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Building competences for empowerment of small and micro companies’ for innovative entrepreneurship

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - POWER2INNO (Building competences for empowerment of small and micro companies’ for innovative entrepreneurship)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-02-28

Considerable number of innovation support programmes were developed in the EU that tackled SME (for example SME Instrument, COSME…), however very few programmes and methodologies were developed for specific challenges that face small and micro companies (SMC). This fact is especially relevant for all three project partners’ regions, which have all well over national averages of micro and small companies: 93,7 % in Primorsko-notranjska region (Slovenia), more that 95% in Puglia region (Italy) and 96,4% in Malaga region (Spain). Micro and small companies (much more than middle and large sized companies) are critically bound to the traditional ways of doing business and lack competences needed for modern successful innovative entrepreneurship. One of the reasons for that is also lack of competences and available methodologies of innovation support agencies to tackle this specific problem.

The general objective of the project is to engage in peer learning activities between three project partners to raise our competences for empowerment of small and micro companies’ for innovative entrepreneurship - for transition from production-oriented mentality to scouting for opportunities on global market and creating value for customers. In addition to that, we will implement pilot projects in each region to directly transfer gained knowledge and skills to the target companies and will disseminate project results across EU.
The project included five specific work tasks:
- Management, internal communication and reporting: it included standard project management processes of project planning, controlling, steering and organizing of all activities in accordance with Horizon 2020 provisions. Internal communication process was conducted to ensure clear and regular information flow, coordination and achievement of partnership's goal. Skype and e-mail were mostly used for the latter. There were no specific problems related to this. We have also ensured continuous reporting on the state of the project, via Participation Portal and via e-mailing with the contact officer, assigned to this project.
- The Learning Process: partners have engaged in mapping of partners' competences and gaps and in peer learning activities: observance of several best practices, discussions with different stakeholders and reviews of the third parties solutions. The outcome of the learning process was the transfer of knowledge between all three partners and the results of the learning process were (1) an eCatalogue, which includes information on the best practices visited and explanation of their potential for implementation of other innovation agencies' regions and (2) the draft of the POWER2INNO model for empowerment of small and micro companies' for innovative entrepreneurship. The eCatalogue is available at all three partners' websites and the POWER2INNO model is available in the project's main deliverable, the Design Options Paper.
-The Pilot Projects: at the end of the learning process we have implemented three pilot projects, involving entrepreneurs in order to test the POWER2INNO model. Crowdfunding was selected during the best practices analysis as an innovative funding source, but still not well-known, and usually understood by SMCs as one of the last options to get funds. Partners detected the need of promoting this new instrument among the entrepreneurs: its general characteristics and different types as well as understanding of what entrepreneurs need to do before starting the successful crowdfunding campaign. Two of project partners chose to organize a workshop: Tecnopolis PST on 26th September 2016 and BIC Euronova on 28th October 2016 and RDA Green Karst executed coaching sessions with three selected entrepreneurs in the period between 17th October and 9th December 2016. The responses of the participating entrepreneurs were positive. The POWER2INNO partners have used the pilot projects also to observe the effectiveness of the used methods and acknowledged feedback information in the preparation of the Design Options Paper as well.
- The preparation of the Design Options Paper (DOP): based on the learning process and the organized pilot projects the partners have prepared the POWER2INNO model for empowerment of small and micro companies’ for innovative entrepreneurship, which is described in detail in the DOP, along with the presentation of guidelines for the implementation of the model. The DOP is prepared in a reader-friendly format and as a tool for understanding the implementation principles, in addition to the professional foundation for such practices. The DOP is also the main result of the POWER2INNO project.
The project was in-line with the expected impact of the INNOSUP instrument to increase the number of innovation agencies engaged in peer learning activities and to involve regional agencies in peer learning on all topics relevant for design and delivery of innovation support programmes for SMEs. In relation to this expected impact the POWER2INNO has contributed to the involvement of three different agencies in peer learning activities, dealing with empowerment of small and micro companies’ for innovative entrepreneurship. In addition, other innovation agencies will benefit from the gathered knowledge, by gaining access to the Design Options Paper, prepared by the POWER2INNO project.

Within the POWER2INNO project the three innovation agencies have been engaged in mapping of partners' competences and gaps and in peer learning activities, the learning process by exchange of knowledge and good practices visits and have organized and implemented different pilot projects. Based on these activities the POWER2INNO partners have prepared a model for empowerment of small and micro companies for innovative entrepreneurship, which will be publicly available, thus allowing other innovation agencies to benefit from the POWER2INNO learning practices. The three partners, involved in the POWER2INNO project themselves have benefited from this experiences: they have gained new knowledge and experience, specifically related to the traditionally oriented small and micro companies. All three POWER2INNO partners have upgraded their programmes by adopting additional activities: RDA Green Karst with individual consulting on financial awareness and workshops on specific entrepreneurial knowledge and competences; Tecnopolis PST and BIC Euronova with additional activities (workshops, consultancy) on the subject of crowdfunding.

Thus, indirect impact of the POWER2INNO project is present in the European community of innovation support agencies, offering comprehensive model for working with the specific characteristics of small and micro companies, consequently contributing also to the enhancement of innovation capacities of those EU small and micro companies who have been lagging behind because of these characteristics.
The partners of POWER2INNO visiting the Andalusia Lab, one of the identified best practices