by Italian
researchers on Italian SMEs.
This special issue of Small Business Economics
brings together outstanding papers submitted to
the Research in Entrepreneurship and Small
Business (RENT) XIV Annual Workshop, held in
Prague, in the Czech Republic in November, 2000.
The papers for this issue were invited from among
the 66 papers given at the conference and further
selected using a blind review process. Referees
judged papers according to their originality,
robustness of methodology and their contribution
to the existing body of knowledge. The resulting
seven articles cover intriguing themes in entre-
preneurship and small business management, from
a variety of perspectives and methodologies.
Traditionally, European entrepreneurship research
is believed to lag behind that of the United States.
This is no longer the case, as this second in the
series of special issues based on the RENT con-
ferences should demonstrate. (See Small Business
Economics 16(4) for the special issue on RENT
XIII). Section two of this article provides a short
summary of each of the seven articles included in
this special issue. Section three elaborates upon
how two themes are woven into several of the
articles – family business and diffusion of knowl-
edge through networking.
In the late twentieth century, entrepreneurship
re-emerged as a key agenda item of economic
policy makers across Europe, both for specific
nations as well as for the European Union as a
whole (see OECD, 1998; European Commission,
1999; EZ, 1999). Commiserate with this attention,
expectations also rose regarding its potential as a
source of job creation and economic growth
(Thurik, 1996). This had not always been the case.
For instance, in the early and mid twentieth
century – in fact until the early 1970’s – a focus
on entrepreneurship was absent from the European
economic policy agenda. The exploitation of
economies of scale and scope was thought to be
at the heart of modern economies (Teece, 1993).
Audretsch and Thurik (2001) characterize this
period as one where stability, continuity and
homogeneity were the cornerstones and thus label
it the “managed economy”. Small businesses were
considered to be a vanishing breed.
The late twentieth century witnessed massive
downsizing and restructuring of many large firms
as well as the decline of many centrally-led
economies built on certainty and the virtues of
scale. By the 1980s evidence mounted to demon-
strate that this move away from large firms toward
small, predominantly young firms was a sea
Final version accepted on January 23, 2002
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