University - SMEs Collaboration to Support the Economic Growth: A Mauritian Case Study
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make a substantial contribution to economic growth and employment in most countries around the world including the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Most countries have set up schemes to encourage creation of new SMEs as well as expansion of existing businesses. Many of the SMEs are family businesses and are managed by the owners/entrepreneurs. The SMEs usually face great difficulty when it comes to expansion as they lack the technical know-how to support the expansion plan and very often the cost of the equipment coupled with lack of financial support prevent many of these companies to even think of new investment. They are also not willing to share too much information about their companies due to competition and tax evasion purposes. In many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) the market is very limited and it may be difficult for the SMEs to export their products, hence further limiting investment. The cost of state of the art equipment available off the shelf are usually very high and very often they are loaded with lots of functions that may not be required by the specific SMEs. Local Universities can support SMEs by designing low cost equipment to meet their needs. There must be a proper coordination and support between University, SMEs, an appropriate institution doing the link between University and SMEs and the funding institutions. The government, through the funding institutions, can provide a fraction of the funds to develop the prototype. Many small projects have already been considered by the University of Mauritius and two such projects are discussed in this paper. The design and implementation (in some cases) clearly show that there is a possibility of collaboration between Universities and SMEs together with the help of appropriate institutions in SIDS to support the sector.
Keywords: Small and Medium Enterprises, University Collaboration, Small Island Developing States