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Support Services to Basque SMEs to Enhance Innovation Management Capacities during 2014

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BASQUE_SME (Support Services to Basque SMEs to Enhance Innovation Management Capacities during 2014)

Reporting period: 2014-07-01 to 2014-12-31

The role of SMEs is crucial for the European economic recovery - their number, employment capacity and value added constitute a large share of the European economy. Providing the right conditions in which SMEs can flourish is paramount for ensuring a sustained recovery and achieving prosperity for all EU citizens. Recent studies on SMEs and their contribution to growth have shown that framework conditions within which they operate and the entrepreneurial culture are key factors in determining the extent of SME performance and consequently their contribution to macroeconomic growth. Even in the presence of a strong entrepreneurial culture, however, SMEs would struggle to perform if basic framework conditions were not present. A strategic approach to policy becomes an integral part of a recovery plan and a stimulus to growth. Structural and financial policies combined with an innovation-friendly environment and entrepreneurial culture can provide greater opportunities. As far as innovation is concerned, various studies have shown that the biggest barrier for growth and sustainability that SMEs do encounter right after finding proper financial resources is innovation management.

In the Basque Country we’re very much aware of this scenario. Over the last three decades the Basque Government and the Regional Development Agency (SPRI) have considered the participation of local entities in European Programs as one of our strategic priorities. Benefiting from the instruments and structure the European Commission put at the disposal of SMEs is key to ensure international presence and therefore growth.
In light of this, based on the specifications described in the invitation for proposals for the support to the provision of services “Enhancing the innovation management capacities of SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network” in 2014, SPRI and Innobasque, the Basque Node partners participating in this action accepted the challenge of putting forward a pilot action in the region to test advance services in SMEs. Thus, we estimated “service packages” to be performed during the second half of 2014. As it was specified in the proposal, once analysed financial conditions, public policies and objectives and the potential of our industrial tissue, our performance estimation for both kinds of services envisaged under this action has been fulfilled as follows: SPRI has provided 3 “Innovation Management Capacity” services of the 4 services planned in the proposal and 1 KAM service, and Innobasque has provided 2 KAM services.
Despite all of this, we are satisfied with the results of this action carried out in such a short period of time since we’ve facilitated mentoring and coaching services to the right target SMEs, helping them to accelerate their economic returns from innovation. In summary, we have supported them getting closer to the market faster and therefore producing profits earlier. This is the feed-back we’re receiving from them.
In addition, we believe the Basque Node of the Enterprise Europe Network has successfully begun to introduce the Key Account Management Services into the region. We cannot forget that this is a brand new service with its specificities and timing difficulties. If it hadn’t been for this first pilot action in 2014 we wouldn’t have been prepared nor have fixed the mechanisms to deliver a satisfactory service to our SMEs in the future. This is surely going to guarantee a seamless and effective service provision during the 2015.2016 period.
The Basque Country is reaching a positive success in the SME Instrument having, up to now, 11 SME beneficiaries already working on innovation projects funded by this Instrument (April 2015). In 2014, the assigned Key Account Managers (KAMs) from the Basque Country have assisted the 3 first following beneficiaries: Graphenea, S.L. (SPRI) and Biolan Microbiosensores S.L. and Sapa Operaciones S.L. (Innobasque). Following the information, recommendations and preliminary working tools provided by the EASME, the KAMs have been working, with both the directive team and the project team, in the assessment of each SME gaps and needs, and in the identification and the selection of the most appropriate coaches. There is a fourth Basque SME beneficiary, Bioftalmik, that participated in a co-operation project led by the French company Horus Pharma. The KAM informed Bioftalmik about the EEN services.

