The report also underlines the critical role of facilitators, such as CSIRO’s SME Connect or research partnership staff at universities in enabling these early conversations.
“SMEs and researchers need to understand each other’s capabilities, priorities and objectives,” Verreynne said.
“Our survey found facilitators increase the success of collaborations by matching SMEs with universities and research institutes with the right capabilities, dealing with the paperwork, and ensuring common expectations and outcomes between the parties.”
RMIT, QUT and CSIRO researchers are now looking to develop a ‘collaboration readiness scale’ that could help clarify where potential industry partners are at and the likely support required to collaborate with researchers.
CSIRO’s SME Collaboration Nation Lead, Dr George Feast, said such an in-depth look at the experience of Australian SMEs in working with researchers had never been done before.
He added that with SMEs making up around 99% of Australian businesses and contributing more than half our national GDP, it was critical to support their continued growth and global competitiveness.
“As Australia’s innovation catalysts we wanted to better understand the barriers and enablers that Australian SMEs face when working with universities and research institutes,” Feast said.
“With these insights we can do more to help SMEs pivot, grow business and increase their global competitiveness, especially at this critical time for many industries.”
The report’s recommendations include:
- Streamlining research organisations paperwork, processes and costs for joint projects.
- Centrally coordinating research and collaborative arrangements between SMEs and universities and research institutes; introducing economies of scale, decreasing red tape and reducing costs.
- Using facilitators to ensure SMEs and researchers agree on each collaboration’s objectives, outcomes, processes and expectations.
- Helping SMEs cover potential risk and costs by involving more than one industry or research partner in a project.
- Promoting staff exchanges, student internships, and casual placements or include solving SME problems as part of specific course work.
See the full report: Industry-university and research institute collaboration: A small and medium sized enterprise perspective.
Story: Michael Quin and Jessica Hildyard