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Abstract

The contemporary agrifood sectors have witnessed a rapid increase in the use of intangibles, i.e. inputs built upon information, knowledge and communication assets. Consequently firms, in their move towards competitiveness, try to innovate in line with these trends. Innovations in agrifood sectors were traditionally focused around new products and new technologies, and often seen as incremental. Innovations based upon intangibles need a broader view of what is innovation, especially in the context of food SMEs. Indeed food SMEs, which roles in the structuration and dynamism of the food economy in Europe is crucial, have at the same time difficulties and limitations in their innovativeness capacity for intangibles. The main objective of the communication is to better understand the conditions and processes of such innovations from a micro analytical point of view, centered on small and medium enterprises. The research is focused on one type of organizational innovation, the adoption of food quality standards. The communication is structured as follows. In a first part (1) we characterize such innovations in food sectors around two core features: the identification of what is at stake, in terms of resources, competences and structures, when a company adopts such an innovation; and the identification of consequences such an adoption will have in terms of behavior of this company towards its environment. In a second part (2) we suggest addressing this question of innovation adoption through a methodology called social network analysis (hereafter SNA), or structural analysis of networks. This methodology is well appropriated to cope with the complexity and the micro/meso interactions that are essential features for the understanding of quality standard adoption. Then a syncretic analytical framework (3) is proposed, applied to a specific case study of a French food SME adopting an ISO 22000 standard (4). Discussion and concluding comments follow (5).

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