CORDIS - EU research results

AcceleGreat - SME Growth

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SME Growth (AcceleGreat - SME Growth)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-08-31

It is well-known that SMEs are the real driver for economic growth and job creation. The 20,8 million European SMEs produce more than a half of EU28 GDP. However scarcity of public resources at regional, national and European levels implies to focus our effort on the most promising SMEs, the ones with the highest potential. That is why, AcceleGreat project will dedicated its action to high potential SMEs. The AcceleGreat project (SME GROWTH) proposal aims at sharing experiences of the three innovation agencies composing the consortium: ARII-PACA from France, Enterprise Flanders & IWT from Belgium and MISET from Finland. As the “shared challenge” identified by the consortium is the way to accelerate growth of high potential enterprises, the main objective is to understand how agencies can provide a better innovation support to this kind of enterprises.

This issue was already underlined in 2009 by the Commission Staff Working Document “Making public support for innovation in the EU more effective”. Indeed, “Specific needs of innovative enterprises with high growth potential” was listed among the most important challenges faced by institutional stakeholders. There is a real need of sharing experience in this domain to answer the specific requirements of high potential enterprises. Therefore, different types of tools will be investigated. The study will start at a macro to finish at a micro point of view. First, different process of acceleration will be examined: incubators, clusters and accelerators. We want to know how these structures can help high potential enterprises – or gazelles – to grow faster and stronger. Project Partners want to share best practices on how they work with these structures, how they can help them to identify real gazelles. The different steps of development of high potential enterprises in each structure will be studied by the consortium. Then, we will focus on concrete mechanisms implemented by these structures to help enterprises to access funds. For instance, a system of fundraising (regional fund or crowdfunding) supported by a Regional agency and implemented by a Regional authority will be studied to understand how this best practice can be shared. Finally, special features of each innovation agencies will be analysed.

Studying these different dimensions will allow the consortium to produce a comprehensive and transversal Design Options Paper (DOP) that will be of great interest for European stakeholders. The DOP on this specific topic targeting only high potential enterprises will guide other agencies wishing to implement new policies.

Conclusion : Acceleration is becoming throughout the world and Europe the subject that will concentrate the attention of most of the incubation ecosystems. It is already the case in many countries like Germany, France, UK, The Netherlands, Belgium and Nordic countries quite advanced in the organization of acceleration. The public institutions cannot ignore any more that acceleration (although the business model for acceleration is still fragile) is already the next step to support the growth of High Potential SMEs. The question remains: how public institutions could cope with a rapidly changing landscape of SME support? Regional authorities cannot stay outside the debate and the evolution of acceleration. There are several steps that are mandatory to fulfill that we tried to cover through this paper: 1) Understanding acceleration and engineer acceleration 2) Acceleration is a matter of people rather than money (although money is still one of the keys to a successful process) 3) A public policy always need an evaluation. This document was build using the regional experience of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Flanders and Mikkeli and, with simple methodological approaches, by confronting experience in SME support as well as the most recent experience in SME acceleration of each regions. Methodology used was experience sharing during meetings but also brainstorming session to determine the best profiles for KAM or the best indicators according to the type of reporting needed. The consortium that builds this document is ready to share the content with other region facing the same issues regarding SME acceleration.
Through open discussions during the 3 consortium meetings, the project participants have defined a list of topics that should be tackled in the DOP, based on experiences from the partners and from the benchmark of external initiatives:

1) Selection & support of High Growth companies (HGC) : criteria and process, services for acceleration
Project partners shared feedbacks from existing programs implemented by partners (or not) and differences from one sector/ region to another.
High growth companies usually often have unmet needs in terms of funds, internationalization and human resources. One of their specificities is that they need a personalized and long term support. To follow-up this personalized support, a Key Account Manager (KAM) system would be relevant. Recent studies and evaluations (including from OECD) have shown that the more contacts a company has with a support organization the higher is the impact for the company and its growth.

2) Who is in charge of selection of experts, mentors and coaches for our HGC : criteria, certification process and way to “keep them warm”.
Project partners shared feedbacks from existing programs implemented by the partners or from outside the consortium, feedback from the KAM experience within H2020 SME Instrument.

3) Diagnostic tool to identify, confirm or precise the company needs
Project partners decided to look at various diagnostic tool and discussed on the question: does the diagnostic tool make a difference in the success of an acceleration process ?
Conclusions of the project partners : a diagnostic tool is an value added tool in the acceleration process to identify, to confirm or to precise the needs of the HGC. It is a strategic instrument to identify the business barriers to growth. There are a lot of proven diagnostic tools available, which can be used.

4) Impact of support provided to companies (what should be measured and how)
Partners could tackle the way to measure the impact of the services provided to High Growth companies. Whereas some questions like “How many jobs were created thanks to the provided support?” are almost impossible to answer, open questions like “What would you have done without this support?” provide qualitative answers.

At the end of the meeting#2 held in Flanders, projects partners decided to work on 3 building blocks as a key of success for High Growth SME acceleration & support programs :
- Building Block 1 : Design & provide a support process for HGC acceleration
- Building Block 2 : HGC and the Key Account Manager
- Building Block 3 : Impact assessment of an acceleration process
The project partners worked on each Building Block selected in order to provide a share vision on what could be done by Innovation Agencies for HGC. After a first part dedicated on the presentation of what is an Acceleration Process (AP) (general concept, regional policies for SME acceleration, visualization of the AP and its different stages, support organization for SME AP), the project partners worked also what could be also necessary to ensure an AP : HGC need Key Account Managers, and HGC have to provide impact values provided by the AP.