Relevant literature is synthesized to provide a holistic picture of our current knowledge of innovation in small, project-based firms, highlighting significant gaps in the broad areas of ‘focus and outcome’, ‘organizational capabilities’, ‘context’ and ‘process’. Research findings from fieldwork focused on the construction industry are offered to address these gaps. In particular, a consensus model is given of the organizational factors dynamically at play. It is shown that typically the innovations of small, projectbased firms are closely tied to their operational activities and are pushed forward by owners who utilize very scarce resources to make progress in the interstices of normal business. This leads to an emphasis on taking up established technologies through ‘learning on the job’. Growth per se is not an important target. The motivation to act is generally to get past a survival mode of operating and to achieve stability by satisfying clients. These characteristics contrast with large organizations, especially in terms of the role of the owner, the close focus on niche markets and the lack of slack resources to innovate in parallel with normal business. It is hoped that these results will be of interest to other sectors where small, project-based firms operate.