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Peer Learning for Innovation Management in SMEs

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Peer 4 Inno Manage (Peer Learning for Innovation Management in SMEs)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30

The objective of our peer learning has been to look for renewed insights on how to better deliver Innovation Management services to SMEs. Each one of the partners involved has organised a study visit to its venue to share with the project partners the approaches it uses to deliver services to enhance the innovation management capacities of SMEs. The study visits have included visits to several company clients to gain first hand experience from the SME management team of their understanding of innovation management and the impact of our services on their business. A key selection criterion for the project partners was their use of different diagnostic tools for assessingSME innovation management capacities. We have been able to explore the following tools: IMP3rove Assessment Tool, Innov'scan tool, GROWTHmapper Tool and the GrowthWheel Tool.
The project deliverable is a document with two key parts. Part one focuses on the changing nature of innovation, why should we support innovation, how innovation support policies have evolved over time and highlights the importance of managing innovation to enable business growth.
Part two is a description of the customer client journey with insights from each of the partners that opffers guidance to other innovation agencies wishing to launch a similar service or enhance an existing service by learning from experienced practitioners. In the document annexes we have included a brief description of the four different assessment tools.
Our model of the service to enhance innovation management capacities is based upon pre-selecting SMEs, undertaking a diagnosis of their needs which lead to a tailor made action plan, defined by a senior innovation expert. The skills and expertise of the advisor are key to gaining confidence with the management team and getting them actively involved in the implementing the action plan. This could include elements such as defining an innovation strategy, enhancing leadership, building on business intelligence, promoting external collaborations, establishing governance and innovation processes and managing IPR. In addition, the innovation advisor needs to have a deep knowledge of the Innovation Ecosystem, including programs and support services offered to SMEs, to be able to open doors and provide useful connections for the SME, whatever the diagnosis tool used.
We recommend that the questions asked during the diagnosis of the business and the subsequent discussions are key to building an effective action plan for the SME. One of our main findings is that the diagnostic tool used for the assessment of the company client has to be flexible enough to be effectively applied to a wide range of companies (size, age, sector etc.) and to be applicable to both young innovative businesses as well as more established businesses that are looking to increase their levels of innovation.
Another finding is that Management innovation standards and services are not yet known from SMEs. Therefore, despite all the benefits found in this project, there are no spontaneous / explicit demands from SMEs. It means that the approach and the service process requires incentives to be accessible to SMEs as well as a significant commercial/marketing effort which needs to be considered and taken into account in the different support schemes proposed, while preserving the independence / neutrality vs. funding bodies.
During the twelve months of the action we have organised 4 study visits. The first one on September 2016 to Oxford Innovation Services Ltd, the second on October to Vaeksthus, the third on December to the Chamber of Commerce of Bourgogne and a last one on March to IVACE. At every meeting we have had an introduction to the organisation we where visiting and a presentation on how each one of us was delivering services to enhance innovation management capacities of SMEs. Besides we have also met several company clients that have been beneficiaries of our services (Perspectum Diagnostics in Oxford, Nextis in Dijon and Colchones Delax in Valencia). We have also taken advantage of our study visits to meet different people delivering services to enhance innovation at SMEs (access to finance, internationalization, growth by leadership, IP management, Standards accomplishment).
In between each meeting we have worked in parallel to develop a common deliverable that could gather different insights gained through our experience on the ground. Our final goal has been to deliver a guide that could help other agencies launching or improving a service to enhance innovation management capacity in SMEs.
Although we are very different institutions, being all members of the Enterprise Europe Network has given us a common language to work on innovation issues that has facilitated working together and meeting the target.
"As explained in our Design Option Paper, the single deliverable of the project, we agree that the service described to enhance innovation management is actually a service that implies a shift on the design of traditional SME policies. In that sense we consider that the implementation of this service as a customized service completely adapted to the company particular needs, revising the SMEs strategy and introducing innovation as a driver to growth, can make a leap on the economic impact of SMEs.
The service could be seen as an ""entry service"" to all further support available in the Innovation Ecosystem. Nevertheless to put in place such service may imply also a redefinition of the strategy, organisation and skills at many European Innovation Agencies."
Study visit IVACE
Study visit OXINN