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Enhancing innovation management capacity in Slovenian SMEs by EEN Slovenia

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - We4SMESLO 5 (Enhancing innovation management capacity in Slovenian SMEs by EEN Slovenia)

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

The EC has within its Survey of 2011, carried out on request of DG Enterprise and Industry (DG EI), realized that the main barriers of innovation in the eyes of the SMEs, are lack of financial resources and inability to manage innovation process. Since different understandings of the term "Innovation Management System" (IMS) have been noted the EC has supported European Committee for Standardization to provide the stakeholders with a unified definition of relevant parts in the IMS. According to this definition the most important parts of IMS include company's innovation processes from idea generation to innovation result, but also leadership, management skills and other enabling factors, like the ability to cooperate with third parties like RD partners, clients, and suppliers.
The objective of this project in Slovenia was to enable SMEs to bridge the knowledge gap in innovation management, get aware of shortages and improve their internal innovation management system and/or focus on achieving market value with their inventions. The consortium proposed to achieve these objectives through: 1.) Enhancing the Innovation Management Capacity of SMEs. The beneficiaries received diagnostic of their innovation system based on the SME-Mpower tool. This lead to the formation of tailored action plan to improve the SME’s capacity to better manage innovation.2.) Key Account Managers – Facilitators for the H2020 SME Instrument. Key Account Managers role was to identify and source appropriate lead coaches (from predefined pool of coaches), facilitate linking the SMEs to innovation support services and to support the lead coach in delivering services to the SME. The SME Instrument participants received the most appropriate services and support to enhance the probability of successful exploitation of the innovation project and to leave a footprint for their future sustainable growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect number of delivered cases in a big way. We adapted with provision of services via virtual meetings and other electronic communication.
In the reporting period, 2020-21, project partners supported overall 7 SMEs with KAM services and 76 SMEs with EIMC services. Slovenian SMEs mostly appreciate and understand the value added by the coaches. Impact of the project is in-line with the demanded impact described in the Work programme as a direct impact brings a significantly enhanced growth and profitability of SMEs receiving the services. Furthermore, the KAM and EIMC service partners present services of Enterprise Europe Network to SME Instrument beneficiaries. SMEs were mostly interested in Individual Advisory Support services to support their own strategies and plans for internationalization and build-up of their own networks and client databases; information about reliable contacts in foreign countries, contacts of stakeholders and legislation in specific fields in Slovenia and abroad. Special care was given to invite the beneficiaries to related events being organized by the EEN.
In the project We4SMESLO_5 preparation phase the hardest thing was to predict the correct number of successful Slovenian SMEs applying for SME Instrument projects. The main reason for lower number of KAM services concluded is the lower number of successful SME Instrument applications from Slovenian SMEs.
In the project proposal we envisaged a very lean and flexible management system – knowing that the outcome of the SME instrument is unpredictable – correctly allowing us to effectively distribute KAM services to the specific KAM and also to manage number of KAM cases versus EIMC services after each (SME Instrument) cut-off dates. In this respect we successfully served all SME Instrument beneficiaries coming from Slovenia and used the rest of resources for provision of EMIC services (28 EIMC services provided).
Overall consortium achieved 83 KAM and EIMC services provided.
On the basis of the SME_mPower tool Enterprise Europe Network’s services have been offered to SMEs. Mainly companies expressed interest for inclusion in the Enterprise Europe Network database particularly for international business cooperation, AMT subscriptions, participation at brokerage events and other advice and information support services (i.e. IP support services).
Consortium partners observe that in 2020-21 there was lower interest of Slovenian SMEs in participation to SME instrument/EIC Pilot, which was observed already in previous period. Also the success rate of Slovenian applicants to SME instrument is significantly lower in 2020-21 comparing to the first three years of H2020 implementation. The kick-off of enhanced EIC Pilot in 2019 will not improve the situation, since not many companies in Slovenia are interested or ready for blended financing. Also the implementation of the interview stage to the evaluation process in SMEi Phase 2 /EIC Accelerator had negative effect on success of Slovenian SMEs. We believe this is the case for most new member states, which can be supported by statistical data. We suggest the first phase of the EIC (the Accelerator) is modelled so that it allows broader inclusion of companies that are not IPO ready.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect number of delivered cases in a big way. We adapted with provision of services via virtual meetings and other electronic communication.