Title: Corporate social responsibility as a driver of digital innovation in SMEs: the mediation effect of absorptive capacity

Authors: Christoph Stock; Stefan Hossinger; Arndt Werner; Sabrina Schell; Jonas Soluk

Addresses: Chair of SME Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Siegen, Unteres Schloß 3, 57076, Siegen, Germany ' Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder, Investment Strategy Development and Sustainable Finance, Hans-Thoma-Straße 19, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany ' Chair of SME Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Siegen, Unteres Schloß 3, 57076 Siegen, Germany ' Institute for New Work, University of Applied Sciences Bern, Brückenstrasse 73, 3005 Bern, Switzerland ' House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics, Saltmätargatan 13-17, 113 59 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Currently, digital innovation is one of the biggest challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This study analyses how SMEs can achieve higher levels of digital innovation despite their lack of resources. Using a dataset consisting of 520 German SMEs, we propose and test a model in which corporate social responsibility enables knowledge-sharing and supports SMEs in acquiring the resources needed for digital innovation development. As hypothesised, we found empirical evidence for a positive mediation effect in which absorptive capacity links corporate social responsibility and an SME's digital innovation output. In sum, this study helps to explain the relationship between corporate social responsibility and an SME's digital innovation, thus presenting far-reaching implications for SME research and the emerging scholarly debate on digital innovation in resource-constrained organisations.

Keywords: SMEs; small and medium-sized enterprises; boundary-spanning theory; digital innovation; corporate social responsibility; absorptive capacity.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEV.2022.127451

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, 2022 Vol.14 No.4/5, pp.571 - 601

Received: 18 Jan 2021
Accepted: 13 Jan 2022

Published online: 05 Dec 2022 *

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