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Building RAPPORT Between Small And Medium-Sized Enterprises And Public Or Private Research Capabilities

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Greater access to technology and knowledge for SMEs

An EU funded project provided an in-depth investigation of knowledge and technology transfer (KTT) between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and private and public research institutions. The aim was to help policymakers and support agencies to develop programmes and practices that will spur innovation and growth.

Digital Economy

SMEs are powerhouses of innovation and important drivers of the economy. The EU-funded 'RAPPORT' project aimed to help SMEs to access research capabilities that were of high quality and appropriate to their level of development. The project outlined good practices and benchmarks to strengthen knowledge exchange and technology transfer between SMEs and research organisations in the public or the private sector. It mapped SME research support mechanisms focusing on public programmes or public–private partnerships. These steps are meant to produce the ideal economic climate and innovation policies to advance SMEs within the European Research Area (ERA). RAPPORT developed a thorough methodology to investigate the interaction between SMEs and organisations offering access to available research. The project looked into how to strengthen SMEs' ability to articulate its innovation needs, identify the right source of expertise, integrate the acquired knowledge and exploit it commercially. The project team looked at 331 national, regional and local programmes that supported knowledge and technology transfer for SMEs. It interviewed 481 programme stakeholders, including 305 programme managers, 32 KTT enablers (agents, network brokers etc.), 37 knowledge providers (researchers) and 57 beneficiary SMEs. The project distinguished between SMEs with high absorptive capacity and SMEs with low or medium absorptive capacity. It differentiated between the programmes and the practices that were appropriate for each group of SMEs. The analysis of this project provided a clear insight into the challenges faced by KTT programmes. KTT programmes should be able to provide the means to HAC SMEs to enable them to engage in meaningful innovation and commercialisation activities. KTT programme should also be able to detect those LAC SMEs that have a poor track record of innovation and KTT, but possess the willingness to innovate and grow. Finally KTT programmes should be able to engage with those LAC SMEs that have no obvious interest or appetite for innovation and alter their attitudes and their behaviours in order to convert them gradually into SMEs of higher absorptive capacity. Three generic strategies were identified to cope with these challenges. This included agent-supported programmes, firm-incentive programmes and network-based programmes. The agent-supported and the network-based programmes possess the greatest potential for behaviour change and innovation. Agent-supported programmes are more frequent with the low absorptive capacity SMEs, while the network-based programmes fit better the requirements of high absorptive capacity SMEs. Firm-incentive programmes (like the innovation voucher schemes) can provide resources for KTT and innovation but have little potential for behavioural and attitude change. A number of reports were produced to further knowledge transfer and assist SMEs. Among these was a set of good practices that were converted into proposed actions and activities for for policy-makers at the European Commission, plus the national or the regional level. This was followed by five roadmaps for different programmes or services to support SMEs in order to integrate the findings of the project into the ERA and the EU's Horizon 2020 programme. The findings were also presented at a major conference for SME support and innovation in Denmark and through the project's advanced website. Overall, RAPPORT successfully facilitated discussions on helping SMEs contribute to innovation and growth, an exercise that will undoubtedly help the EU economies to become more competitive.

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