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Good practices in SME innovation support

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GO - SME (Good practices in SME innovation support)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2022-11-01 do 2023-04-30

Throughout the EU, the fragmentation of innovation ecosystems and the lack of interconnection between public national and regional agencies appear to be one of the main obstacles to securing support for the most promising SMEs. The GO-SME project responds to the need to provide financial support to SMEs and start-ups for the development of their innovative ideas. The aim of GO-SME is to share the best practices of participating research funding organisations (RFOs) and their mutual learning in designing programmes that would support SMEs and start-ups in an initial assessment of their innovative ideas so that they can progress to more advanced stages of innovation development.
To achieve this aim, a combination of the activities described the Annex 1 of the Grant Agreement will be used.
The added value of the project rests in its ambition to design national and regional programs supporting innovative SMEs which could act as a pipeline for the EIC Accelerator and be part of the “plug-in” mechanism.

This project is unique in getting together agencies from national as well as regional levels and also gathering agencies with different experiences, coming from different cultural and SME support backgrounds. The involvement of RFOs from widening countries is a clear signal that the need to support the best SMEs is the same across all of the EU. At the same time, we all realize that in
order not to lag behind the US or China, we have to learn from each other, learn from mistakes done by other agencies and try to build schemes that will enable to support the best.

This project seeks to bridge the gap created by the discontinuation of SME Instrument Phase 1. Specifically, it is the ambition of this consortium to develop new SME support schemes at national/
regional levels and reshape existing ones. Besides the impact and benefits to the research funding organizations, the project will have an impact on the participating innovative start-ups and SMEs by improving their business, marketing, skills. The schemes will target the most promising innovative start-ups and SMEs, R&D close to market activities and their clear commercial ambition and potential for scaling up.

The schemes will have a direct impact on start-ups and SMEs that will be supported. Better-designed schemes as well as additional services will give SMEs more targeted support for their scale-up and international development. Therefore the impact will manifest itself in the economy and in the number of companies that will scale up more rapidly.

The ultimate impact will be on the faster increase of the competitiveness of the region/state/EU.

Moreover, this project contributes to better involvement of widening countries (as 8 agencies from 8 widening countries are participating in this project) in the Framework Programme as the ultimate goal is the “plug-in” into EIC Accelerator and better cooperation between innovation agencies across the EU.
Best practices already applied in support schemes for innovative SMEs and startups were shared among participants focused on the experience from implementation schemes similar to SME Instrument Phase 1, from other schemes supporting highly innovative SMEs and startups carried out inside and outside of the Consortium and from the European instruments designed to support this type of applicant. These experiences were shared via presentations of RFOS, presentations of guests, discussions during workshops, questionnaires, and surveys.

The opportunity to share experiences, discuss parameters of the calls, best and bad practices of providing services to SMEs, and the pressure and commitment to apply it on a national level motivated the agencies from (not only) widening countries to design innovation support schemes for SMEs and start-ups. Also, the discussion on the provision of coaching services and the budget allowing them to implement it right away encouraged them to do so. Moreover, the opportunity to select the best companies and let them compete with other European companies was inspiring.

10 consortium members managed to use the lessons learned in the GO-SME project in designing their funding schemes supporting highly innovative SMEs and start-ups. These were based on the common criteria that were agreed upon in the consortium of the project.
The Consortium discussed widely the experience of using national or international experts but did not find a way of sharing their pools. The most of participants were not willing to share the databases of experts and the Consortium did not get access to the EISMEA pool of experts. Each RFO approached this matter on a national level using its own resources or resources of its partners or networks they are part of.

Two tasks were dedicated to collecting experience from providing coaching services and about how to design support services. Only a small number of partners had real practice in designing coaching schemes (mostly those who implemented calls similar to SME Instrument in the past) hence many exploited the acquired know-how from the abovementioned tasks.

Each agency nominated 2 panelists for the International Evaluation Panel. Based on criteria focused on the experience from EIC Accelerator, thematic focus, nationality, and gender 10 experts were chosen to participate in the panel. In October 2022 10 RFOs nominated 48 companies for the International Evaluation Panel. The Consortium shared how they selected these companies, from which calls, and what criteria were applied during the Consortium meeting dedicated to the preparation of the International Evaluation Panel Meeting.
International Evaluation Panel took place in November 2022 and 46 companies presented their projects in front of the experts. The meeting format simulated the EIC Accelerator interview and all of the companies received invaluable feedback on:
- The technology and IP protection,
- Business model feasibility,
- Scale-up potential and financial coherence,
- Market access and route to market
- High risk for the private sector alone.

3 days of coaching were proposed to 34 companies chosen according to the A-B-C ranking of the abovementioned criteria. This coaching scheme is currently running and focuses on the specific objectives: rehearsal of the elevator pitch, review of the pitch deck and one-pager (or website), feedback for improvement of the interview performance, identification of the weak points, and prioritization of development work plan.

The exercise of the panel was found very useful by all participants of the event: panelists, companies as well as agencies themselves. Without any doubt, such activities help SMEs to scale-up faster, gain an international perspective and potentially succeed in the EIC Accelerator. This will be analyzed and presented during the 3rd and final workshop in March 2023, nevertheless, we can say even now that the meeting of the International Evaluation Panel was unique in the number of European countries represented and the overall maturity and quality of the SMEs and start-ups.

There are 4 months of the project ahead of us. An analysis of how to adapt national calls for the plug-in mechanism, final workshop organization and final report preparation will be the main objectives of this period.
LOGO of the GO-SME project