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Enhancing the innovation management capacity of Finnish SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in 2020-21

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FINKAMIE2021 (Enhancing the innovation management capacity of Finnish SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in 2020-21)

Período documentado: 2020-01-01 hasta 2021-12-31

Lack of innovation management capacity is recognised as an important barrier to creating economic impact (competitiveness, growth and jobs) from innovation activities in SMEs. Sustainable economic renewal requires not just research and development but also commercialisation and successful economic exploitation. This is crucial for the growth and welfare in European societies, also socially.

The general objective of the project is to achieve overall long term capacity building in (Finnish) SME’s, particularly to make the innovation system in the companies more efficient and effective and to increase and accelerate the economic returns from innovation in the SMEs.

The first specific objective was the identification of bottlenecks to the creation of economic impact and address these bottlenecks with the help of capable coaches (WP1). The target group of this objective are companies benefiting from grants by Horizon 2020's EIC Accelerator/SME Instrument, FET Open and Fast Track to Innovation (FTI). The beneficiaries in SME Instrument Phase 1 has up to 3 and in EIC Accelerator/Phase 2 up to 12 coaching days. Consortia in FET Open and FTI has up to 12 coaching days.

The second specific objective was to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of innovation processes and to improve innovation management capacity in small and medium sized enterprises (WP2). The target group are SMEs with significant innovation activities, growth orientation and commitment to development.

The overall objective is to serve 96 SMEs in total during the years 2020-21.
The project included two different service packages for two different target groups:
WP1) KAM (Key Account Management) for EIC Accelerator / SME Instrument, FET Open and Fast Track to Innovation beneficiaries
WP2) EIMC (Enhancing innovation management capacity of SME’s) for SMEs having significant innovation activities and a high potential for international growth

The KAM services included in the first meeting a presentation of the coaching principles as well as needs and gaps analysis (done by smE-MPOWER assessment tool). This was followed by listing potential coaches, support for the coach selection and coaching plan preparation and facilitating coach-SME-EASME interaction. The service package included approximately 3 days in Phase 1 and 4,5 days in EIC Accelerator / Phase 2. The company specific actions depended on the companies' needs and schedule. The most common topics for coaching related to market entry, organisational development and fundraising, but the approach has been holistic and usually on strategic level. Mainly the results and feedback from the completed coaching activities have been positive and the benefits have included improved strategy, new business contacts and better operational practices. The clients have benefited in receiving external expertise which is quite challenging to find by other means.

The KAM service was provided by Turku Science Park Ltd. The KAM service was performed to 19 SME Instrument Phase 1, 34 EIC Accelerator or SME Instrument, 2 FET Open beneficiaries and 1 FTI beneficiary, 56 SMEs altogether. The KAM process was completed for 47 companies and 9 companies continued with coaching agreement still ongoing or not reported at the end of 2021.

EIMC service was provided only by Turku Science Park for 4 companies. The service included assessment of the SME innovation management capacity by using IMP3rove Innovation Management Assessment. The next step of the service was creating an action plan based on the assessment and finally implementation of actions to tackle the innovation gaps found in the assessments. The main actions done during the development phase were development in business model and strategy, innovation management and widening customer base. In EIMC service the average number of days used per case is about 5.

From March 2021, after EASME's circular note, Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce and Turku Science Park also provided services for Finnish EIC Accelerator Seal of Excellence holders. There were altogether 19 companies served, mainly for finding other possible funding sources for their project and business.

Business Finland did not provide KAM or EIMC services but acted as a formal coordinator of the project. Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce started to build capacity in order to start to offer EIMC services, but they did not provide the service.

Covid-19 has caused remarkable challenges for EIMC services. Most companies are struggling with the acute crises, and not investing in long-term development. Also restrictions for meeting new customers etc. was a problem. For Turku Science Park, WP1 has been a priority to serve all clients entitled to KAM services, and due to it and other organisational reasons there were not resources to provide more EIMC services.
The project has supported 79 SMEs overall, 56 KAM, 4 EIMC and 19 SoE clients. The service process is completed in 47 KAM, 4 EIMC and 19 SoE cases. In addition to KAM, EIMC and SoE services, COSME activities have provided or at least introduced for these client groups. Per implementation strategy, clients were signposted to another EEN advisor or services were provided by the KAM/EIMC/SoE service provider, depending on the case and SME's needs. The is a clear synergy between H2020 and COSME activities when these target groups can benefit from both activities. Among others, COSME activities provided for these target groups were partnering activities, advising in internationalisation and market entry preparation and advising in funding opportunities.

Expected impact of the service provided is remarkable, but challenging to measure. In short-term, according to feedback from the clients, the impact includes improvements and development in business processes. In long-term impacts it is expected to reach revenue growth, profit increase, tax incomes and new jobs. It is expected that the companies served in the project will create at least hundreds, believable thousands of new jobs in the next few years. In addition to these direct impacts there are expected multiplier impacts for society including more new jobs. The big majority of clients in this project represent environmentally friendly technologies, enhancement in human well-being or other societal implications. This means that the project has not only economic but also other positive impacts.