Best practice diffusion in UK supply
chains: barriers, enablers and policy
Stephen Roper, Nola Hewitt-Dundas,
• Diffusion of best practice technologies (management and digital) is
important in raising productivity
• Trusted – and long-term - relationships can be critical to the
effective transfer of best practice. This focuses attention on supply
• But, existing evidence suggests significant gaps exist between
supply chain tiers in terms of their adoption of best practice
• Questions here are therefore
– (1) What are the barriers and enablers of best practice diffusion in
– (2) How can policy be designed to encourage diffusion and so improve
Diffusion in supply chains
Distributions of knowledge gaps in best practice use within multi-national groups
(left) and supply-chains (right). Key message is diffusion in supply chains is slower and
best practice less evenly adopted. Source: Crone and Roper, 2001.
OECD (2015) Frontier firms have better technology and can be 5 x
more productive than non-frontier firms. National
technology champions are three times as important
for diffusion as global champions
Valentim, L Aydin, A., & Parker, R.
Market and technological factors may shape the
most appropriate level of intervention in a supply
Todo, Y., Matous, P., & Inoue, H.
Diversified links may facilitate innovation. Too close
ties (closed networks) may generate lock-in. Be
careful what you wish for!
Crone, M., & Roper, S. (2003) Best practice adoption can vary widely between
supply chain tiers. Diffusion is a strategic decision
not operational in most cases
Crone, M., & Roper, S. (2001) Lags in adoption are measurable and comparable
across supply chain tiers
1. How are best practice technologies distributed across UK
supply chains? How big are the gaps in adoption and
utilization? What does ‘good’ look like?
2. What are the barriers and enablers of knowledge diffusion:
operational, strategic, tactical? Could reflect challenges both
for knowledge providers and recipients.
3. What are the key mechanisms of best practice diffusion
along supply chains?
4. How can policy be designed to promote knowledge diffusion
along supply chains?
• Focus on UK supply chains and partners in (perhaps) Aerospace,
Automotive, Food, Electronics, Plastics
• Partner with industry representative bodies and organisations
notably ‘Innovation Alliance’ to help with access
• Approach is qualitative – face to face or telephone interviews. Aim
10-15 interviews per supply chain
• ‘Progressive’ sampling to progress down tiers of supply-chain
linking from one firm to its suppliers. Confidentiality assurances will
• Analysis qualitative and should provide a rich picture of best
practice adoption and use, diffusion and potential policy
Research question Timing
Identification of target supply chains,
building access, questionnaire
July – August
Lead interviews with OEMs and 1st tier
Sept to Nov
Interviews with 2nd and 3rd tier suppliers Dec to Feb – Interim report
(internal and funder circulation)
Interviews with 4th tier suppliers March to April
Analysis and reporting May to June – Research Paper 1
Valentim, L Aydin, A., & Parker, R. P. (2018). ' Innovation and technology diffusion
in competitive supply chains. European Journal of Operational Research, 265(3),
Todo, Y., Matous, P., & Inoue, H. (2016). The strength of long ties and the
weakness of strong ties: Knowledge diffusion through supply chain networks.
Research Policy, 45(9), 1890-1906. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2016.06.008
Crone, M., & Roper, S. (2003). Knowledge Complementarity and Co-Ordination in
the Local Supply Chain: Some Empirical Evidence. British Journal of
Management, 14(4), 339-357.
OECD. (2015). The Future of Productivity, Paris.
Crone, M., & Roper, S. (2001). Local learning from multinational plants:
Knowledge transfers in the supply chain. Regional Studies, 35(6), 535-548.