ERCIM News No.33 - April 1998

Employment in SMEs as a Result of Effective Knowledge Transfer

by Lars Bergman

An interesting example showing a way to addressing unemployment and strengthening SMEs is given by the IT-link company in Gothenburg on the West Coast of Sweden. ITLink is a joint venture for technology transfer set up by three Swedish IT-oriented institutes and Chalmers. The example is the 'IT in Small Companies' project which has been passing one full implementation and is now in a second phase applying some of the lessons learned in the first stage. The effectiveness is proven by the outcome of 67% of the unemployed persons has gone to employment at the end of the project in the first phase and the prognosis for the second phase is 80-100% employment at the end.

The project which is now in a second round was set up to gather 20 unemployed persons with some academic background. The first round covered 30 persons. The selected persons were given a competence base by the means of an education for three months and then a training program for nine months. As part of the training the persons were matched with SMEs and company based IT-projects were formed, one in each company and with one of the trainees as the resource. The trainee was coached by persons in the ITLink company. Several successful projects were accomplished and have had an continuation within the SME company after the project period.

The project is funded from several sources, government employment agency, local government SME support, EU Commission etc. Competence from the Institutes was used in the education program as well as for coaching. Thus the ITLink company has proven itself to work as an effective technology transfer link between the SMEs and Institutes.

The projects were formulated and set up in close discussion between the SME, the ITLink company and the trainee concerned. The duration of such a local project was six months:

Lessons learned

In the first round of the project there were some problems found for instance concerning the fit between the trainee, the SME and the local project.

So a thorough screening process was set up including an external recruitment consultant making personal depth interviews with the applying persons to ensure the maximum aptitude, attitude and competence match for the persons to be selected to the new round. The education and training part of the round is basically the same as in the first one. The outcome seems to have been significantly improved in this round both in terms of local project success and in terms of trainees getting employment at the end of the project.

Business Intelligence for SMEs

A new project UFO is aiming at building capability for Business Intelligence within SMEs is in the starting phase. The idea is to increase SME competitiveness by using IT in an intelligent way. Most SMEs today lack the capability for this whereas the opportunity today is good for setting the SME on an 'equal' footing to bigger companies. Opportunities increased dramatically by the rise of IT-resources like the WWW.

ITLink - a Joint Venture for IT-Institutes

The objective of this activity is the transfer of technology and know-how to industry. Projects that encourage the use of Information Technology in small and medium-sized companies in Sweden will be set up and supported. The results of research work in applied information technology achieved by IT-Link's academic partners ­ the research institutes IMT (Institute of Media Technology), SICS (Swedish Institute of Computer Science), and SISU (Swedish Institute of System Development) and Chalmers University of Technology (Dept. of Computer Science) ­ will be transferred to and experimented by the industrial community.

Please contact:

Anders Hägglin - ITLink AB
Tel: +46-31 747 64 55

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