University collaboration for SMEs

Photo: Antti Ala-Könni / TUAS

In our EntreFox project business workshop, the topic of university collaboration rose to the surface when we held a well-being workshop. Participating entrepreneurs asked if there would be opportunities to continue collaborating soon after the project ends, and what those opportunities would be. Upon request, we compiled a presentation on the services we offer at Turku University of Applied Sciences and presented them to entrepreneurs.

Out of the services we presented, Citizen’s Helpdesk in particular delighted many entrepreneurs. Citizen’s Helpdesk provides free assistance, advice and training in computer matters to all residents of Turku and the surrounding area. The activities of theFIRMA also attracted interest; the learning environment produces websites, marketing materials, application development by students. We also found our own services for business development: student-run collaborations, an advertising agency, and various assignments for the course.

There is a desire for more collaboration between SMEs and universities. Examples of such collaboration are internships or project and exercise work, as well as research and development and innovation (RDI). According to the study¹, a significant proportion of SMEs do not co-operate with universities at all, although the companies involved in the collaboration find it useful and increasing collaboration would benefit both the university and the company. According to the study, the reasons why collaboration between SMEs and universities is still an underused opportunity are the limited resources of companies or the unclear communication between universities and the fact that the activities are not known or who should be contacted.

Universities should therefore take greater account of the diverse needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. According to the explanation, efforts should be made to build collaboration, and the forms of collaboration offered by universities should be communicated to companies in a clear and comprehensible manner.

In addition to the examples mentioned at the beginning, what forms of collaboration do universities have to offer to SMEs? Perhaps the most traditional and well-known form of collaboration is various internships, assignments, and projects. If you, as an entrepreneur, need such collaboration, you can contact the university of your choice. For example, at Turku University of Applied Sciences, the right persons to contact are located at their recruitment services, which provide a route for organizations in the Turku region and Southwest Finland through which companies can pass on information about their jobs, internships, and theses.

As an entrepreneur, you may also be interested in various training services and packages. Investing in lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important for entrepreneurs, and university collaboration has a natural place here. If, as an entrepreneur, you need a meeting room or space for your event, for example, you can rent various rooms through many universities.

Health and well-being services can also be found in the universities that teach them – for example at the Turku University of Applied Sciences Sun Hyvä Elämä clinic, which offers e.g., an accessible and safe housing advice center, physiotherapy and occupational therapy services, fitness testing, sampling, and laboratory services.

From the university’s perspective, SME collaboration gives students the opportunity to train and apply what they have learned in a real work environment. Business collaboration is also important for the teaching staff to maintain their professional skills and expand their networks. Also at the heart of various projects, such as EntreFox, are effective links with SMEs and, of course, the widest possible impact on the region. In turn, SMEs gain fresh know-how, new ideas and resources to develop their activities through university collaboration. In various projects, you can train, develop products and services, or even invest in your own well-being. We therefore hope that in the future SMEs will contact universities so that we can continue to develop collaboration.


You can read about the services and forms of collaboration of Turku University of Applied Sciences here.


Reetta Raitoharju, Katja Heikkinen, Teemu Hyytiä


¹Study: SME views on university collaboration and its effectiveness


Originally posted on the 25th of November, 2021