CORDIS - EU research results

Impact Actions for social innovation agencies

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ImpAct Agencies (Impact Actions for social innovation agencies)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-02-28

Business incubation (BIC) agencies and incubators require constant improvement of their tools and policies to produce sustainable impacts according to the EU goals. The EU-funded ImpAct Agencies project will apply the twinning advanced methodology to create new modular Impact Toolbox. This consortium of four experienced Innovation Agencies from Hungary, Ireland, Italy, and Spain aims to establish a novelty open model for constant development in a community of social innovation agencies. The result will be a Design Option Paper including several service delivery options for innovative frameworks, services, and strategies.

The objective of the project is to improve and enhance the innovation support strategies of regional agencies whose activities and services are addressed to SMEs achieving social impact.
Innovation agencies are in a strategic position to set up and implement open social innovation models. The need to reframe local social challenges through an open social innovation lense is more and more interesting for BICs and incubators aimed at achieving social impact within their business support strategies.

The project combines a set of tools and methodologies to assist BICs and incubators in supporting entrepreneurs and startups to achieve a better social impact within their local community.
Results, key aspects and methodology will be described in a Design Option Paper (DOP) whose focus will be how to design, implement and scale-up local collaborative open social innovation services.
The main activities of the project have been divided in 3 phases:

Analysis: this part of the work has been conducted through surveys, interviews and partner meetings. The analytical phase was useful to define the boundaries of the needs and opportunities for developint open social innovation ecosystems and each partners regional specificities and needs. The Better Entrepreneurship Policy Tool (even though some problems arose in the use of the tool) has given to partners the analytical framework to define a shared self-assessment together with stakeholders.

Training and Testing: this has been the core part of the project. 4 online meetings let partners and invited stakeholder share some experiences and best practices in using tools and methods to establish and support open social innovation ecosystems. 4 topics have been explored:
- Social Economy Canvas
- Social Innovation Incubation
- Social Innovation Ecosystem
- Social Finance for Innovation

Toolbox Design: the experiences shared and gathered during the training and testing have been reviewd and analysed by partners in order to build an Impact Toolbox. The result has been included in the Design Option Paper with annexes to deepen some aspects and other interesting tool to further help other agencies in supporting the growth of open social innovation ecosystems.

The Design Option Paper is the handbook of the project and contains the outline of the four regional contexts involved, with a view to strengthening social innovation, despite their different approaches. The DOP can be a starting point for rethinking regional welfare policies, since it provides a guideline to regional policy makers. Moreover, the DOP promotes the visibility of social innovation and its potential in giving new and more innovative responses to emerging social needs. Beyond ImpAct Agencies project, the results of the DOP will be widespread through regional, national and European networks such as EURADA and EBN (European Business Innovation Network) with the objective of involving other development agencies in peer learning activities on social innovation.

The specific objectives of the document are:
- To analyse the different Regional contexts in terms of support for social innovation and delivering of innovation support to European Social Innovation Ecosystems.
- To explore new topics considered as priorities for the partners:
- Open social innovation ecosystem development with a particular focus on startups, innovation and co-design.
- Business support structure and access to the market: competitiveness of social enterprises.
- Research, innovation and technology: new technologies for improving the quality of life are fundamental aspects of Smart Specialisation Strategies.
- Education and training for social enterprise, skills empowerment and managerial training.
- Social value and social impact: identification of tools to measure social impact and creation of clusters to promote the social value chain.

The Design Option Paper is useful to:
- suggest to Regional governments new approaches that can be included in their innovation support programmes and services.
- disseminate the results of the project and involve other Regional Development Agencies in order to promote innovation and business support to social economy operators.
The paper will be circulated to participants to the survey, to the training and testing phase and to other interested stakeholders. Then it will be disseminated through each partner networks.

Two events out of the project duration have been yet confirmed to further disseminate and exploit project result:
- 25th March Eurada Brokerage event for innovation and development agencies
- 29th April European Social Economy Summit #RoadtoMannheim event series: Maximising partnerships for social impact (in collaboration with EBN and the LIAISE project funded by EaSI)
This project had the objective to connect four different agencies in a mutual learning process on open social innovation models.
By the end of the project, and thanks to the involvement of differente networks and stakholders, we can say the this objective has been fully achieved.
The Design Option Paper is the sum and synthesis of different tools and methodologies developed and used at local level by the agencies to support local social innovation ecosystems. The design of a common Impact Toolbox allowed partners to share information, case studies and possible opportunities during the training and learning part of the project.

Potential impact of the project can be in teh exploitation of the Toolbox within the new 2021-2027 programming period to support open social innovation ecosystem at local level; this is the case for example of opportunities from the new ESF+ programme: social innovation is central, and the development of transnational social innovation activities and projects is foreseen within the direct management part of the EaSI.
Furthermore, in Horizon Europe Pillar III, European Innovation Ecosystem can benefit from this project for what regards implementation of social innovation in local/regional innovation ecosystems.

For what regards socio-economic impact, the Design of different policy options related to the use of open social innovation models at local level can benefit local policies development for social inclusion and territorial cohesion; this will have an indirect impact on beneficiaries of programmes and measures in terms of co-design of social policies, social experimentations and community led local development practices.

Last, through the training and testing part of the project, we've been delivering direct services to 5 among stakeholders and enterprises (in particular 3 startups in contact with an impact investing fund and 2 stakeholders have been involved in the development of their own social economy canvas.
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