Barriers that hinder business-to-business and business-to-HEI collaborations has been a commonly discussed theme often repeated in business-academia networking events and known for quite some time now to anyone who has been involved in knowledge exchange. There is a substantial amount of barriers yet-to-be-overcome recorded in relevant literature. Tarek Virani’s working paper  offers an extensive literature review on these tensions, in the context of creative industries, as well as his reflections as a researcher in the Creativeworks London voucher scheme .
To this detailed account, I would like to add three barriers that I recorded during discussion with creative sector SMEs in a recent ‘ideas pool’ event organised by Creativeworks London.
The first barrier is isolation of SMEs mainly due to time and business demands but also because each one has different touch points with the users/customers/audiences or other collaborators (who are also SMEs). There is a debate whether physical location plays also a role, e.g. if an SME is not located in the same neighbourhood as other SMEs of the same industry.
The second barrier, pertaining more to business-to-HEI collaborations and also mentioned in Tarek’s paper, is about the different ‘language’ each stakeholder speaks. Concise and precise description of a project outline and its benefits to an SME comes in contrast to the more open, explorative, and sometimes slow, approach usually taken by academic researchers. This situation requires a person who is able to speak both ‘languages’ and who can act as the catalyst or orchestrator of the collaboration network particularly when the collaborative project has a vague inception stage . This person might be a new form of a hybrid academic who is able to liaise and work comfortably within the industry, or an SME representative who has experience in such trans-disciplinary collaborations.
Finally, the third barrier concerns the nature of the networks created either between SMEs, SME-academia, and SME and their customers. If networks do not change the people/ideas/methods/approaches and perspectives over time, they tend to become stagnated.
Isolation, language barrier, and network stagnation can be tackled by a shift to more open, collaborative and sharing practices, a radical turn which is already happening through open innovation, and the sharing economy. Much of this transformation has been brought by digital media which enable and support networked activities.
I am currently investigating the challenges and opportunities of building collaboration networks between artists, and audiences who nowadays are actively involved in content creation and production through interactive online platforms, and who also participate in online, networked communities hosted by the very same interactive media. These emerging communities that interchange between digital and physical spaces present new perspectives on how creative cultures are shaped. However, collaboration between them and between them and the SMEs presents several levels of complexity.
In the next few months I aim to bring together artists, art organisations and audiences of London’s performing arts sector in order to design, collaboratively, models for engaging performing arts audiences through digital interactive media. The process will aim to create a commons space where collaboration glitches can be addressed, where values, behaviours, and structures that underpin online or offline networked relations can be discussed; and where observing the interconnections that are formed, and following the lines of entanglement and disentanglement from the network will create useful knowledge that can eventually be applied in practice.
I will be writing more in depth working papers on this theme in the next few months. All comments welcome below, and if you are a performing arts organisation interested in this research I will be happy to hear from you.
This article was first published on the Creativeworks London website on 9th June 2014.
 Creativeworks London, http:// www.creativeworkslondon.org.uk
 Dima M., Fernandez-Orviz A., Wright M. (2013). “Design-led knowledge exchange: The Moving Targets project”. Creative Exchange Conference, Lancaster, UK
 Virani T. (2014) “Mechanisms of collaboration between creative small, medium and micro-sized enterprises and higher education institutions: reflections on the Creativeworks London Creative Voucher Scheme”, Working paper (http://www.creativeworkslondon.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/PWK-Working-Paper-4-BNEW.pdf)