Small and medium sized companies (SME) with less than 250 employees are the backbone of the Austrian as well as European economies. Besides their own products and services, they are, particularly for large multinational companies, important partners and enablers in economic value chains and innovation networks when it comes to the application of new technology and their transformation into market-ready products. However, innovation and technology policy as well as innovation economics and management research are mostly based on the official statistic definition (<250 employees and <50 million total sales).
Hence, our knowledge about the specific innovation patterns, innovation networks, types of strategies, individual strengths and weaknesses as well as potentials of different types of SME is still quite scarce. For instance, three out of four SMEs successfully innovate without continuous in-house R&D by making use of other modes of knowledge generation and other fields of innovation than merely new products. This is all the more aggravating as the European SME landscape currently shows declining innovation efforts in terms of innovation expenditures and innovation output. Given the backdrop of upcoming challenges and trends such as digitalization, new technologies (e.g. 3D-printing) or demographic change, the question arises whether SMEs are prepared to successfully cope with these dynamics, and how they can be supported by the educational sector (e.g. support with skilled workforce and future key competences), management re-search (e.g. new/adapted tools and instruments), and public innovation policy (e.g. new/adapted support schemes) in a more specific, adequate and efficient manner than today.
With our research in we support SMEs in their innovation activities and strategies and we aid their positioning in a dynamically changing technological, economic and social landscape. Additionally we provide valuable insights for regional, national and international innovation and technology policy development.