Establishing SME–university collaboration through innovation support programmes
Journal article, 2020

Purpose – The research purpose is to analyse when and how innovation support programmes (ISPs) can affect
collaboration between universities and established small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The paper
specifically considers SME’s absorptive capacity.
Design/methodology/approach – A Swedish research centre is studied in the context of innovation support
and two of its SME-ISPs are examined with regards to industry–university collaboration and impact on firm
innovation capabilities. Data collection and analysis are performed, using interviews, survey answers,
document search and reflectional analysis to evaluate processes and effects of the centre and the programmes.
Findings – A developed research centre, integrated into both academia and industry, can support
translational collaboration and promote SME innovation absorptive capacity. The action learning elements
and the organisational development approaches used when coaching in the ISPs contribute to the SMEs
internal absorption capacity and collaborational skills. Organising collaboration into ISPs can provide a
relational path to future collaboration with universities, which, for example start with student projects.
Research limitations/implications – The study, though limited to one Swedish region, adds to empirical
innovation research as it connects industry–university collaboration and absorptive capacity to organisational
Practical implications – The empirical results indicate possible long-term gains for industry and
universities in building collaborative innovation into SME-ISPs.
Originality/value – The contribution of this study pertains to the practice of innovation support for
established SMEs with the inclusion of absorption capacity and collaborative innovation development.

Organisational development



Industry–university collaboration

Production system management development


Martin Kurdve

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Anna Bird

Mälardalens högskola

Jens Laage-Hellman

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

1741-038X (ISSN)

Vol. 31 8 1583-1604 1741-038X

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


Interaction Technologies

Business Administration

Areas of Advance


Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship



More information

Latest update

4/6/2022 5