Academics from the International Centre for |Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality (ICRETH) at Leeds Beckett University have been instrumental in driving a pioneering approach to measuring innovation in the meetings industry.

The project, funded by International Congress and Convention Association ICCA, with input from over 200 ICCA member organisations, has enabled Professor Rhodri Thomas and Dr Emma Wood of the International Centre for Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality (ICRETH) at Leeds Beckett University to develop a tool to measure absorptive capacity of an organisation (a firm’s ability to recognise the value of new information and use this to its advantage.)

Professor Thomas added: “Absorptive capacity is the ability to acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit external knowledge for competitive advantage.  The idea is that competitive organisations are not only able to process knowledge effectively to innovate but they also have the capacity to use information that does not directly fill an identifiable gap in knowledge.”

Although there is a large body of research on innovation related to other industrial sectors, little attention has been paid – until now - to the meetings industry.  Professor Thomas said: “There are many potential explanations for why some organisations are innovative and others are not.  Factors such as entrepreneurial leadership, organisational culture and the management of knowledge are often cited as important variables, however one of the most influential ideas to emerge over the past two decades, is the role absorptive capacity plays in innovation.”

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk said: “We were delighted that an ICCA member university wanted to tackle such a challenging research topic.  Our industry is constantly talking about innovation, but there have been no objective tools available.  Hopefully this innovative project is the start of a new way of thinking about this important issue.”

The research suggests that the meetings industry’s average absorptive capacity score is modest at 34, whereas a score of 45 or more indicates a high level of absorptive capacity.  However, the industry average score conceals a wide range from very low to very high scores, suggesting that some organisations could be significantly more effective in using external knowledge for competitive advantage whilst others are highly innovative.

Professor Thomas concludes: “This research epitomises what we are trying to do in ICRETH. Our collective goal is to undertake research that our peers want to read and reflect upon and that practitioners treat with approbation.”

To read the article that reports the research in full visit The absorptive capacity of tourism organisations.