Exploring the role of South African business incubators in creating sustainable SMMEs through technology transfer
The contribution of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to economic growth, job creation, social stability and poverty alleviation is well established. However, South Africa experiences high failure rates of SMMEs within the first three years of establishment, where access to market is a key challenge. Although innovation is an enabling factor in creating sustainable and competitive SMMEs, there is a lack of access to local patents and technologies. At the same time, universities aim to commercialise research through the technology transfer offices. This research study explores the role of business incubators in creating sustainable SMMEs through technology transfer. A phenomenological qualitative study was conducted, where business incubator managers and managers of technology transfer offices were interviewed. A common view on what technology transfer means, how it impacts SMMEs and factors that limit the technology transfer process was evident. These include lack of funding for early stage technology development, complex commercialisation processes and lack of reciprocal transfer of knowledge. The research study concluded the need for strategic partnerships between business incubators and technology transfer offices, co-development of technologies to ensure market readiness, funding and business incubation support to SMMEs to receive technologies being transferred.