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Enhancing the innovation management capacity of the SMEs in Central Poland

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - KAM2CentralPoland (Enhancing the innovation management capacity of the SMEs in Central Poland)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

The project KAM2CentralPoland focused on an innovation process, which usually starts with an idea and ends with an innovation result. The innovation process includes inter alia leadership, management skills, etc. During the reporting period there were still regions in Poland lacking complex services to support innovation management. “Enhancing the innovation management capacity of the SMEs in Central Poland” was a project designed to meet those challenges.

The project was implemented by the EEN-CP consortium in four central regions of Poland. The main objective was to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of R&D and innovation investments that will contribute to smart growth in UE economies. That overall objective was achieved via two specific objectives:
1. To increase the economic potential in enterprises benefiting from the SME Instrument of H2020 by identifying bottlenecks in their business activities and indicating solutions with the help of capable coaches.
2. To increase the innovation potential of SMEs lacking professional support in the field of innovation management.

Over the 2 years of the project implementation the KAM2CentralPoland consortium introduced a new support mechanism to help SMEs increase their innovation capacity and innovate profitably. All together 62 SMEs received new services during the reporting period (in 2015: 6 KAM services and 3 EIMC services; in 2016: 13 KAM services and 40 EIMC services).
During the reporting period the consortium rendered a total of 62 services (both KAM and EIMC) out of which 52 were completed and closed and 10 services is still ongoing. The target set out in the proposal was 58 services (10 KAM and 48 EIMC). As it was initially described in the proposal, the nature of both types of services is long-term, and several actors are involved in the service implementation. Therefore, in some cases the final completion of the service might be beyond the consortium partner’s control. The proposal also stated, that in cases when there were not enough SMEs eligible to receive KAM services during the reporting period, the partners could provide EIMC services instead. That was the case in 2015, when there were few SMEI beneficiaries on the territories covered by the consortium. In 2016 however, thanks to the close cooperation with NCPs (both on the national and regional levels), Poland’s success rate in SMEI increased, resulting in more KAM services being performed by project partners.

Both types of services are aimed at improving competitiveness and sustainability of SMEs and facilitating their access to business development opportunities. The project provided companies with complex services to support innovation management by mentoring and coaching schemes. The idea behind KAM services was to help identify the best coach that would meet the specific needs of the company under the SME Instrument H2020. KAM main task was to introduce the concept of the coaching service and highlight its benefits to SMEs in order to convince them to use the service. Other tasks related to KAM service included conducting needs analyses, and selecting coaches who matched the needs of the SMEs. KAM also facilitated coach-SME relationships, and supported the establishment of coaching contracts, as well as the coaching processes as such.

EIMC service was designed for companies that have the potential to grow and want to develop innovative products or services but lack the knowledge, skills or ability to manage innovation activities. The main idea behind EIMC service was to assess the current status of the innovation management system in the company. This assessment was made with the use of IMP3rove or Innovation Health Check tools, both compliant with the CEN/TS 16555-1 standard. Those tools provide deep analyses of the current and future innovation management performance. On the basis of the report an innovation expert prepared a recommendation, and developed an action plan for the company. Then the company implemented the plan, while the EIMC expert monitored the implementation process.

In 2015, the consortium registered 3 cases where the coaching was rejected by companies. The reason for that was mainly the companies’ fear that the coach might disclose the sensitive information despite of the signed NDA. Thanks to close cooperation between the EEN partners and the NCPs, resulting in the delivery of joint workshops on how to prepare successful SMEI applications, the SMEs’ attitude towards the coaching changed significantly. Also, the seminars on access to risk finance prepared together with the NCP for EU financial instruments helped the consortium partners identify SMEs suitable for EIMC services.
All the companies that received the services during the reporting period were satisfied. The services helped them implement their innovation projects or actions. The coaching services helped to navigate the SME successfully through Phase I or II of the SME Instrument projects. The EIMC services, and particularly the assessment of innovation management in companies, built up an innovation culture and the awareness of innovation potential in companies, as well as assembled knowledge on the implementation of innovations. The service developed sustainable understanding of the holistic approach to innovation management. It provided the participating companies with the knowledge of what should be changed or improved in order to be more innovative and competitive on the European market. The implementation plans prepared by innovation experts presented strengths and weaknesses of the companies as well as actions required to close the identified gaps. Companies in the regions covered by the consortium understood that to be more competitive they need to develop and implement innovation strategies.

Over the reporting period there were 2 cases with a direct and measurable benefit of the EIMC services – after implementing the EIMC action plan the SMEs successfully applied to Phase I of SMEI and received grants for new innovative products.