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EEN Innovation Support Services for SMEs in North West Italy

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ALPS INN3 (EEN Innovation Support Services for SMEs in North West Italy)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

The project, whose geographical coverage is North-West Italy (3 regions : Piemonte Liguria and Valle d’Aosta) aimed at implementing a specific framework service for supporting SMEs in the innovation management capacity . The service was delivered through provision of 42 packages directed to SMEs with international growth potential via product, process service and/or business model innovation- with focus on innovation management.
The action focused on:
a) deep understanding of local business innovation support needs: mapping and understanding the context within which the service was offered;
b) value creation for the SMEs;
c) EEN innovation services positioning within the regional innovation ecosystem;
d) EEN Advisory skill enhancement: ALPS EEN personnel, assisting the experts in this Action, has further increased expertise and competences, providing high level advisory on innovation management;
e) fostering measurable impact of assisted SMEs both at local and international level;
Two main specific groups of SMEs were targeted: 1) Beneficiaries of the SME Instrument (Phase 1 and Phase 2) and FTI/FET-open schemes 2) SMEs with significant innovation activities and a high potential for internationalisation.
Two specific sets of services were provided:
A) Key Account Manager – KAM. An extremely tailored assistance was provided ensuring that SME Instrument/FTI beneficiaries were supported to underscore the successful and profitable exploitation of their innovation project (including benefiting from SME instrument coaching scheme). Target beneficiaries: SME awarded under SME Instrument/FTI/FETopen schemes
B) Innovation Enhancement Advisory- EIMC. EEN innovation support segmented into three tiers. Tier 1 and 2 streamlined by awareness activities and an intake check. Tier 3 services based on Improve assessment. Tier 1 and Tier 2 were dealt by EEN COSME services: from awareness raising to tailored innovation specialised services for international R&D and technology cooperation, as well as project funding; Tier 3 services were dealt within the reported action and were useful to get back to EEN activities with a stronger background on clients effective needs. Target beneficiaries: high growth potential SMEs.
The services proposed were based on EEN shared guidelines, manuals, trainings as well as participation in consortium, national an EU Working Groups.
The basic principles in the business innovation service support & coaching mission was to empower SMEs in their efforts towards successful implementation and subsequent commercialisation of their innovation. Thus a combination of EEN soft skills, common assessment tools (namely IMP3ROVE), together with Coaching schemes funded by EU, ensured targeted SMEs to achieve significant results and impact.
Senior EEN experts were appointed as Innovation Experts (mainly EEN staff providing KAM /EIMC services), their main tasks were: implementing an Innovation Intake Check/Needs Analysis dedicated to potential candidates recruited through dedicated promotion activities or merging activities/services related to digitization and acceleration and assessed upon specific criteria such as “strategic and international aspirations, opportunities to grow and capacity to innovate” (for both Type KAM &EIMC activities).
A set of well-identified and committed companies was crucial to ensure the proper completion of the action.
As far as KAM target clients, their identification was possible only after the projects’ evaluations related to the cut off dates in the relevant 12 months period. After having received communication from EC related to the awarded SMEs, a specific client attribution was made by the coordinator to ensure smooth workflow and proper KAM activities.
For KAM activities specific work performed was:
• helping beneficiaries identify and source coaches, evaluating coaching service and capture the benefit to the company, identifying next steps to help the SME on its growth path;
• linking the SME to additional EEN support services available regionally or nationally;
• accompanying SMEs successfully through the Phases of the SME Instrument project and possibly succeed in subsequent phases submission.
For EIMC activities specific work performed was:
• carrying out innovation management capacity assessments using IMP3ROVE methodology during one or more face-to-face meetings with the company; analysing the assessment results and propose a jointly agreed action plan;
• delivering targeted and tailored support according to the action plan, empowering clients to undertake better innovation management and guide to growth;
• providing direct specific support (if available within partner or Host organisation know how) or signpost to specific external expertise in commercial sector, networking, change management or project management.
The project was concluded with 52 started packages started among which 42 were regularly concluded.
Totally, 6 ASOs were achieved thanks to ALPS INN3 activities and 1 more has already been registered in 2020, 1 PA research has been registered and another 5 could be incoming in 2020. These results show an important impact on EEN performance. Furthermore, there was a significant impact at national level which might hopefully lead in the future to a wider impact at international level.
EIMC services definitely represent the starting point of the client Journey. They lead to a better focus EEN offer and design new support actions aimed at enhancing SME growth. KAM services on the other side sometimes represent one of the arrival points of the client journey as in-depth assistance offered through EEN and EIMC package led to successful SME Instrument proposals. KAM services represented then the base for other specific support actions such as access to other EU funds, venture capital funds, access to markets, to talents and infrastructures.
The potential impact measured on clients might be summarised in the following main business impetus:
• international growth and partnership fine tuning;
• innovation capacity enhancement and innovation projects implementation;
• practical application of a EU shared support and well recognised methodology for innovation management support;
• profitably supporting local SMEs access to well identified Coach/EEN experts community at EU level;
• access to finance (Venture capital funds or H2020 funds);
• access to talents.
Strong synergies/signposting with COSME activities were constantly sought (E.g. preparatory work for KAM services for phase 1 and phase 2 of the SME I, identification of funding opportunities for SMEs applicants who received the Seal of Excellence when known, identification of EIMC clients in COSME activities or other connected activities, further support of EIMC clients under COSME). Full client journey service provision matching COSME, h2020 and possibly other EU support proved to be effective and further enhanced ALPS EEN service portfolio. A high-end result is ALPS EEN achieving strong accountability towards host organisations, local regional and national business community. Main features recognised are professional and quality service design & delivery, deep knowledge of clients, wide international expertise outreach and direct link with EU institutions. This would not have been created otherwise by host organisations or other stakeholders alone. This Network added value is perceived as directly linked to EU.