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Design-driven Open Innovation Challenge for 200 SMEs

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - 200SMEchallenge (Design-driven Open Innovation Challenge for 200 SMEs)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-10-31

The scope of 200SMEchallenge is to allow seven public Innovation Agencies across Europe to set up, execute and evaluate the impact of the UX Challenge SME innovation support scheme. The UX Challenge aims at supporting SMEs in designing digital products and services more in line with customers’ needs and with an increased user experience by adopting the Design Spring method.

In particular, project 200SMEchallenge has the following five specific objectives: 1) to provide practical training to seven partnering innovation agencies on how to set up and deliver the UX Challenge; 2) to set up and execute the UX Challenge in seven EU Countries; 3) to involve in the Challenge 200 SMEs as “challenge owners”, allowing them to innovate the user experience of their digital products and services with external solvers and experts; 4) to frame the participation of SMEs to the UX Challenge as the treatment of a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) study aiming at measuring and evaluating the actual impact of the UX Challenge in SMEs; 5) to deliver a practical and visual guide for Innovation Agencies in Europe to learn how to design, set up and run the UX Challenge in their own territories.
The initial six months of the workplan were focussed to build capacity within the consortium to set up and deploy the UX Challenge. After that, each partner started to set up the Challenge, which included the following tasks: setting out partnerships with local stakeholders (e.g. universities, industry representative associations), inviting potential participants (SMEs, university students, professionals acting as mentors to the teams) to apply to the initiative.

As a result, 190 SMEs were selected to participate in the project across the seven Countries. According to the RCT plan, 60 companies were randomly selected to take part in the UX Challenge, as beneficiaries - while the remaining 130 SMEs (a statistically equivalent group) would take part in a control group. Both groups would fill in a Baseline Survey – BS (before the treatment, during the application phase) and a Follow up Survey - FuS (after the treatment). Goal of the RCT was to observe significant increases in a number of chosen outcome and impact metrics in the treated SMEs. The RCT was coordination by FBK IRVAPP – the Centre for Valuative Research on Public Policies of Fondazione Bruno Kessler, based in Trento (IT).

All partners executed the UX Challenge in 7 Countries across Europe between February and April 2021. The initiatives took place mostly online, remotely, in order to cope with the COVID-19 restrictions. Thanks to that, 60 European SMEs could improve and innovate the user experience of 60 digital products and services, sourcing new mockups, wireframes and interactive prototypes for renewed versions of human computer interfaces developed by the teams of solvers using professional design and prototyping software.

The results of the RCT as well as the lessons learned by partners during the implementation of the pilot were presented and discussed in a workshop that involved other fourteen external stakeholders, which build the ground for dissemination, future exploitation and scale up of the piloted scheme. A final conference facilitated by a professional anchor was organized (remotely).
Results from the 200SMEchallenge RCT study collected sound evidence that the UX Challenge can accelerate user-centered innovation in SMEs. First of all, as with regards of the companies’ satisfaction, the average satisfaction score with the UX Challenge is 7.8/10 and 93% of the companies would like to participate in another edition of the Challenge. As with regards to the impacts, the UX Challenge proved to increase by 19% the knowledge of the Design Sprint and its five phases in the treated companies, and a 12% increase in their know-how to implement the Design Sprint.

The UX Challenge proved to be a feasible and effective instrument to help SMEs adopting new and effective product development (NPD) methodologies capable of increasing the value of digital products and services. These outcomes are bound to bring about significant impacts on the benefiting companies in terms of product quality, future competitiveness and new high-level jobs created.

Besides that, project 200SMEchallenge demonstrated that it is possible for public Innovation Agencies to team up with other partners more experienced in innovation management and open innovation processes, to build capacity to set up and effectively run and validate new SME support schemes based on the Open Innovation paradigm in a relative short time frame (1 year). This is bound to have a in impact on the capability of European Innovation Agencies to devise, experiment and streamline more effective SME innovation support policies (especially those fostering Open Innovation) – with a consequent impact on SME innovation capacity and competitiveness.
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UX Challenge logo (with the 7 involved territories)