Innovation on small residential builders: an Australian study

Document Type


Publication details

Thorpe, D, Ryan, N & Charles, MB 2009, 'Innovation on small residential builders: an Australian study', Construction Innovation: Information, Process, Management, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 184-200.

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Peer Reviewed



Purpose – Through investigating the innovation-adoption process in smaller construction industry firms, this paper aims to ascertain the drivers of innovation in Australian small residential building firms, and determine how such firms develop or adopt innovations. The research thus provides a more thoroughly nuanced understanding of the innovation-adoption process within these firms.

Design/methodology/approach – The research described in this paper was conducted among small residential housing contractors in South-East Queensland, Australia. This was undertaken by means of a semi-structured interview process, based on a questionnaire requesting information from owners or managers.

Findings – Innovation in this sector is driven by general business concerns pertaining to maintaining overall competitiveness rather than specific client needs. The same firms also utilize supply-chain relationships and broader industry associations as sources of external knowledge. Despite this, better pathways to transfer externally generated knowledge require implementation, especially as a means to ensure continued sector growth and deliver public goods such as enhanced worker health and environmental sustainability.

Practical implications – The paper highlights the current communication and informational disjuncture between research institutions and practitioners. As a result, workable suggestions for enhanced and meaningful interaction among firms, peak bodies and key research institutions are advanced.

Originality/value – The study complements previous research on innovation development and adoption. Given that there is little previous research on the innovation-adoption process in the residential building sector, the paper provides an important counterpoint to studies that generally focus on much larger construction firms.

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