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Enhancing the innovation management capacity of Finnish SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in 2017-2018

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FINKAMIE2018 (Enhancing the innovation management capacity of Finnish SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in 2017-2018)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

Lack of innovation management capacity is recognised as an important barrier to creating economic impact (competitiveness, growth and jobs) from innovation activities in SMEs. Sustainable economic renewal requires not just research and development but also commercialisation and successful economic exploitation. This is crucial for growth and welfare in European societies, also socially.

The general objective of the project was to achieve overall long term capacity building in (Finnish) SME’s, particularly to make the innovation system in the companies more efficient and effective and to increase and accelerate the economic returns from innovation in the SMEs.

The first specific objective was the identification of bottlenecks to the creation of economic impact and address these bottlenecks with the help of capable coaches. The target group of this objective was companies benefitting from grants by Horizon 2020's SME Instrument. During the project also beneficiaries in FET Open and Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) was added to the target group. The beneficiaries in SME Instrument Phase 1 had up to 3 and in Phase 2 up to 12 coaching days. Consortiums in FET Open and FTI had up to 12 coaching days.

The second specific objective was to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of innovation processes and to improve innovation management capacity in small and medium sized enterprises. The target group were SMEs with significant innovation activities, growth orientation and commitment to development.

Both objectives were contributed in the project and in total 106 SME's were served in the project during 2017-2018. Great majority of these target companies started to improve their performance as a result of the actions.
The project included two different service packages for two different target groups:
1) KAM (Key Account Management) for SME Instrument, FET Open and Fast Track to Innovation beneficiaries
2) EIMC (Enhancing innovation management capacity of SME’s) for SMEs having significant innovation activities and a high potential for international growth

The KAM services included in the first meeting a presentation of the coaching priciples as well as needs and gaps analysis (done by smE-MPOWER assessment tool). This was followed by listing potential coaches, support for the coach selection and coaching plan preparation and facilitating coach-SME-EASME interaction. The service package included approximately 2,5 days in Phase 1 and 4,5 days in Phase 2. The company specified actions depended on the companies' needs and schedule. The most common topics for coaching related to market entry, organisational development and finance, but the approach has been holistic. Mainly the results and feedbacks from the completed coaching activities have been positive and the benefits have included improved strategy, contacts and better operational practices. The clients have benefitted in receiving external expertise which is quite challenging to find by other means.

The KAM service was provided by Turku Science Park Ltd. The KAM service was performed to all Finnish SME Instrument beneficiaries and one FTI beneficiary, 106 SMEs altogether. The KAM process was completed all coaching days reported with 37 companies.

The EIMC service included assessment of the SME innovation management capacity by using the IMP3rove assessment tool, IMP3rove Digital Quotient or smE-MPOWER. The next step of the service was creating an action plan based on the assessment and finally implementation of actions to tackle the innovation gaps found in the assessments. The actions done during the development phase were directed to various issues like business and innovation strategy, digitalisation of business activities, internationalisation, r&d process development, market and customer need understanding and finances. In EIMC service the average number of days used per case was 6.

The EIMC service was performed by Finpro to 59 and by Turku Science Park to 1 Finnish SMEs. From altogether 60 companies served 53 cases were completed until end of 2018.
The project has supported 166 SMEs overall. The service process is completed in 90 cases and it continues with the remaining ones. In addition to KAM and EIMC services, COSME activities have provided or at least introduced for these client groups. Per implementation strategy, clients were signposted to another EEN advisor or services were provided by the KAM/EIMC service provider, depeding on the case and SME's needs. The is a clear synergy between H2020 and COSME activities when these target groups can benefit from both activities. Among others, COSME activities provided for these target groups were partnering activities, advising in internationalisation and market entry preparation and advising in funding opportunities.

Expected impact of the services provided is remarkable but challenging to measure. In short term the impact includes improvements and development in business processes among companies in the project. In long term impacts show as revenue growth, profit increase, tax incomes and new jobs. It is expected that the companies served in the project will create at least hundreds, believable thousands of new jobs in the next few years. In addition to these direct impacts there are expected multiplier impacts for society including more new jobs. The big majority of clients in this project represent environmentally friendly technologies, enhancement in human well-being or other societal implications. This means that the project has not only economic but also other positive impacts.