Project Aims


Background to

The globalised economy places a premium on innovation as the principal means of achieving competitiveness and sustainable economic growth, the goals established by the Lisbon European Council. However, an innovation deficit persists in Europe and is most clearly felt by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), whose scale and scope limit often limits their innovation generation.

Yet, recent studies reveal that innovation does not depend solely on technical advances or capital investment, as previously thought, but is also generated by interactions and exchanges of knowledge (Wardell/Knight, 1996; Hill/McGowan, 1999). As a result, business collaborations and “clustering” are increasingly recognised as a form of informal, yet continuous, learning and can provide SME staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to boost innovation and keep their businesses competitive.

Specifically, business collaboration is supported by academics (famously, Porter), multilateral organisations, and large companies. As Duch of ‘Competitiveness’ explains, “knowledge spillovers and the close interaction with customers and other companies… provide intense pressure to innovate while lowering the cost of experimenting.” Indeed, the Netwin project, funded by the EU’s Recite II, revealed 5 concrete benefits to collaboration: economy of scale, active labour market, improved regional image, specialization, and concentration of strategic information.  Not surprisingly, collaboration is now at the heart of EU policy and there is a huge body of literature supporting it. For example, Innobarometer regularly reports on collaboration, clusters feature in the Entrepreneurship Action Plan and the Innova initiative offers industrial clusters a good practice learning platform.

However, a paradox exists: SME attitudes are vastly different to those other groups.  75% of SMEs perceive barriers not opportunities to collaborate and they view collaboration as contrary to competitiveness. Since the vast majority of available information is either highly academic or focused at larger or industry specific groups, they are left outside in terms of the benefits and learning possibilities of collaboration.

Hence, there is a need to “unlock” existing knowledge about the benefits of collaboration and unleash its potential for those who can most use it – SME owners, managers and staff. This need corresponds directly to the priorities of the Copenhagen mandate of making training more attractive and promoting non-formal and informal learning.   Moreover, if we consider that SMEs make up 99% of European businesses the need becomes even clearer – only by involving them in lifelong learning can Europe reach the goals of innovation, competition and a sustainable, knowledge based economy.

Project Aims

The immediate goal of Collaborate to Compete is to transfer existing information on business collaborations into more accessible and attractive learning materials aimed directly at SME owners, managers and staff.

In order that the knowledge is successfully “unlocked” for the new users, the project aims to make the learning materials/process both more accessible and more attractive.  Thus the specific aims are to:

1. Carry out a transnational participative survey in order to gain a deep understanding of current SME attitudes and obstacles towards business collaboration
2. Develop an integrated, multilingual, elearning site for SME users which will contain
• Summaries of academic work on business collaboration, with links to full reports (if possible)
•New learning materials, in “bite size” modules, designed specifically to help SME learners overcome the obstacles to collaboration and maximise the benefits.
• Series of best practice case studies, listed by sector or country.
• Compilation of European collaboration initiatives, searchable, with weblinks and contact details


This is a great program, i would recommend this program to one and all.

Ian Sayers