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“Swiss EEN Innovation Support actions for SMEs” in the frame of the European Innovation Council programme 2020-2021.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SwissEENissme3.0 (“Swiss EEN Innovation Support actions for SMEs” in the frame of the European Innovation Council programme 2020-2021.)

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

The SwissEENissme3.0 project addresses two objectives.
The first objective is to ensure that Swiss SMEs winners of the EIC programs (pathfinder, accelerator and other instruments eligible for coaching days) in 2020 can continue to benefit from a competent advice and accompaniment along their innovation projects. Key Account Management in the frame of the European Innovation Council has the final goal of helping SMEs finding the best coach to bring their innovation to market, and to increase the impact of innovative ideas and projects funded via the programs listed above.
Indeed, research has shown that funding alone is not enough for all innovative SMEs to be able to exploit completely the commercial potential of their ideas and innovation projects. The role of the KAM in these cases is then, first, to help the company in understanding the goal of the business coaching days; then, to identify the company needs in terms of support and to suggest the best possible coach to help the company to address these needs.
During the coaching days, the KAM assumes the function of an impartial referee that could help moderating the relationship between company and coach; and at the end of each KAM project, the tasks include feedback collection and followup to understand best practices and successful post-project actions, including for example signposting to Enterprise Europe Network services or to other stakeholders when relevant.

The second objective of the SwissEENissme3.0 project is to offer, to carefully selected Swiss SMEs with high innovation potential, more targeted and in-depth innovation support service packages: the Enhancement of Innovation Management Capacities (EIMC) packages. Via these services, the innovation management capacity of clients should increase, potentially helping the generation of additional innovative ideas and in parallel the successful translation of innovative ideas into commercial products.
Particular care has to be taken in the choice of the clients for this type of activity. SMEs to which the EIMC services are delivered need to have a high innovation to market potential which is not (yet) completely exploited; they need to have potential or at least plans towards an international dimension; they need to be open to discuss and rework their innovation strategy.
It is also very important to have a complete catalogue of services and workshops available to be offered to EIMC customers via the action plan. Specific actions to ensure a full catalogue using existing instruments or newly developed services are detailed in the next paragraphs.
The year 2020 was peculiar for everyone. The influence of the COVID-situation on the work of the KAMs lead to an adaptation of the processes, the delays and the results. As most of the coaches identified, in general, during KAM cases, are foreign coaches, the reduction of possibility of travels had a direct influence on delays on the starting of the coaching services (a live contact was considered as very important or even essential for some companies) and, sometimes, on the start (or not) of the coaching service at all.
The changes in the Horizon 2020 program also had a very important impact on the KAM activities of the Swiss consortium. In particular, the disappearance of the SME instrument phase 1 program caused a drastic reduction of Swiss winners in total, as Swiss companies were in the past especially successful in the frame of this first phase. Phase 2 winners remained at a level comparable to the past and represented the XX cases served by Swiss KAMs in 2020.

KAM services were delivered for the fourth year in a row and the team is by now quite familiar with them. The satisfaction of the clients served is a clear indication that the service is very well appreciated and shows good synergies with the activities of the EEN consortium (matchmaking) and of Innosuisse, the Swiss EEN coordinator organisation.

The EIMC services were also delayed and slowed down because of the COVID-situation. In particular, most of the Swiss companies that could have been interested in receiving an EIMC package, were in 2020 not able to invest the time required to collaborate with our EEN advisors and have good and relevant results.
Some good progress was made in the dissemination and communication about the EIMC method and goals to our regional and local partners. In two cantons, the regional authorities were quite interested in starting a discussion with the Swiss EEN consortium and start to understand how they might integrate EIMC-similar capabilities within their staff and their service portfolio. In view of the goal of better collaboration with regional partners, and in view of the stopping of the project at the end of 2021, the Swiss EEN consortium sees this start of a collaboration as a wonderful side result.

In 2021, Switzerland was not associated to the Horizon Europe program and in any case the KAM service was discontinued. As such we received no additional KAM cases. The focus of the team was on closing as many cases as possible to the satisfaction of the clients; the services provided included signposting the best KAM clients to follow-up opportunities at national (Innosuisse, Regional innovation support) and international (Eurostars, collaborative Horizon 2020 projects) levels; receiving feedbacks from closed coaching cases; and classical EEN partnering services.

In 2021, the running EIMC cases were closed with satisfactory results and no new cases were started, as the service will not be delivered from 2022 onwards.

The results of the project are disseminated internally within Innosuisse and within the Swiss regional innovation promotion network; in particular, the coaching scheme with a central KAM and assignments of different relevant business coaches is quite relevant for the Swiss ecosystem. Regional coaching systems are being inspired by the results of this project and introducing currently similar regional coaching programs.
The impact of the project is evident from the customers feedbacks, almost 100% positive for the two years of cases closed (23 new cases and total of 65 cases closed).
Q6 To SME: I was well informed about coaches to be able to choose the appropriate one
Q3 To SME: [name of KAM] helped us to identify relevant business needs
Q13 To SME: Thanks to [Name of Coach], we expect our business innovation project to progress faster