Report: Cooperation with higher education institutions and research institutes strengthens the competence base of SMEs and drives their growth
About 17 per cent of SMEs cooperate with higher education institutions or research institutes. 12 per cent of SMEs engage in cooperation with universities of applied sciences, 7 per cent with universities, and 4 per cent with research institutes. The degree of cooperation with universities and particularly with research institutes can be considered low.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises engaged in cooperation with higher education institutions and research institutes are instrumental to the renewal of Finnish business and industry. By driving a reform of our innovation policy and by proposing the allocation of additional resources we want to offer opportunities for successful cooperation to a larger number of businesses,” explains Olli Koski, Director, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
Actively cooperating SMEs differ from others in that they:
- are more innovative and development oriented;
- are more likely to have strong growth targets;
- have a larger number of personnel and a larger turnover than other SMEs on average;
- are more likely to operate in the national and international markets; and
- are more likely to recruit more employees than others.
Cooperation with universities of applied sciences focuses on training and education and theses, while cooperation with universities and research institutes usually involves innovation development with activities such as R&D. With research institutes, cooperation also includes commissioned research and the use of research infrastructure.
Cooperation has strengthened companies’ knowledge base and competence and provided a more structured outlook on future development trends and markets. Other typical outcomes included piloting and product testing, and the introduction of new technologies, methods or devices.
The report is first of its kind in that it provides a summary of data collected nationwide on the cooperation of SMEs with institutions of higher education and research institutes. It is also unique by international standards since no similar research focusing on companies employing fewer than 10 persons has been conducted before.
The report analysed the number of SMEs involved in cooperation with the organisations in question, the type of companies engaged in cooperation, the nature of the interaction, and the outcomes of the cooperation.
The results confirmed that universities, research institutes and universities of applied sciences clearly have different strengths and profiles, but from the SME perspective they provide mutually complementary skills, knowledge and expertise. More than half of the companies engaged in cooperation with research institutes also cooperated with universities.
The data was collected in connection with the biannual SME Barometer commissioned by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Finnvera Plc and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Taloustutkimus Oy market research company was responsible for collecting the data and for preparing the report.
Kai Husso, Chief Planning Officer, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 063 683
Pirjo Kutinlahti, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 048 260