Regarding the service offered by SPRI related to “Enhancing Innovation Management Capacities” we have started providing the service to 3 of the 4 planned companies: Innoprot, S.L. Syslan IIA and LUMA INDUSTRIAS S.A. Two of them have reached the online IMP3rove Assessment evaluating their Innovation Management in five performance dimensions: Innovation Strategy, Organisation and Culture, Innovation Life Cycle Processes, Enabling factors and Innovation results. Both companies have received the IMP3rove Assessment Report where their strengths and weaknesses in Innovation Management have been identified. The service provided to the third company, LUMA INDUSTRIAS S.A. has been limited to making the first contact meeting in which we have analyzed the main challenges of the company, present the process of the EEN programme “Services Enhancing the Innovation Management Capacity of SMEs”, present the value propositions of IMP³rove and provide them a vision of an ideal outcome of the EEN support. The rest of the service will be provided in the next year.
SPRI contacted and offered the EIMC services to a fourth SME; Grupo TTT, S.A. but due to its load of activity at the end of the year, the work could not be started in the framework of the project. Nevertheless they showed interest and the service will be provide in 2015 in the frame of the project BASKAM.

With all of this in mind, a summary of the work performed during the reporting period is the following:

The KAM services delivered for the 3 first Basque beneficiaries of the SME Instrument-Phase 1, have been carried out following the methodology proposed by the EASME. This work has been carried out following the Tasks described in our proposal:
- Task 1.1: First contact with the 3 beneficiaries of the SME Instrument: after receiving the notification from the EASME, the Coordinator of the Basque EEN KAMs assigned who acted as KAM for each beneficiary. Mrs. Garbiñe Larrauri from Innobasque was assigned as KAM for Biolan Microbiosensores S.L. and Sapa Operaciones S.L. and Dr. Arturo Antón from SPRI was assigned as KAM for Graphenea S.L.
- Task 1.2: Assessment of the SME gaps and needs and identification and selection of the lead coach: the objective of this task was to get a comprehensive analysis of the main barriers, gaps and weaknesses in the innovation cycle of the companies that might hinder the realization of their ambitious innovation projects and of their full commercial potential.
- Task 1.3: Facilitate initial coach-SME interaction to prepare a coaching plan: the 3 beneficiaries of the SME instrument have been receiving support from their respective KAM in facilitating the interaction between them and the selected coach.
- Task 1.4: Close case and initiate next steps

The EIMC services provided to the 3 first Basque companies have been carried out following the methodology suggested by the EASME with the 7-day support packages designed to support innovation management capacities using the IMP3rove tool as a basis for the services. The IMP3rove Academy provided SPRI with access to IMP3rove licence that included an entitlement to up to three training days on the IMP3rove methodology and use of the IMP3rove assessment tools. These trainings for EEN staff members started in October and, Amaia Martínez took part in the training session “Introduction to Innovation Management and the IMP3rove Approach” on November 11-13 in Frankfurt Germany.
The EIMC service provided to companies started after that training session and has been carried out following the tasks described in our proposal and the IMP3rove methodology:
- Task 2.1: Assessment and selection of suitable SMEs for the service at regional level
- Task 2.2: Assessment of the innovation management capacity based on performance
- Task 2.3: Analysis of the SME's gaps and needs and Action Plan development
Since the activities planned in the proposal couldn’t be fulfilled in the time-frame of the Project, it has not been possible to assess the impact of the service packages on the capacities of the SMEs. This is something to be done in the 2015-2016 period following the indications given by the EASME. For the moment, all we have are general impressions and informal feed-back from the SMEs assisted, in particular from the people we’ve been working with during the sessions and assessment provision.
On the one hand, the impact of the KAM services will be measured by the degree of satisfaction of the SMEs in the KAM and the corresponding business coaching services. In this sense, we can affirm that for the moment, companies have viewed the coaching exercise as an opportunity to gain insight on their business, with the help of an external agent.
On the other hand, the EIMC services impact in SMEs will be measured by the improvement of the Innovation Management as a result of the implementation of their specific Action Plans. The SMEs that have performed the IMP3rove Assessment are satisfied with the methodology.