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ENHANCING COMPETITIVENESS TROUGH COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION
PARTNERSHIP – A CASE STUDY OF MACEDONIAN COMPANY
Angelina Taneva-Veshoska PhD
, Slavica Trajkovska M.Sc.
, Kristina Antic M.Sc.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore current situation of investments in R&D in
Macedonia, compared to other western Balkan countries, with specific focus on business investments
in R&D. The incentives of the business sector to invest in research and innovation activities, the
return on these investments and industry-science collaborations are also explored. A case study of a
Macedonian company, which established private research institute, creating a collaborative
innovation partnership, is explained.
Design/methodology/approach: Qualitative research in a form of interviews among mangers
and case study of Macedonian company was used to obtain data about the motives for investments in
R&D and explore the collaborative innovation partnership between the company and the research
Findings: The findings show strong collaborative partnership between company and research
institute which is strongly influential of the competitiveness of the company.
Research limitations/implications: This specific collaborative innovation partnership explored
in this paper is very rare case in Macedonia. More examples and studies like this are needed to
propose specific model and make strong recommendations. Our recommendation is to replicate the
research and compare the analyses with different companies.
Practical implications: This study is expected to increase the motivation of other companies to
invest more in R&D activities and engage in collaborative innovation partnerships.
Originality/value: This research contributes to the filed by offering new findings and proposing
new model for enhancing company’s competitiveness and innovation. This study adds to the body of
literature in what is considered relatively new and unexplored area of study. The survey conducted in
Macedonian company contributes a lot for the knowledge about business investment in R&D in
Keywords: Business Investment in R&D, Collaborative Innovation Partnership, Competitiveness,
Industry-Science Collaboration, Macedonia
Institute for Research in Environment, Civil Engineering and Energy, Skopje, Macedonia,
Institute for Research in Environment, Civil Engineering and Energy, Skopje, Macedonia,
Institute for Research in Environment, Civil Engineering and Energy, Skopje, Macedonia,
Investments in knowledge and innovation are very important for productivity growth.
These investments lead to creating new knowledge, new technologies, new products and
services, ensuring more jobs and contributing to increased welfare.
In the knowledge-based economy, knowledge has become the key driver of economic
competitiveness and success (Batagan, 2007). The EU Sustainable Development Strategy
identifies R&D as one of the two cross-cutting policies contributing to the knowledge society
(EC, 2010). Across Europe, the importance of innovation as a driver of growth and
competitiveness has and will continue to increase, thanks to the slow rate of population
growth in the region, diminishing returns on additional capital investment and increasing
competition from other regions.
The research and development (R&D) represent a crucial input to the innovation process and
encompass the premarket activities performed by a number of agents such as: public
scientific institutions, universities, inventors, and firms. R&D investments are very unique
type of investments, involving long research period, uncertain outcomes, high-risk of return.
Although different in nature and funded by various sources, R&D expenditures significantly
determine the innovation capacity of a given country.
The purpose of the first part of this paper is to review the current situation in
Macedonia regarding investments in R&D, with specific aim to address business investments
in R&D, and explore the motives and benefits from these activities. The second part of the
paper is to focus on the significance of industry-science cooperation and emphasize one new
approach to innovation through collaborative innovation partnership. In this paper a case
study of a Macedonian company which invested in establishing research institute is
explained, and the effects of their collaboration are presented.
Investments in R&D in Europe
The R&D as a specific group of activities is mainly focused on increasing the
productivity level of the companies which, in turns would lead to higher levels of economic
growth. In general, R&D activities are conducted by specialized units or centres belonging to
a company, or can be outsourced to a contract research organisation, universities, or state
agencies (Švarc, 2014). The economic reforms in the Western Balkan Countries during the
period of transition have put the science, technology and innovation policies as second
priority which led to deterioration of their research capacities (WB R&D Innovation Strategy,
2013). On Figure 1 we can clearly examine the expenditure in R&D in Serbia, Macedonia,
Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last decade.
