Dissertation: An opportunity to improve the impact of knowledge sharing between UASs and SMEs

taru mäki
According to Taru Mäki, a doctoral student at the University of Vaasa, the impact of knowledge sharing between universities of applied sciences and SMEs can be increased, especially by continuing the cooperation for a longer period of time and by transferring to SMEs the jointly achieved results, models and practices.

– Mutual interaction and a clearer recognition of the role of SMEs in activities are important for the success of the cooperation, says Mäki.

Key elements of university-business interaction are knowledge and information sharing, absorptive capacity and interactive learning.

In her doctoral thesis, Mäki examined the impact of knowledge and skills sharing and the new opportunities it brings for SMEs.

A new extensive model for assessing the impact

The doctoral research has created a new comprehensive approach to examining the impact of cooperation between universities of applied sciences and SMEs. The five previously created models have been examined together.

– The model ties together previously highly fragmented aspects of the impact of knowledge sharing, and highlights the importance of long-term cooperation between actors, says Mäki.

The broad model also provides a new perspective on the fact that, alongside the measurability of impact, the impact can also represent new opportunities for deepening and continuing the interaction between an SME and a university of applied sciences.

Diverse cooperation

The survey shows that the sharing of knowledge and expertise with the target companies has been quite diverse. The survey data includes a total of 54 collaborative events, 56% of which are in the tourism sector and 44% in the machinery and metal industry in South Ostrobothnia.

– On average, companies cooperated in four to six different ways, which is a lot when considering the size of an SME itself.

According to Mäki, the research data revealed a surprisingly large amount of impact for each of the perspectives examined. Cooperation in RDI projects produces both tangible outputs (29% of collaborative activities) and longer-term impacts for SMEs (63% of collaborative activities).
 In addition, SMEs felt that new opportunities opened up for them (59% of collaborative events), for example through the creation of useful networks or the possibility to create and participate in new research and development projects.

– The study also shows that cooperation between SMEs and universities of applied sciences is effective in the region.

What should be developed from an SME perspective?

From the perspective of SMEs, the study highlighted the fact that, in reality, cooperation with institutes of higher education produces both tangible outputs and thus both immediate and longer-term impact.

Developing the continuity of cooperation would most clearly benefit both parties. From the companies' point of view, the most important prerequisites for successful cooperation were mutual trust, visible development for customers and the company's vision of cooperation.

On the other hand, cooperation with universities of applied sciences is a challenge due to the slowness of the cooperation processes, the different views of the actors on the results and the lack of time for cooperation within companies. It is an advantage for the company if its owner has studied at university, and thus has an understanding of how higher education works.

According to Mäki, for both parties, knowledge sharing and absorption can be improved if the other party's operating methods are known.

– Particular attention should be paid to continuing cooperation by transferring jointly achieved results, models and approaches to SMEs or supporting them in the exploitation or commercialisation process. In practice, universities should have designated experts who can be involved.

Doctoral dissertation

Mäki, Taru (2021) Ammattikorkeakoulun ja pk-yritysten välisen tiedon jakamisen vaikuttavuus. Acta Wasaensia, 465. Vaasan yliopisto. University of Vaasa.

Publication pdf:  http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-476-967-9

Public defence

The public examination of M.Sc Taru Mäki's doctoral dissertation "Ammattikorkeakoulun ja pk-yritysten välisen tiedon jakamisen vaikuttavuus" will be held on Friday 5.11.2021 at 13. The language of the public examination is Finnish.

The event will be organised online: https://uwasa.zoom.us/j/62099317977?pwd=RHZSZ2FPbVpPTHZjUnBCQ2NZditYQT09
and in the auditorium of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (F128, Frami F).

Docent Tauno Kekäle will act as an opponent and Professor Jukka Vesalainen as custos.

Further information

Taru Mäki, tel. +358 40 830 4105, email: taru.maki(at)seamk.fi

Taru Mäki graduated from the University of Vaasa in 1997 with a Master's degree in Philosophy and in 2005 with a Master's degree in Economics and Business Administration. She works as Research & Development Manager at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences.

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