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Services to enhance innovation management capacities of SMEs in England, Northern Ireland and Wales

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENIW (Services to enhance innovation management capacities of SMEs in England, Northern Ireland and Wales)

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

The action is split into two types of activity:

• The first was to provide assistance (KAM) to businesses that have been successful in their applications for funding under the H2020 SME Instrument (SMEI)/EIC Pilot. Through a needs analysis mechanism, examining where they needed support to gain maximum value from the grant, providing guidance in sourcing and selecting coaches for that purpose and also to access finance, to ensure these companies have maximum support to achieve their global scaling potential. Additionally, moderating the coach-client relationship, facilitating integration and access to of the broader EEN offer for this purpose and accompanying the beneficiary through the SMEI project.

• The second action was to identify and provide in-depth support to innovative small and medium sized businesses (EMIC) that had the potential to benefit from European funding support and were capable of growth and successful internationalisation but were at the stage where their innovation and growth processes and procedures lack the efficiency and incision to maximise their ideas. The objective of the service was to make the innovation system and practice (as defined by the PD CEN/TS 16555 standard, now replaced by ISO 56000) in the company more efficient and effective. Producing more companies capable of sustainable effective commercialisation practice and thus able to harness opportunities to internationalise and scale their business.

We also segmented these groups to identify the companies with the most potential to scale, providing them with an allied Scale-Up offer. Overall we look to utilise our international connectivity, innovation expertise and access to finance and investment capability across all consortium services to facilitate client business growth.

The partners participating in the action continued to utilise a ‘virement model’ whereupon at the point of a six month review the Consortium Management Group will reserve the option to vire up to 20% of the next 6 months forecasted allocation of budget and outputs to other partners, to more effectively respond to demand.
1. To deliver KAM services to SME Instrument/ EIC Pilot & Accelertor beneficiaries, to facilitate the coaching selection and commissioning process and to provide connectivity for the clients and coaches into the wider innovation ecosystem, including EASME Business Acceleration Services, consisting of:

• Explaining and selling the benefits of the SMEI/EIC Pilot & Accelerator coaching service to the beneficiaries (prior to the coaching element being made mandatory).
• Engaging with the beneficiary’s management team in an assessment of the strategic and operational circumstances of the business
• To undertake a needs analysis to identify gaps and needs in order to facilitate the selection and commissioning of an appropriate coach from the central database.
• Facilitating the SME coach relationship. The KAM ensured effective teamwork and co-operation between the SME, the coach and external support measures.
• Providing an impartial sounding board to check client satisfaction throughout the process
• Integration with the Core EEN offer, including providing the SMEI beneficiaries with support to access finance and specialist support to scale their business via the Scale Up Pilot and/or Business Acceleration Services, plus connectivity with the wider innovation and growth ecosystem; regionally, nationally and internationally
• Facilitating the continuous learning amongst the SME/ Coaching / KAM community and adherence to the EASME Case Tracker process and timescales, alongside consortium systems

2. To identify promising ambitious innovative companies in England, Northern Ireland & Wales with potential for growth via product, process, service or business model innovation, who can benefit from support in developing their innovation management systems; which in turn will help them grow, scale and internationalise and provide a return in terms of jobs, growth and European impact in the medium term. Principle tasks involved:

• Identification and assessment the suitability of SMEs England, Northern Ireland & Wales in order to ensure the support is offered to SMEs with the best chances of success.
• Carrying out innovation management capacity assessments using assessment methodologies, IMP3rove benchmarking processes and other task specific tools
• Providing a foundation for sustainable innovation management and effective commercialisation in the client company
• Interpreting the initial assessment results, and development of an action plan addressing their main innovation management bottle-necks
• Orchestration and delivery of targeted and tailored support shaped to fit the client, according to the action plan; including in-depth benchmarking utilising the IMP3rove toolbox and offers from the wider ecosystem to empower the SME to achieve better innovation management
• At close of project to review the impact of the programme with the client and to provide a final report.

The EEN ENIW consortium deliberately adopted a consistent hub and spoke approach to the identification and management of candidate SMEs, utilising Consortium agreed processes supported by the Case Tracker methodology and for EIMC our Case file and Quality Panel approach all of which are monitored via our Quarterly Management and Insight Monitoring review, which are conducted with each partner. Our aim is always to drive impact led distribution and delivery of services and continuous development, plus ensuring the use of consistent tools and methodology to evaluate/screen SMEs for their level of potential for innovation and internationalisation and to measure impact.
The trend noted in SGA4 PR of significantly fewer KAM cases carried on as EU EXIT was finally enacted at the end of 2020, which has been counterbalanced by the massively increased need for support during COVID, which has seen a larger than expected uptake of EIMC. During the period we have closed 21 KAM and 725 EIMC cases. Overall we mentored 815 clients in SGA4 against a target of 946 (86%), which we regard as an excellent performance given the disruption caused by both EU EXIT to KAM services and the COVID pandemic to all services and the resulting force majeure situation.

Impact data gathered to date during 2020/21 in summary stands at £39M in funding and finance raised, 782 new jobs created and 1385 safeguarded. Overall the percentages of clients reporting positively has fallen slightly compared with the optimism of the SGA3 final report as businesses hunkered down to weather the crisis in 2020, which only started to ease through 2021.