Figure 1. Expenditures in R&D by country in western Balkans
Source: World Development Indicators
From Figure 1 it can be observed that GERD in Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and
Herzegovina are below 0.4% of GDP; the share of GERD in Serbia is about 0.75%, whereas
in Montenegro is about 1,15%. In sum, these amounts of expenditures are much lower
compared to the EU average which is above 2%. The Western Balkans’ scientific
performance is, for the most part, substantially below that of the average EU country in both
quantity and quality. Macedonia spent 0.22% of its GDP on R&D in 2010 which is one of the
lowest percentages in Europe. The biggest contributors to total R&D expenditures by funding
sources are the governmental sector with 50.3%.
An analysis of R & D expenditure by source of funds shows that more than half (55.0%) of
the total expenditure in 2012 within the EU-28 was funded by business enterprises. For
comparison, business-funded R & D accounted for 76.5% of total R & D expenditure in
Japan (2011 data), 74.0% in China and 59.1% in the United States (EUROSTAT, R&D
Innovation performance trends in Europe
Europe as a region varies greatly in terms of both competitiveness and innovation. The
large differences between European countries are driven by factors such as the number and
quality of linkages between firms and entrepreneurial ventures, and between the private and
public sectors. According to Innovation Union Scoreboard countries in Europe by the values
of its innovative performance are grouped into four groups: Innovation leaders, Innovative
followers, Moderate innovators and Modest innovators. The total index for innovative
performance of countries in Europe is shown in Figure 2.
Bosnia and Hercegovina
Figure 2. Innovation performance in Europe
Source: Innovation Union Scoreboard, 2015
According to this year’s report Macedonia is modest innovator and performing very similar
to Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Latvia. In the report Macedonia is described as a country
which is performing well above average in Non-R&D innovation expenditures and SMEs
with product or process innovations, and its growth performance (3.7%) has been well above
that of the EU (Innovation Union Scoreboard, 2015). Macedonia spent 0.22% of its GDP on
R&D in 2010 which is one of the lowest percentages in Europe. The biggest contributors to
total R&D expenditures by funding sources are the governmental sector with 50.3%.
On the Figure 3 a comparison of innovation performance of EU and Macedonia between
2007 and 2014 is shown.
Figure 3. Comparison of innovation performance of EU and Macedonia
Source: Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015
Innovation performance in Macedonia was increasing between 2007 and 2012, but has
declined slightly since then. As shown on the Figure, Macedonia has been catching up to the
performance level of the EU: its relative performance improved from 35% in 2007 to 42% in
2014. It can be concluded that Macedonia is performing well below the EU average for
nearly all dimensions and indicators.
The Government of Macedonia has taken the first steps towards strengthening the legal
framework of innovation by adopting the Innovation Strategy in October 2012, which was
developed with leadership by OECD, and the Law on Innovation Activity in May 2013
(Innovation Strategy, 2013). The Strategy aims to strengthen policymaking, coordination and
implementation capacity for support to innovation, skills and technological development. In
parallel, the MOES developed a Program for Development of Science and Research for the
period 2013-2017 and invested in upgrading R&D laboratory facilities at universities.
Business investments in R&D
Knowledge about the impact of R&D investments in the business sector has become
increasingly important for policy making. According to endogenous growth theory (Romer
1994), growth is a result of endogenous forces such as new knowledge and technology. R&D
plays a significant role in both creating new knowledge and technology. Furthermore,
international economic research points out that an important share of the economic growth in
advanced economies comes from public and business sector investments in R&D and
innovation (Goel et al., 2008). Moreover, both the OECD and recent academic research point
out, that the return on investment from R&D is significant.
There are number of benefits for the business sector when investing in R&D, like creating
unique products or services, patents for the developed products, gaining competitive
advantage by bringing innovative products to the market, etc. Studies found that the
relationship between R&D investments and business growth can vary according to industry.
