Main Findings from the first round of HEIs

Main Findings from the first round of HEIs

The analyses of questionnaire data and the statistical analysis performed provide interesting suggestions, which must be deeply analyzed in order to define the best model for HEIs-SME interactions.

The Italian HEIs

Among the main outputs, four ones seem particularly significant:

  • The acknowledgment of the strong role of government funding, which is an indication that a part of the academy still relies on incentives (individual or collective) to be pushed towards SMEs.
  • Also, the perceived lack in the academy of knowledge of the business model of SMEs that, jointly with the call of specific staff dedicated to interaction with SMEs, suggests that other structural actions are necessary to bridge the gap between HEIS and SMEs.
  • Not to mention that the will of Ph.D. coordinators to keep students as much as possible within the labs of the academy, seemingly to protect them from being used as employees rather than students. This seems to suggest that if HEIs perceive a lack of knowledge of the SME world, they also perceive that the SME world does not know very well the world of the academy.
  • Finally, the need for innovative ways to put HEIs and SMEs in touch with each other emerges as a further element of analysis.


The responses from the UK HEIs have provided great similarities in their opinion such as:

  • The HEIs and SMEs in order to collaborate tend to share research findings and technologies which built the trust between the organizations.
  • In UK different projects and initiatives are bringing the HEIs and industries together to share their knowledge and equipment on a regular basis.
  • Although there are some degree of cooperation exists between the HEIs and the SMEs, it is bound by the differences in organization’s goal, shortage of required time span and financial support.
  • To overcome the barriers of two different types of organization the PhD student can work as a bridge between the SMEs and the HEIs, therefore should be employed by the both of the organization.
  • The statistical analysis WSM method shows that, HEIs have good levels of interest to collaborate with SMEs to apply their research findings and knowledge.
  • To maintain the cooperation and the knowledge transfer between organization the financial support as well as the length and depth of such project is vital.
  • The industrial PhD courses can be similar to that of the academic PhD path. However, replacement or integration of some courses can make the PhD path more stable.
  • The responses from the questionnaire show that industrial PhD researchers should work with the SME’s work-related research while should be employed by the HEIs.

The Greek HEIs

Among the main outputs, four ones seem particularly significant.

A first one is that Greek HEIs are a little bit skeptical how a PhD program that aims to provide new technology and theory results could attract SMEs interest. Moreover, HEIs are interested in widening the application field of the ongoing research activities within universities but they mention legislation, administration and support issues that must be solved.

A second one is that the access to specific technologies and equipment could attract SMEs’ interest. Of course there is trade off between academic activities and knowledge and business activities and plan for SME and HEI collaboration. Specific structural and administrative forms could help a PhD candidate to deliver industrial research results on time.

The third one is that the biggest desire outcome from the collaboration of HEIs – SMEs, according to the results, is the effective knowledge transfer and the new products/innovation/methods. Moreover, there is a need for more detailed and specified methodology of how a collaborative industrial PhD program between SME and HEI will provide:

  • a considerable application research result that could support a PhD and attract SMEs’ interest
  • Funding
  • Specific time plane with concurrent administrative issues and roles
  • Intellectual rights properties of the produced technological results
  • Better academic initiatives

In order to reach the mission of the GIENAHS goal some obstacles should be overcome the HEIs belief that PhD should only lead to theoretical results and on the other hand to increase SMEs awareness for adapting R&D innovative methodologies in their production.

The Polish HEIs

Among the main outputs, it is important to consider that in Poland HEIs have no doubt about need of research cooperation with SMEs, while the findings reveal that:

  • Legislation for the industrial PhD exists in Poland already, but it is dedicated for larger companies and for PhD students to be working at the company with determined occupation.
  • Although the aim and way of such PhD program is different that investigated by Gienahs project, such existing contact between HEIs and companies gave experience and insight for Polish HEIs on the collaboration between industrial and academic worlds. Due to this, Polish HEIs have already their opinion on such collaboration, even if affected by different scale of the industry they cooperate with.
  • There are no issues seen by HEIs on the administrative, legislative or inclination side, given that appropriate financial and personnel support would be foreseen for the SME PhD program.
  • There is still a bridge to be built to overcome weaknesses in cooperation issues by making joint technical table between those two groups to form exact solutions to the shortcomings on the HEI side.
  • There is a need for the implementation of workshops and courses on the business model of SMEs and on business way of thinking for scientists and scholars for mutual understanding with businessmen from SMEs.

The Romanian HEIs

Among the main outputs, it should be stressed that:

  • There is a great interest in developing the PhD programme together with SME. This will lead to a transfer of information between SMEs and HEIs together with exchange of specialists.
  • The benefits will be that the results are tested in ‘real time’.
  • The lack of information about the needs and way of working between SMEs and HEIs can be a barrier in developing common research.
  • The lack of funds or the lack of identifying the sources of funds it is major drawback.
  • Eventually, it is important to develop a programme that has same requirements with the actual type of PhD programme and can be slightly adjust to the needs of SMEs.

The Swedish HEIs

The Swedish results showed large similarities among the responding HEIs, even though they represented different academic disciplines, cultures and regions within Sweden, some indicative findings show that:

  • There is an interest from HEIs to collaborate with SMEs to apply knowledge and results in industry with the aim of effective knowledge transfer in both directions, but as always external funding is a need as well as long-term projects of sufficient scientific depth.
  • No differences between academic and industrial PhD programs but specific courses for SME PhD students could be possible.
  • Allocation of funding will stimulate SME PhD programs and is a need to cover costs for supervision and development of SME adapted courses
  • Industrial PhD students should mainly (>80%) work with the SME related research project and primarily employed at the university.