Author(s): Lockett N, Cave F, Kerr R, Robinson S
Abstract: Knowledge transfer (KT) has been identified as an essential element of innovation that drives competitive advantage in increasingly knowledge-driven economies and in which small firms have an important part to play. A number of recent UK Government reports have sought to increase awareness of the importance of KT within higher education institutions (HEIs). In light of this, there is an urgent need for relevant empirical research that examines how KT policy is translated into practice, particularly in the area of small firms. This paper responds to this need by reporting on in-depth longitudinal case studies of small firms co-located in a high profile HEI ‘centre of excellence’ for research and development (R&D) and commercialization of information and communications technologies (ICT) in the Northwest of England. The paper seeks to explore what is it that the SMEs are getting out of this co-location and more specifically the research asks, how do the views of entrepreneurs change over time? Five main themes are identified, namely: (1) increased strategic focus; (2) awareness of core competences; (3) enhanced R&D activities; (4) importance of both technical and business support; (5) the need for a knowledge database to facilitate KT. The study concludes by highlighting the need for more structured yet flexible approaches to KT activities in order to meet the needs of entrepreneurs for different kinds of support at different times in the development of their businesses.