The action will consist of:
- The setting-up of a European Open Innovation Network in advanced technologies with a central brokerage service point, aimed at matching innovation needs/requests from large industries with innovative solutions from SME technology providers.
- The central brokerage service point will use the network of innovation intermediaries (e.g. technology centres) to help matching innovation needs/requests and solution offers. The consortium will define the capacity and quality criteria applicable to innovation intermediaries for joining the network. The network should span across the EU.
- The brokerage services aim to liaise SME providers of solutions based on advanced technologies with potential industry users such as large (multinational) companies having specific technological challenges. The services are expected to include support and advice to companies to define their innovation requests/offers and identify possible solutions/usages (technology scouting). The services could include for example translating innovation requests into technical descriptions, technology scouting, disseminating requests through the network, proactively identifying existing solutions and providers, actively promoting solutions from SME providers towards potential users etc. The services should also include the identification of any technology services required to make the collaboration between the SME provider and the industry user successful (e.g. engineering to customise the technology solution to the customer's needs), including the identification of the technology centre(s) and expert(s) for providing these.
- The services should be flexible, quick and efficient to match business needs and ensure effective matchmaking between SME solution providers and large industrial users. The brokerage services should be free of charge for SMEs.
The brokerage services should lead to a critical mass of collaboration projects between SME solution providers and (large, multinational) industry users. The network is expected to work towards financial sustainability and remain active after the end of the project.
Proposals should outline a strategic vision for building a European Open Innovation Network in advanced technologies with a central brokerage service point. The network should be open to all innovation intermediaries complying with set capacity/quality criteria. The platform should improve SME access to large industrial users and address challenges associated to Open Innovation, such as confidentiality and IPR, entry costs and proactive search for innovation partners. The impact of the brokerage services should be monitored (e.g. contracts signed by companies as a result of the brokerage services). Synergies will be sought with relevant EU and other initiatives supporting innovation in SMEs, such as the INSPIRE initiative[[http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/200839_en.html]] as well as the Enterprise Europe Network, in particular for making best use of existing tools for matchmaking (such as the Enterprise Europe Network database[[http://een.ec.europa.eu/tools/services/SearchCenter/Search/ProfileSimpleSearch]]) and outreach to SMEs. Synergies with the European IPR Helpdesk are also encouraged.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 1.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that companies can benefit from external ideas/technologies (Outside-In) and valorise internal ideas/technologies with external partners (Inside-Out) to reduce the financial risks associated to innovation, and quickly get a competitive advantage. Open Innovation implies accelerating internal R&D and innovation along value chains through collaboration between the technological supply - and demand - side[[Open innovation, open science, open to the world - a vision for Europe, DG RTD, 2016 (http://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/open-innovation-open-science-open-world-vision-europe)]] within networked, multi-collaborative ecosystems.
Open innovation today is a well-known concept in large companies. However, SMEs are less aware of the opportunities offered by open innovation. Innovation intermediaries such as technology centres can help SME solution providers get closer to large industrial users to co-create[[Co-creation refers to the joint development of knowledge through relationships with specific partners. Relationships can be consortia of competitors, suppliers, customers as well as universities and Public Research Organisations (such as RTOs).]] new products/services through a better anticipation of their needs.
One major role of technology centres is ""to bridge the gap between internal and external know-how"".[[Boosting open innovation and knowledge transfer in the European Union, Independent expert group report on open innovation and knowledge transfer ; Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2014 (http://bookshop.europa.eu/fr/boosting-open-innovation-and-knowledge-transfer-in-the-european-union-pbKI0214284/)]] They are thus well-positioned as innovation intermediaries in an open innovation context. Technology centres help companies move technologies (such as digital and other key enabling technologies) from lab to market. They often achieve innovation by adapting existing ideas and concepts to other industrial ambits and usually collaborate with both large companies and SMEs.
- Critical mass of collaboration projects between SME solution providers and (large, multinational) industry users.
- Sustainable network ensuring effective matchmaking, at pan-European level, between innovative solutions from SME providers and needs/usages of (large, multinational) industries.
- Positive business impacts (e.g. increased sales) for SME providers having benefited from the brokerage services.
- Increased provision by SMEs of innovative solutions based on advanced technologies matching the needs of industrial users.