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Building R&D collaboration between university-research institutes and small medium-sized enterprises

Kyujin Jung (Department of Public Administration, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)
Simon Andrew (Department of Public Administration, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 25 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of governments in resolving collective action dilemmas arising in R&D collaboration between university-research institutes (URI) and small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). The paper focusses on R&D collaboration in South Korea in light of its major industrial reforms since the 1980s in strengthening the national science and technology innovation system.


To examine factors explaining the likelihood of SMEs to collaborate with URIs in R&D activities, the authors used data that were collected in the Seoul Metropolitan Area by the Seoul Institute in 2010. A logistic regression analysis was performed with data from the Open Innovation System survey, which consists of 336 SMEs; and supplemented by firm-level data retrieved from the government official statistics on structural characteristics of SMEs. The Mann-Whitney Test of Difference was employed to test the perceived importance of R&D activities in various stages of product development.


This research found that SMEs having government certified R&D facilities and higher investments in R&D activities explain their likelihood in engaging in R&D collaboration with URIs. SMEs in the chemical sector also are more likely to establish R&D collaboration with URIs compared to those in the information technology (IT) sector. In terms of the importance of R&D activities, there are marked differences between SMEs collaborating with URIs and those that do not. The differences are found in R&D’s needs related to acquisition of information, basic research, pilot testing of products, and product manufacturing. Most SMEs in the sample reported several barriers to R&D activities, particularly in securing human resources and the operation of R&D; and that, they believe the government can assist them in research and development activities and human resource training.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides new insights into the way in which R&D facilities of SMEs may facilitate R&D collaboration with URIs. The results broaden the understanding on the scope of R&D collaboration adopted by SMEs and strategies that can be adopted and implemented by government agencies to attract and retain firms that are innovative. While the findings also provide insights on the scope of management decisions adopted by SMEs, the sample was limited to 336 SMEs in the Seoul Metropolitan area, making generalization to other regions of the country limited.


From the institutional collective action framework, this research provides a critical lens to build R&D collaboration between the URI and SMEs, highlighting the role of government with considerable efforts to facilitate SMEs to enter into arrangements with URIs by focussing on the importance of R&D facility and stages of product development.



Jung, K. and Andrew, S. (2014), "Building R&D collaboration between university-research institutes and small medium-sized enterprises", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 41 No. 12, pp. 1174-1193.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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