Enterprises’ resources and capabilities determine their ability to achieve competitive advantage. In this regard, the key innovation challenges that enterprises face are liabilities associated with their age and size, and the entry barriers imposed on them. In this line, a growing number of enterprises are starting to implement innovation practices in which they employ both internal/external flows of knowledge in order to explore/exploit innovation in collaboration with commercial or scientific agents. Within this context, universities play a significant role providing fertile knowledge-intensive environments to support the exploration and exploitation of innovative and entrepreneurial ideas, especially in emerging economies, where governments have created subsidies to promote enterprise innovation through compulsory university partnerships. Based on these ideas, the purpose of this exploratory research is to provide a better understanding about the role of universities on enterprises’ innovation practices in emerging economies. More concretely, in the context of Mexico, we explored the enterprises’ motivations to collaborate with universities in terms of innovation purposes (exploration and exploitation) or alternatives to access to public funds (compulsory requirement of being involved in a university partnership). Using a sample of 10,167 Mexican enterprises in the 2012 Research and Technological Development Survey collected by the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography, we tested a multinomial regression model. Our results provide insights about the relevant role of universities inside enterprises’ exploratory innovation practices, as well as, in the access of R&D research subsidies.