1.6 University/SME collaboration


Universities and research centres can help form so-called systems and networks of innovation. SMEs collaborate with systems of innovation on regional, national or even international levels, dependant on their knowledge and competence needs. SMEs that innovate through science-driven R&D (e.g. in biotech) tend to collaborate with partners across the world in search for new and unique knowledge. SMEs that innovate through engineering based user-producer learning tend to collaborate with nearby partner. Here, innovation often involves the application of existing knowledge or new combinations of knowledge. Collaboration with universities and research institutions can also consist of creating of special centres in form of business incubators to support business activity for start-up initiatives, especially in innovative sectors.

Please read:
Best practice of collaboration between SMEs and Universities

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the implementation of best practices of collaboration between university and industrial small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents the experience carried on by a university group fostering the collaboration with SME companies involving young engineering students and researchers in projects designed for the resolution of real industrial problems. A collaboration model is proposed and described. Four real case studies are presented.

Findings – The purposed model promotes the involvement of the young engineers with authentic industrial experiences, enables the build-up of their practical framework and encourages their entrepreneurial growth. It also promotes the innovation process in SME companies through the close collaboration with universities.

Practical implications – The collaboration between universities and SME companies should be based on a small projects base. These projects must be focus in localized and specific problematic areas in the industrial companies, where the potential of improvement and innovation is large, must diagnose the problematic situation and propose new and efficient solutions supported by technical/scientific methodologies. The involvement of managers and collaborators of SME companies and the clearly definition of their roles in the project are fundamental issues for the collaboration success.

Originality/value – The model presented in this paper describes an innovative step-by-step procedure, easy to be implemented by the universities. It emphasises the impact of some details during the collaboration process that enhance the success potential of university-SME companies’ projects, the quality of the research work produced and the quality of young future engineers training. It also fits with the SME companies’ demands of a mix of structured knowledge and empirical experience.

To get better idea about University/SME collaboration, please follow the link:

– watch the video presenting the business case on the collaboration in Innovation Network of Business & Universities.

SME network collaboration
There any many examples of SME Collaboration networks, these include; Chambers of Commerce, Business Breakfast Clubs, Knowledge networks, Industry Association networks and networks based on locality or industrial sector. These less formal networks are an excellent and vital place to start for the SME new to business collaboration. They are rarely “just talking shops” and nowadays network meetings or events typically have a programme of impressive guest speakers, followed by formal and informal networking opportunities. It is increasingly common now for networks to be sponsored or “led” by the local development agency, and in such cases the network will often have a particular focus for example training. Reasons for participating include:
• Increase productivity and related profitability.
• To up-skill their employees.
• To raise the morale of employees through training and development.
• To ensure an increasing number of employees gain a recognised nationally accredited qualification.
• Access support and guidance.
• Gain advantage from proactive planning.
• To access funding.
• To share information in the interests of training and development

Social collaboration platforms
Social collaboration platforms enable open dialogue (so two-way communication) between organization and its customers. In the past it was fine for organizations to concentrate only on targeting and acquiring customers. However, in today’s highly competitive global market, organizations cannot ignore long term customer engagement… that includes providing world class service to customers and a platform where they can contribute ideas and give feedback about your products & services. The open dialogue with the organization on a social collaborative platform leads to superior customer experience, since every customer input (such as complaint, suggestion, appreciation, feedback, etc.) is recorded, managed and acted upon centrally. In this way customers can contribute to a company´s new product cycle. Thanks to such tools customers can find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ). If they do not find the necessary information, they can directly ask it to the organization. Additionally company can publish & share information, facilitate online training and best practices with its customers in real-time. Every customer can talk to other customers and the organization alike – online forums enable open discussions. Customers can open &track support tickets and organizations can serve them centrally. Organizations can conduct surveys, collect valuable customer feedback and analyze it with powerful analytics. Top management can extract customized reports. Organizations can update their workspace pages with details about promotions & offers easily without the need of IT staff.

To get an idea how the company can use social networks to collaborate watch the video