Industry programs providing competitive edge for SMEs25 March 2010

Small businesses can increase their competitiveness by accessing industry training programs, finds University of Queensland Business School expert.

Dr Damian Hine and Queensland University of Technology's Professor Rachel Parker have released preliminary findings from a three year project investigating Queensland's knowledge exchange programs.

More than 100 small Queensland businesses, half of which were based outside the South East corner, were surveyed for the project.

According to Dr Hine, they found that small businesses who tapped into knowledge through industry programs were more likely to grow.

"Our work could hold significant benefits for States like Queensland, which are heavily reliant on small business," Dr Hine said.

"We found that when small firms accessed identified knowledge exchange programs, regardless of the program content, they enhanced their competitiveness," he said.

"Knowledge is critical and once these businesses got on the path to seeking out and using knowledge they were able to make a significant difference to their business."

The pair found evidence of businesses expanding, accessing new markets and introducing new efficiencies.

Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) Deputy CEO, Dr John Kapeleris, said the results from this study would help the Institute to continue to develop new innovation services to assist businesses and research organisations to prosper.

The role of knowledge intermediaries such as the AIC, Queensland Manufacturing Institute (QMI) Solutions and Queensland Rural Industry Training Council (QRITC) was greater than previously realised, with industry groups playing a key role in the ability of organisations to respond and adapt to their environment over time, according to Dr Hine.

QMI Solutions' Dr Sara Eastwood said the research by UQ and QUT would help manufacturers understand the benefits of participating in QMI's and related government funded programs.

"Queensland manufacturers must continually innovate to improve their productivity, increase their competitiveness and create an environment that fosters growth; it's the identification, acquisition, and utilisation of new knowledge that fuels innovation," Dr Eastwood said.

"Companies like Global Manufacturing Group, TotalFab, and Gough Plastics all recognised the extended value that external knowledge brings to their organisations, and we've developed an ongoing relationship with them to ensure that they remain world-class," she said.

In Phase II of their research project, Dr Hine and Professor Parker will look beyond the industry partners to examine the role of intermediaries state-wide, before expanding the research nationally.

The project was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry partners the AIC, QMI Solutions, and QRITC.

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