SMEs are important for Europe. These enterprises account for a significant amount of European work experience and economic activity. Furthermore ... SMEs make an important contribution to the dynamism and innovative performance of an economy, thus enhancing economic growth especially in the medium and long term. The EU non-financial business economy counts over 20 million enterprises, over 99% of which are SMEs. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of SMEs has increased by over 2 million, the number of large enterprise by only 2,000. In this way, SMEs have contributed significantly to job growth in the EU
As what has been referred to as the European Paradox suggests, investments in knowledge (human capital, research& development, universities & creativity) is no panacea for curing stagnant economic growth and persistent levels of high unemployment. Rather, mechanisms are needed to ensure that such costly investments in new knowledge, which form the basis for economic growth in a globalised economy, actually spill over for commercialisation and innovative activity. By serving as a key conduit for the spill-over of knowledge, SMEs provide an important link to economic growth.
A key element within the 2006 Commission Communication "Delivering on the Modernisation Agenda for Universities: Education, Research and Innovation" was that universities should develop structured partnerships with the world of enterprise in order to "become significant players in the economy, able to respond better and faster to the demands of the market and to develop partnerships which harness scientific and technological knowledge". A position reinforced by the 2008 Louth CEB annual business survey, highlighting that access to & cost of new technologies was the principle barrier SMEs faced in improving their product development & production processes