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Competence Brokering: An Efficient Tool to Provide R&D to SMEs in Rural Areas


Knowledge is becoming increasingly important for companies, particularly in regards to the provision and use of
research and development (R&D). Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in rural areas in particularly face a number of
problems when it comes to knowledge and of R&D. Many of such problems are contributed by the geographical location of
the SMEs. For instance, one problem is that geographically dispersed settlements may make it difficult to create networks
and clusters due to the long distance between similar companies. A long distance to research institutions with relevant
knowledge can be another challenge. In addition, the research institutions presented in rural regions, such as university
colleges, do not necessarily teach topics relevant to the companies. A lower level of education in rural areas in general may
be also a mental barrier to the use of research. Distance to business support firms may be another disadvantage. How to
stimulate the use of R&D in SMEs in rural areas is therefore a vital challenge. The problems mentioned add to the general
problems for use of R&D in SMEs. For example, in SMEs a few people are responsible for many functions and tasks. Time and
efforts for long-term thinking and inclusion of research into the company’s' activities may therefore have low priority. Other
barriers, particularly in the case of foreign provision R&D, may be barriers in terms of the language, culture, distances,
currency, trade barriers and legal differences. Development in telecommunication, as the Internet, has certainly reduced
some of the potential problems mentioned. Nevertheless, the challenges faced by SMEs are recognized and acknowledged
by the government and the public support system in Norway as it has introduced a number of schemes. Hence, a model for
technology transfer to SMEs evolved into “Competence Brokering” which is a scheme established in 2004 to widen the focus
from technology and traditional industry to a broader selection of industries. The core of this scheme is that a company in
collaboration with a researcher and the “broker”, define a minor research project aimed to solve a problem for the company.
Another important aspect is that most of the expenses of hiring a researcher are paid by the public authorities. Evaluations
have documented that Competence Brokering has been a success. Some conclusions are that simplicity in regard to
organization and decision-making are important, as well as the provision of public funding. Still, last but not least, the R&D
questions have to be developed on the premise of the real needs of the company.


Academic chapter/article/Conference paper





  • Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
  • SINTEF Digital / Technology Management
  • SINTEF Community / Mobility and Economics




Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited


Proceedings of the 16th European Conference on Knowledge Management






161 - 168

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