SMEs – universities collaboration – in search of transferable cases

László Csonka
Budapest Business School - University of Applied Sciences

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Annamaria Horvath
Budapest Business School - University of Applied Sciences

Eszter Meszaros
Budapest Business School - University of Applied Sciences

Gyula Szabó
Budapest Business School - University of Applied Sciences

Abstract
Introduction/Aims: Intensive linkages among the higher education institutions and the business sphere that are contributing to knowledge transfer can significantly contribute to the growth of economic and social well-being. Within the business sphere small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent a special case because they are typically more reliant on external knowledge than large companies but they possess fewer resources to acquire this knowledge. However, successfully improve the innovative potential of SMEs through knowledge transfer and knowledge utilisation can be highly beneficial for the whole economy. In an open and, at the same time, relatively small economy such as Hungary, it is crucial for local enterprises to be connected with various knowledge partners. Unfortunately, we lack a clear view about the collaborations of Hungarian SMEs in the R&D and innovation process. The aim of this poster is to show some of the good examples of university-industry collaborations where the business partners are SMEs. A secondary aim is to show the diversity of these collaborations and the various conditions that are necessary for the success of such partnerships. Special attention is devoted for spin-off companies.
Research methodology: The poster is based on the short analysis of the Hungarian innovation system and more specifically the innovation collaboration activity of Hungarian SMEs. The empirical information is collected through case studies (10) conducted between November 2018 and January 2019. The case studies are from a variety of industries and regions of Hungary.
Results/Implications: In Hungary, the unstable economic and RDI environment hinders the prospects for long-term planning by economic actors. This is critical if launching such a time-consuming and risky process as RDI collaboration is under consideration. It seems that very few of the Hungarian SMEs have recognized the importance of external knowledge but there is a growing amount of companies deliberately searching for partners who can assist them in this respect. There are a number of successful cases when SMEs are overcoming the possible obstacles of collaboration with higher education institutions and can establish a successful partnership. In many cases there is prior knowledge of each other which facilitate the fluent collaboration. Collaboration in R&D or innovation needs some common (past) experience, a good understanding of the other partner’s operation and, above all, trust. The analysed good practices shed some light on the most important success factors and obstacles as well as the main types of outcomes and impacts of typical partnerships. University spin-off companies represent a special case because they realize a direct way of knowledge transfer and utilisation. By analysing the few successful cases the paper may offer lessons to be exploited in other cases.
Conclusions: There is a need for further efforts to make SMEs aware of the importance of R&D and innovation as well as university-industry collaboration and if they start to strengthen their activities it will launch a self-propelling process leading to the desired linkages among these institutions of the Hungarian innovation system.