Start-up meets SME: How can SMEs and start-ups benefit from each other in digitization? © Photo Credit: lassedesignen -

Start-up meets SME: How can SMEs and start-ups benefit from each other in digitization?

The Research Brief examines incentives and challenges in the collaboration of start-ups and SMEs. Critical success factors and the role of intermediaries in collaborations are highlighted.

Cooperations between SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and start-ups can make an important contribution to the digital transformation of companies.

SMEs can get support in developing innovative and digital products and services. Start-ups, in turn, can gain access to customers, sales networks, industry knowledge and capital through collaborations. At the same time, however, collaborations between SMEs and start-ups are associated with some barriers and challenges. SMEs and start-ups differ in their respective corporate cultures and in the way they deal with risks and mistakes. In addition, there are often different expectations concerning goals.

In order to carry out collaborations successfully, cultural factors in the companies are central. For example, a common understanding of the business activity, open communication at eye level, commitment and trust for the partner and, last but not least, an open error culture are required. Business and start-up support institutions can provide crucial support as intermediaries with a central match-making platform as well as a wide range of opportunities to get to know each other, such as pitches, themed events, speed dating and other formats that are conducted both in person and digitally. Currently, it can be expected that more collaborations between SMEs and start-ups will be initiated in the medium term. In the long term, the number of strategic alliances and joint ventures that develop from this will also increase.