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Services to enhance innovation management capacities of SMEs in England, Northern Ireland and Wales 2015 -2016

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENIW (Services to enhance innovation management capacities of SMEs in England, Northern Ireland and Wales 2015 -2016)

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

Innovation is a vital ingredient of growth and an important element of the future success of the UK. With some 95% of R&D and innovation conducted outside of the UK and many major and lead market shaping companies being of non-UK origin, access to knowledge, markets, skills and partners is increasingly taking place on a global basis. It is also the case that the most innovative companies are also those most likely to trade internationally and that companies that trade internationally are also the most innovative. To ensure UK business stays competitive it is important that it is able to effectively access and exploit the growing global investment in research and innovation. Through EEN ENIW activities we aim help businesses build collaborations and partnerships and access the finance, knowledge, skills, networks and customers to more rapidly move a concept through to commercialisation. Key to this is the need for support to improve the capacity of R&D intensive SMEs to increase their growth in line with the level of investment, by developing their innovation management skills and processes and strengthen the link between innovation and internationalisation. SMEs with a track record of innovation are more likely to export, export successfully and generate growth than non-innovating firms. However, as identified they also too often lack:
• The innovation management capacity to ensure they can bring their ideas profitably to market,
• The know how to identify and enter new markets
• The finance to sustain growth and invest in those new markets
• The ability to systematize innovation activities, such that they can be carried out repeatably and reproducibly across the business, with a demonstrable return on investment

In 2015-16 The ENIW consortium has begun the process of addressing these issues directly with their client base in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and has made good progress towards its objectives despite significant obstacles.
The first activity undertaken was to provide assistance to businesses that have been successful in their applications for funding under the Horizon 2020 (H2020) SME Instrument (SMEI), through a needs analysis mechanism, examining where they will need support to gain maximum value from the grant, providing guidance in sourcing and selecting coaches for that purpose and also to access finance. Moderating the coach client relationship and accompanying the beneficiary through the SMEI project.

The second activity aimed to identify and provide in-depth support to innovative small and medium sized businesses that have the potential to benefit from European funding support and are capable of growth and successful internationalisation, but are at the stage where their innovation and growth processes and procedures lack the efficiency and incision to maximise their ideas. The objective of the service is to make the innovation system and practice, as defined by CEN/TS 16555 specification, in the company, more efficient and effective.
"From a slow start (delays in contacting and mobilisation effectively wiped out the first year of a two year period) the ENIW consortium, covering England, Northern Ireland and Wales achieved 53 % of its target having helped 430 companies. If one adds in those companies supported who did not quite finish their interventions before 31/12/16, then this jumps to 86% of target (691 companies). The impact of this support has been varied as one might expect for innovation activities which can cover a broad spectrum of supporting interventions, over and above the coaching provided under the KAM service. To extract a few illustrative highlights:

In just one impact category (helped with fundraising) , one partner reported activity around grants/crowdfunding campaigns/ pitch decks and training with at least 20 businesses. They also introduced to relevant investor contacts and supported with due diligence, which has has resulted in over £2,700,000 being raised across their clients. These funds are being used to expand teams and bring new products to market.

Another partner reported client testimonials such as:

""the best investment and most rewarding use of our time that we have spent toward growing our business”

And as outlined by another client’s EMIC advisor:

“The use of the IMP3rove Innovation Benchmark got the Directors to think together about the way forward. The [product] is now in volume production with additional staff having been recruited. Work having been done on their marketing strategy, sales are very strong and the company is currently buying new premises reflecting their profitability and confidence going forward”

Although, given the relatively short time the service has been operational, this is a more typical summary of client impact:

“We have seen a good increase in sales as a result of the [EIMC intervention] on one particular site; anticipating improved market share and hence increased turnover from internet sales in particular. It is anticipated this will result in increased turnover and allow the company to recruit more staff.”

In terms of KAM support, the CoachCom database shows that we have brokered in 146 coaches, the vast majority of whom carried out high level business coaching assignments: 60% of which covered either product offering or customer insight themes (the balance being process or distribution themes). In terms of client size 55% of SME Beneficiaries in the territory are classified as Micro (0-9 employees) 74% of whom are characterised as either seed or project-to-project stage (i.e. not ready to scale yet) , and so significant impact will necessarily flow through in later downstream activities in future years as data collection continues.

Where we have solid data it has contributed dozens of jobs; helped clients become more focused, efficient and innovative; and able to absorb and reuse the skills we have embedded with them on an ongoing basis. In terms of finance the service has significantly contributed to an overall total of £45M in funding and finance sourced by clients with our help, via the combined COSME and H2020 integrated service offering, which is perhaps a better measure of an integrated service than any individual service line activity.
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Initial Round of EEN ENIW KAM & EIMC Training, Coventry May 2015