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Feedback for Small Companies and Firsttimers (FeedS First)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FeedS First (Feedback for Small Companies and Firsttimers (FeedS First))

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

SMEs are the backbone of the European economy and innovation is key to maximising their productivity and viability in the long term. As an innovation agency, the FFG provides funding to SMEs to undertake innovation activities in their firms, however currently the SMEs do not receive any information on how their innovation projects could be improved. FeedsFirst is thus using experimental, evidence-based approaches to investigate the efficacy of feedback to SMEs' innovation projects on innovation activities in SMEs. By using experimental approaches, in this case a randomised controlled trial, we are able to gather robust evidence on the actual effectiveness the feedback is on fostering firms' innovation activities, that can later be shared with other innovation agencies or actors in the innovation space. Moreover, this Action is also leveraging dormant data of project evaluations to generate unique and meaningful feedback with minimal use of resources, which increases the impact thefedback could have in other organizations, if proven to be successful.
The work performed in the first reporting period encompasses the finalisation and implementation of the RCT, which will run over the course of approximately one year. The Action began with an intensive design finalisation phase with scientific partners at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and RCT consultants from Innovation Growth Lab by Nesta, in which the research design was finalised and translated into an actionable plan. In short, the final research design is a randomized, double-blind, two-arm trial testing the impact of a relative ranking score in addition to feedback on project application on improving project outcomes, future projects, and sustainability aspects in research and innovation projects funded under FFG’s funding program General Programmes (Basisprogramm). The sample comprised firms receiving funding from General Programmes, specifically SMEs and first time applicants, who are randomized into either the control group or the treatment group. The intervention, which only the treatment group receives, consisted of the firm’s relative ranking score for each of the 4 categories in the feedback. A relative ranking score ranked the respective firm’s performance in a specific category among all the firms in their sample. The control group received the same feedback sheet, only without the relative ranking scores. The trial has been designed to take place over the course of one year, admitting firms into the sample in line with the funding decisions for the General Programme, thus our trial has a unique “trickle sample”. The main outcomes being measured are the impact of the intervention on success of project implementation which is evaluated by the project evaluators at project end.

The RCT is currently running and about halfway through. There are not yet preliminary results available from the RCT.
Whereas, it cannot be said if the measures being tested will definitely have positive impacts on innovative capacities of SMEs, the RCT will provide evidence of the efficacy of those support measures on fostering innovation in SMEs. These evidence-based results can be used to inform innovation policy and potential policy instruments on an organizational, national, and international level - which means both promoting a new policy based on positive results and not rolling out a policy based on negative results. Either way, it ensures that the future support measures offered from public innovation agencies are both a good use of public money as well as only positively impact SMEs.
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