Most likely industries which will easily benefit from R&D investments are automotive,
pharmaceutical, engineering, IT industry. The R&D expenditures of enterprises are often
correlated to higher sales and productivity growth, as well as a propensity to export. Further,
product innovation, which results from R&D efforts, leads to employment growth and more
qualified and better paid jobs by expanding demand and new business opportunities.
The potential impact that investments in research and innovation have on productivity
growth is even higher for developing countries, given the opportunity for catching up that is
associated with larger investments in innovation. Results from a study using firm level data
for the Western Balkans show that innovative firms grow 15 percent faster in sales and 8
percent faster in labor productivity than do non-innovative firms. The Business enterprise
sector in Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D represents only a modest share compared to
the EU average in all WBC. For instance, according to the Erawatch platform on research and
innovation policies and systems, the private sector shares on R&D in WBC are on average
between 15 and 20 percent which is much lower compared to the EU average of 63 percent in
2012 (WB Regional R&D Strategy for Innovation, 2013).
More investments for R&D by business sector will enable the creation of new knowledge and
its diffusion among companies, increasing investment in equipment and machinery,
increasing number of patents and licenses, new production technologies and ideas, fostering
entrepreneurship and stimulate innovation activities of companies (Cvetković, 2011).
Business investments for innovation have significant private and social economic returns.
The existing literature suggests that the overall return to R&D investment is very large: about
25 percent as a private return and 65 percent for social returns (Sveikauskas, 2007).
There are a few examples in Macedonia of excellence in applied R&D (such as the Institute
of Earthquake Engineering) university spin-offs (such as CIRKO at the Faculty of
Mechanical Engineering in Skopje, MIR Foundation/SINTEF, the Innovation Center and
Innovation Financing Vehicle), industry (such as Alkaloid JSC in pharmaceuticals, HiTech
Corporation, a PCB manufacturer and others) and industry-science collaboration (Alkaloid
and Faculty of Pharmacy and Medical Institute at the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius
Value of industry-science collaboration
Practices show that the national economies which want to compete in the global
market, have to realize the importance of cooperation between faculties, industry and
government in creating new innovative products (Perkušić et al, 2012). Collaboration
between industry and science is considered one of the most important aspects of the
innovation system. To support these collaborations it is important to understand why and how
intensively companies collaborate with scientists, and how they rate such collaboration.
Literature contains several empirical papers that explore reasons that motivate companies to
collaboration. Caloghirou et al. examined the joint research projects that were conducted in
the context of European framework programmes and found several main reasons why
companies collaborate with universities. Companies collaborate in order to achieve synergies
in the research programme, to keep track of technological developments more easily and in
order to split research costs. It was also found that collaboration contributes to development
of new production processes, even though no significant influence of collaboration on the
development of new products was shown (Radas, 2005).
Apart from motivation, it is important to know whether collaboration has any effect on a
company’s innovation capabilities, and hence on its performance. Lee (2000) conducted a
research among American companies that collaborate with universities, and found that
companies involved in such collaboration were able to demonstrate improvements in specific
areas. Specifically, the companies gained better access to new research and inventions, and
collaboration also helped them develop new processes and products.
According to the GfK survey about industry-science collaboration in Macedonia, less than
9% of companies have links with Macedonian universities, and only 5% have connections
with research institutions. In the area of collaboration, Macedonian companies included in the
GfK survey are primarily cooperating with suppliers (59%) and customers (55%), while the
level of joint activities with other enterprises is rather low among companies in the same
sector (31%), and almost nonexistent with other business (3%). The most common source of
knowledge and support used by the surveyed companies are consultants (16%) from the
Macedonian private sector. Even cooperation with the universities is largely based on
consultancy (43%) and training (26%). The companies’ lack of cooperation among
themselves and with the universities and research centers is partly a result of the companies’
low level of networking. More than two out of three companies (68 %) stated that they are
not part of any network, only one out of four companies (24%) belong to a domestic network
or association, and participation in international networks/associations is almost unknown
among Macedonian companies (2%) (OECD, 2011).
