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Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMEntorEGE (SMEntorEGE)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-12-31

1. Key account management for SME Instrument beneficiaries: This target group is the SMEs who are the beneficiaries of the SME Instrument, FTI and FET-Open. The SMEs who will be the beneficiaries of the SME Instrument, FTI and FET-Open under Horizon 2020 will be forwarded to us through the related department of EC. SMEntorEGE will aim to provide 7-day service package of Key Account Management services. To realize the full target of the project, we have mainly focused on the proposed services in the region. There was only one EIC beneficiary in the region and (to be continued in 2021) KAM-COACH services were provided under WP 1.

2. Enhancing SMEs’ innovation management capacity: This target group is SMEs who have a high innovation and internationalization potential. The SMEs for this target group will be selected which have developed and submitted at least one innovation project to the Regional and National Turkish Scientific and Technological Council (TUBITAK) or Directorship for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (KOSGEB) for obtaining R&D financial support in the region but have failed or developed a contracted project with universities. So far, 282 companies including their contact details were registered into the database. Although it was proposed to 60 companies, from this database 32 companies were selected for the year 2020, based on their openness for collaboration and willingness to implementation of action plan. The project staff contacted companies and innovation assessment tool was introduced. After this introduction, companies used this tool to define their innovation management capacity and their needs. The companies who used USIMP Innovation Score Chart received innovation chart in different area; Country level, sectorial level, city level and company level. These score carts were provided as soon as companies filled out the tool. Based on innovation score chart, needs and gaps were being defined and an action plan proposed by the project staff. All companies were followed-up to make sure that they implement the action plan. Some companies assigned to external consultant or university researchers to get rid of defined barriers. Each case was closed with a short final report. After 6 months each companies were contacted to find out if they have implemented the action plan and if yes what are the results.

As we have observed formerly, companies are not confident about preparing an EIC proposal due to lack of project management skills, confidences, not awareness of TRL level of their projects, and language barrier. In order to solve these problems, in close collaboration with EEN, virtual meetings were organized with those companies, success stories shared and experience sharing sessions were organized. In addition to this, social media was used to increase awareness and sharing success stories. In addition, we have set up project review meetings with the companies to increase the level of project applications from EIC Accelerator.

In short, despite awareness and assistance in collaboration with EEN one KAM service are provided under WP1, but it is not completed yet. Under WP2, 32 companies implemented innovation enhancing services and this improved innovation management capacity of those SMEs.
Beginning of 2020, the Covıd-19 pandemic has started in Turkey all over the world. It was observed that the companies are more reluctant to be involved in such innovation activities comparing to recent years, thus many of the companies were focused on vital issues and getting rid of economical bottlenecks. Due to lockdown, working at home and flexible working policies, project staff tried to contact companies with online meetings and phone calls. Companies were engaged with the current pandemic related to economical and dismissal problems. So all the companies in the proposed database were contacted but a few of the list have been positive for involving in the project.
Secondly, the number of EIC Accelerator beneficiaries in the covered region also was an issue. In the proposal 10 EIC Accelerator beneficiaries were targeted to receive KAM services, however, only 1 company received this in 2020. Thus, to increase the number of companies applying for EIC accelerator program and receiving support the following actions has been taken;
a) Consortium organized an internal training with EEN staff aiming to join forces in order to involve EEN services further and let the EEN staff examine the EIC accelerator program basics.
b) With very close collaboration with EBIC-Ege consortium, online info days and other programs were organized. In total of 45 companies were reached through those events,

Last but not least, the tension between Turkey and EU has negatively affected companies’ willingness (such as excluding EU Calls) to apply EU-funded projects including EIC Accelerator. But, we always encouraged companies to apply EU calls including EIC Accelerator and assured them that the collaboration between EU and Turkey will never end.
The project has two-fold impact. The first impact is to increase the innovation level of companies by measuring their innovation level and providing services to enhance their management capacity. We are experiencing that the services under the project are helping companies to see their bottleneck and barriers in their innovation system. With the tool used in the project, SMEs are also able to compare their results with their competitors in the same sector, companies in the same region, and all companies who participated in this program. Furthermore, based on the innovation score chart, each company receives a recommendation from experts to enhance their innovation management capacity, get rid of barriers, and new advice for improvements. Furthermore, in the long run, services that have been provided will also help companies to access SMEI funds for their R&D and innovation projects. In brief, the project has a positive impact on improving the innovation management capacity of SMEs. The second impact is on employment in the region. After the services under WP2, companies understood how important is to manage innovation in the company. This first step helps them to see their gaps and needs and let them willing to set up their R&D and Innovation department with experienced staff. Therefore, this service helped companies to make them understood how important innovation for their competition and creating jobs for educated people in the region. Furthermore, the companies who receive financial support from the SME Instrument program are bringing disruptive innovation into the market. Also, a way that accelerates companies’ economic growth, export performance as well as growth in employment.