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C. R&D Outsourcing as an Attractive Approach

R&D outsourcing was found to be the second most appropriate OI approach and furthermore generally interesting and attractive for small businesses, which confirmed the previous findings of, e.g., [7]). Furthermore, the participants confirmed the literature in regard to R&D outsourcing being able to compensate a lack of financial and personnel resources (e.g., [28, 29]). Both aspects were highlighted to be potential key benefits in previous studies and research (ibid). Regarding the potential key requirements, the literature could also be confirmed. One key requirement was to have a distinctive market expertise [28], which small businesses were found to be capable of providing. As described in Sect. 4.3 above, a high market expertise can be provided among others, since they work in niche markets. This was furthermore consistent with [28]), who highlighted the same. Furthermore, it was confirmed that technical expertise is required and can also be provided [30]. Both market and technical expertise were seen as major requirements but not as constraints for small businesses to apply OI, which was not explicitly mentioned in the reviewed literature. In conclusion, it can be summarized that the participants highlighted that the general applicability of R&D outsourcing is given and that it is thus a very interesting and appropriate OI approach for small businesses.

D. No Clear Statement on Collaborations with Universities

In contrast to the assumed appropriateness of collaborations with universities (e.g., [20]), the participants made no clear statements about the latter. Nevertheless, participants highlighted several requirements. This indicates that they were generally interested in collaborations with universities but were aware or even scared of potential difficulties to apply this approach. In contrast to the literature (ibid), it was found that collaborations with universities are less attractive for small businesses due to the perceived difficulties in applying it. Participants also mentioned the potential key benefit of universities providing a chance to radically innovate (e.g., [27]). On the other hand, the second key benefit highlighted in the literature (e.g., [28]), to gain more knowledge and improve the fundamental technical understanding capabilities, could not explicitly be confirmed. Participants even said that fundamental science was less attractive for small businesses, which can be related to the more practical-oriented fields small businesses are operating in. The abovementioned perceived difficulty of applying this OI approach is related to the below-listed key requirements. Having contrasted the literature with the key findings on the key requirements needed for collaborations with universities, the literature can mainly be confirmed. Reference Teirlink and Spithoven [28] highlighted the importance of personal contacts to universities (networking capabilities) and also appropriate personnel with scientific background (personnel resources). The participants confirmed both key requirements. They furthermore highlighted that both requirements were basically not existent in small businesses, which could have negative effects on the applicability of OI. One reason could be that fewer employees in small businesses have studied at universities (compared to employees in larger companies), which would explain the lower level of educational background and missing contacts to universities.

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