Collaborative innovation partnership
Closed innovations were usually the way companies innovated and innovation activities
occurred within the barriers of the company. Money and time invested in R&D projects
resulted in many technologies of which only some of them were marketable. Companies have
traditionally focused on developing their internal R&D capabilities, rarely sharing outcomes
with partners to foster mutual competitive advantage.
Innovation has become a way to survive in complex and dynamic markets and firms are
exploring all options to improve the innovation process. Chesbrough pointed out to the
‘nonsustainable’ concept of closed innovation. An emergent view in the literature addresses
that innovations arise, in particular, from interactions between firms (Nooteboom, 2006).
Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external
ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to
advance their technology. Chesbrough (2003) defines open innovation as an environment in
which ideas are allowed to flow outside their originating organization, to wherever they can
be mostly efficiently handled at each stage of the R&D process. The principles of closed and
open innovation are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Contrasting Principles of Closed and Open Innovation
Closed Innovation Principles
Open innovation Principles
The smart people in our field work for us
Not all the smart people work for us. We
need to work with smart people inside and
outside our company
To profit from R&D, we must discover it,
develop it, and ship it ourselves
External R&D can create significant value;
internal R&D is needed to claim some
portion of that value
If we discover it ourselves, we will get to
We don’t have to originate the research to
profit from it
The company that gets an innovation to
market first will win
Building a better business model is better
than getting to market first
If we create the most and the best ideas in the
industry, we will win
If we make the best use of internal and
external ideas, we will win
We should control our IP, so that our
competitors don’t profit from our ideas
We should profit from others’ use of our IP,
and we should buy others’ IP whenever it
advances our own business model
Source: Chesbrough, 2003
Due to a lack of internal capacity in this regard, nowadays, companies are increasingly
collaborating with external parties, moving to more open forms of innovation, leveraging
partners’ discoveries, and commercializing innovations with other parties whose business
models are better suited to bring new goods or services to market. Such a shift towards
collaborative approaches seems to make business sense – there is emerging evidence that
such collaborations enable companies to accelerate innovation and create more competitive
market positions, whereas companies that remain internally focused face slower time-to
market, higher development costs, and loss of competitive position. Furthermore, such a shift
mirrors expectations of a change in revenue sources: a recent A.T. Kearney study on
“Collaborative Innovation in Digital Europe” found that 71% of respondents expected more
than a quarter of revenues to be generated through collaborative innovation by 2030.
Collaborative innovation also makes sense at the macroeconomic level when it contributes to
firm growth (WEF Report, 2015).
Form of “collaborative innovation” – where a young firm and an established firm share
complementary resources and combine efforts to support innovative ideas – can create
significant value for both parties as well as for the economies in which such collaborations
take place. This new approach to innovation was proposed in the WEF Report, based on more
than 140 structured interviews and 20 multi stakeholder workshops involving more than 450
participants, highlighting the main challenges faced by young and established firms when
they seek to collaborate, and discusses leading practices and strategies employed by both
firms and policy-makers to improve the success rate of such collaborations.
Given the urgent need for economic growth in Europe and the challenges faced by
innovative European entrepreneurs who seek to scale across fragmented markets
characterized by limited access to venture financing, the potential of these partnerships to
contribute to innovation and growth is particularly high for European firms and countries. As
discussed in the Forum’s report Fostering Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship in Europe, an
important and valuable strategy for young firms to scale within Europe is to collaborate with
larger, established firms to access a variety of financial and organizational resources.
