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Collaborate to innovate: Auck Uni study

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/11/2016

Small businesses are often wary of working with outsiders to innovate, but an Auckland University study suggests that collaborations boost innovation success.

The study also concludes that mature firms have an even better chance of success if they train up their own staff as well as collaborating with outsiders to plug skill gaps.

The findings come from research by the university's New Zealand Asia Institute into 839 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand.

Study organisers say it's known that innovation is crucial for SME growth and survival,

But many small businesses lack the breadth of skills and knowledge needed for developing, testing and refining new ideas.

Researchers compared three strategies used by owner-managers: training-only, collaboration-only and combined collaboration-and-training.

They found that for young firms (15 years or less), collaboration alone led to a positive impact on innovation.

For mature firms (over 15 years), both training and collaboration strategies were important for success.

Researcher and lecturer Dr Antje Fiedler says the study challenges the widespread focus on driving innovation with spending on patents and traditional research and development.

"The preoccupation with R&D may be fuelling a misperception among some owner-managers that it's risky to collaborate with external partners if you haven't formally protected your innovation," he said.

"But our study shows that collaboration is a strong driver of innovation, especially for younger firms."

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