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Workplace innovation uptake by SMEs

The Action will be a piloting scheme for the uptake of workplace innovation by SMEs. It will aim at creating interregional networks gathering national or regional innovation support agencies[[i.e. the regional and national agencies that design and/or implement innovation support programmes for SMEs are important intermediaries for SME innovation]], which will work together to create pilot schemes supporting the uptake of workplace innovation in SMEs. The composition of the networks should reflect similar needs of SMEs and a comparable entrepreneurship culture in the area covered by the network. This approach will enable the creation of new, context-based workplace innovation support schemes.

Those new pilot schemes will be tested in companies selected by the interregional networks, by using financial support to third parties (at least 75% of the grant will be used for this purpose). The total number of supported companies will be taken into account in the evaluation of the proposals (please refer to the grant conditions for this topic).

The Action, by looking at existing tools, exchange of best practice and creation of new pilot schemes will help to create new, context based, long term mechanisms supporting the uptake of workplace innovation by SMEs across Europe. It will also give concrete support to SMEs interested in looking for new sources of growth through the competitive edge provided by workplace innovation related opportunities. Thereby it will stimulate: (i) new forms of work organisation and working (including the gender dimension); (ii) stronger employee participation in innovation processes (creation of new products, services and their production); (iii) improvement of the managerial techniques; (iv) it will help draw lessons for innovation support agencies.

A budget of EUR 1,5 million should allow to address this challenge (budget for a single network not exceeding EUR 300,000).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 0,3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Workplace innovations are non-technological innovations related to business structure and organisation, employee engagement and Human Resources management, managing internal process and decision making, development and planning of organisational strategies and methods, relationships with clients and suppliers, the work environment itself.

Workplace innovations improve motivation and working conditions for employees, both men and women, which leads to increased labour productivity, innovation capability, market resilience, and overall business competitiveness. Workplace innovation helps companies to anticipate and adapt faster and better to changing economic environment. This type of flexibility is even more important in the context of a new industrial revolution and quickly changing technologies and business models. Being able to react to changes rapidly requires continuous feedback from customers and users. Employees working at the customer interface have an important role in producing this information. Workplace innovation also improves learning capabilities and diffusion of knowledge, which are important for keeping workers' skills up-to-date. Finally, non-technological innovations are an integral part of the successful implementation of technological innovations.

Despite obvious benefits still not many companies, especially SMEs, implement this type of innovation. Implementing workplace innovation and facing challenges related to new industrial revolution requires right managerial skills. That is often not the case for SMEs, which do not have enough knowledge resources.

The experience of the 2013-2016 European Workplace Innovation Network pilot project shows the difficulties in promoting one specific model of workplace innovation. Successful implementation of this type of innovation depends on the national, economic and cultural context (related e.g. to the entrepreneurship and managerial culture).

  • New, context based mechanisms supporting uptake of workplace innovation by SMEs.
  • More SMEs take advantage of the opportunities offered by workplace innovation.
  • New, context-based forms of workplace innovation are created.
  • Improved framework conditions for the uptake of new technologies.
  • Better skilled workforce and more resilient companies.