Similarly, established firms seeking to improve their external innovation capabilities can take
advantage of the different perspectives, approaches and risk outlooks of young firms. Young,
dynamic firms are often structured around the development of truly novel and potentially
disruptive products and services, while established firms have deep rooted processes and
Collaborative innovation partnership - Case study of Macedonian company
The Civil Engineering Institute Macedonia – CEIM is a private company established in
1975 which adopted strategy to invest in science and human capital. The leading CEIM
strategy is designed with an orientation towards sustainable development and knowledge-
based economy in order to encourage future generations to continue to discover, design,
model, execute, monitor and improve the research and development activities and gain
applied knowledge, skills and competencies required to ensure the welfare of the future
generations. The growth and the development of CEIM company is closely related to
investments in several segments: technological development, investments in science and
education, investments in human capital, investments in improving the working environment
and working conditions of employees, investments development of new activities outside our
core investments and certainly in terms of marketing representation.
CEIM’s values are represented in the attitude that research and development play a key
role in the innovation process. Parallel to the research and development, investment in
continuous lifelong learning is crucial for improving socio-economic status of any country,
company and/or institute because it creates many high qualified, professional, creative,
ethical individuals who need to build and manage the industry of the future.
Very specific and unique investment in science and great contribution to the society
was the establishment of Private Research Institute for Environment, Civil Engineering and
Energy – IECE in 2014. It was developed and implemented on the basis of the adopted
strategy of CEIM for investment in science and education as the highest form of CSR. The
vision for the establishment of this Research Institute was to be successfully recognized as a
national, regional and international center of excellence in conducting scientific research and
development, education and consulting services and to be a connection between the academic
and business community. The Institute is oriented towards the future, focused on providing
innovative research, education and consulting solutions for the environment, construction,
energy and other related natural and social science fields.
As part of this research, we conducted interviews with CEIM managers to explore the
motives of investing in R&D and establishing a research institute. It was pointed out that
CEIM invested in Advisory board for one year prior to the Institute, which was consisted of
interdisciplinary team of university professors. In this period the initial decision to invest in
research institute was made. From the analysis of the manager’s answers it was found out that
CEIM has had a long tradition of collaborating with the university, working together on
mutual projects and conducting research. CEIM has ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, which
provides the company to conduct testing in the field of civil engineering.
Qualitative analysis from the interviews gives us more insight about their decision
toward investment in R&D. Results show that main incentives to invest in science were:
access to new technologies and processes that allow achievement of competitive
the need for solving a concrete problems related to the strategic orientation of
CEIM has a long-term vision of development.
There are people at CEIM who understand well what scientists can do and who
act as a link between company and scientific institutions.
CEIM has sufficient funds for investment in research and development.
CEIM is expecting added value from the collaboration with the research
Access to new networks and new projects
Investing in science is going to contribute to the competitiveness of CEIM
The CEIM aim was to encourage investment in science and education that will lead to
the creation of new knowledge, creating added value from the scientific research papers and
increasing the supply of various forms of lifelong learning. So far, 65,000 euro was invested.
The first goal of this research institute is to increase investment in research and
development which will strengthen academic institutions, industries, organizations and the
entire country. The second goal is to encourage lifelong learning, because continuing
education is vital for people who want to upgrade their job skills and knowledge.
CEIM established collaborative innovation partnership with the research institute. Challenges
that CEIM and IECE faced in their collaborative innovation partnership was working with
interdisciplinary teams. “Speaking the same language” meant creating mutual understanding,
despite the different organizational settings and culture. Setting up teams with employees
from partner institutions, rewarding collaborative activities and entrepreneurial mindsets was
proven to be very positive in maintain the partnership.
This collaboration provided numerous results in the first year:
Established link between academy and business through joint work on specific
scientific-research projects. Network with universities from Germany, Netherlands,
Spain, Austria, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania.
Created educational programs in compliance with the needs of the business
community. Successful access to EU fund for adult education from Erasmus +.
Increased number of CEIM employees enrolled in master’s and doctoral studies, their
greater commitment for completion of scientific research papers, alignment of
scientific - research topics with the set CEIM strategies for their applicability and
creating useful knowledge.
Cooperation on research projects together with IECE and other scientific institutions.
