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Could collaboration grow your business?

Many small businesses can be nervous at the prospect of collaboration. However, while entrepreneurs may over-estimate the risks associated with shared business, the greater danger is that they under-estimate the risk of being closed to new ideas.

It follows that in business, just as in life, we can’t all be good at everything. However, it is knowing what our strengths are, and seeking to remedy any gaps, that will ultimately lead us to advance and succeed.

Choosing a partner

There is no single recipe for collaborative success. The UK’s new and emerging industries are built around a series of services and products, spanning many sectors. Add to this investors, researchers and support organisations and it is easy to see that effective selection of a collaboration partner is a very real challenge.

However, one vital key to successful collaboration for UK entrepreneurs is taking advantage of the country’s fantastic scientific-research base.

In the past 10 years, the country’s universities have become far more open and engaged with business. Today every university has enterprise on the agenda, and we have moved beyond seeing universities simply as sources of knowledge or intellectual property.

Job protection

In an independent survey, to evaluate the impact of collaborative research and development projects the TSB has supported, 42% of companies said they had increased jobs and 40% said they had safeguarded jobs through their collaborative efforts.

This is testament to the security that collaboration can actually provide to a small company. We don’t want businesses to collaborate just because it is a good thing to do. It is about greater achievement and increased success. The idea is that together you can accomplish so much more than you could separately.

Market access

A key reason companies tell us they collaborate with the TSB, is to reduce the time it takes to get an idea to market. The path to market takes many twists and turns but collaborating with a larger body can offer businesses a way to accelerate their concept-to-commercialisation process.

We have achieved this by putting companies at the heart of our processes, working with them to understand, not just their aims and ambitions, but their fears, anxieties and challenges. However, in turn, we need companies to be open to the idea of innovation and collaboration.

Read part two for a case study on an innovative business the TSB linked with Lancaster University

Iain Gray is CEO of the Technology Strategy Board - a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), TSB brings together business, research and the public sector, accelerating the development of innovative products and helping to build the future economy.

If you are interested in working in collaboration with higher education institutions, Crimson’s new publication with TSB, Working with Universities , has information on how to access innovation centres, research partnerships, grants, and venture funding.

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