The program for mentoring new employees in CEIM was created by the need to
nurture and transfer knowledge from older employees to younger employees in
CEIM. This program is one of the tools for knowledge management that are
developed in CEIM, which indicates the value system of the CEIM managers and
their orientation towards building an organization that will be able learn and to meet
the challenges of knowledge-based societies. Through the Program for mentoring new
employees, they can obtain faster training and get involved in the execution of their
tasks and responsibilities, as well as acquire new skills and training for independent
performance of duties and increase the security of the operation and effectiveness of
Providing more opportunities for additional education of the CEIM employees.
Establishing training center as part of CEIM.
Greater creativity and innovation of CEIM employees, giving ideas and suggestions
for new projects.
Trainings for advanced tools for scientific research, advanced statistical methods for
collecting and analyzing data.
Easier access to scientific research infrastructure.
Employees demonstrate a proactive attitude in work, teamwork and communication
among all employees is improved and the job satisfaction among CEIM employees is
increased. Enhancing corporative entrepreneurship.
Enrichment of library fund.
Internship program established, providing mentor for each intern. Creating new job
opportunities for young people in Macedonia.
Investing in education and giving incentives to the best students at the Faculty of Civil
Promoting CSR activities and implementing project for the employees, like “Happy
employees, successful organization”.
Creating positive image of CEIM in the community.
We can conclude that this is rare example in Macedonia, when private company invests
in science and establishes research institute. This CEIM’s innovative approaches will produce
great results for the company and the society. It is expected that these collaborative
innovation partnerships between company and research institute to bring positive impact to
our society providing lot of good practices and helping lot of people in our community. The
benefits from this investment for the society are many since more of these examples of good
practices in the Republic of Macedonia are welcomed and needed, where the business
community invests in science. This experience can be encouraging for other organizations to
invest in research and development and contribute to the positive experiences of community
Innovation is the key factor to economic growth. Investment in innovation and R&D is
largely emphasized throughout the world and because is at the heart of creating and
sustaining economies’ comparative advantages and of raising productivity and expanding
According to Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015 Macedonia is modest innovator and
performing very similar to Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Latvia. In the report Macedonia is
described as a country which is performing well above average in Non-R&D innovation
expenditures and SMEs with product or process innovations, and its growth performance
(3.7%) has been well above that of the EU (Innovation Union Scoreboard, 2015). Macedonia
spends only 0.22% of its GDP on R&D which is one of the lowest percentages in Europe.
The biggest contributors to total R&D expenditures by funding sources are the governmental
sector with 50.3%.
Evidence suggests that Macedonia’s research and innovation performance is not constrained
by lack of ideas, as sometimes argued, but by the availability funding and support services
such as accelerators, mentoring, and technology transfer offices etc.
Form of “collaborative innovation” between a young company and an established company is
the new proposed approach to innovation by the World Economic Forum. This partnership
provides sharing complementary resources, combining efforts to support innovative ideas and
can create significant value for both parties, as well as for the economies in which such
collaborations take place.
The case study of Macedonian company showed evidence of successful collaborative
innovation partnership between Civil Engineering Institute Macedonia – CEIM and Institute
for Research in Environment, Civil Engineering and Energy – IECE. Results from the study
showed that this collaboration is enhancing competitiveness of the company and will bring
even greater results on long term.
Investment in science and establishing research institute and collaborative innovation
partnership has a threefold impact. Above all, it encourages young professionals to further
develop their research capacity through knowledge applicability, directly affects CEIM
competitive advantage, and both together encourage the internal economy and quality that
Macedonia strives for. The investments in science and human capital provide added value to
CEIM, where organizational culture based on knowledge is cherished, and the share of
knowledge is awarded and the knowledge and expertise of human capital is appropriately
used. The success of CEIM which is based on knowledge directly depends on the ability to
convert human capital, knowledge, skills and abilities into intellectual capital as the ultimate
value for the company. The investments in science and human capital contribute to greater
economic benefits for the Civil Engineering Institute Macedonia and to increase its
innovation and competitiveness in the knowledge economy.
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