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Innovation Enhacement and Key Account Activities iwithin EEEN Niedersachsen 2015-2016

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - N-Supp_INNO-15 (Innovation Enhacement and Key Account Activities iwithin EEEN Niedersachsen 2015-2016)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

The general objective of this project was to offer services to SMEs that help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of investments in research, development and innovation.There is a clear relation between the competitiveness of (national) economies and their expenditure in research, development and innovation (RDI). However, on the company level this relation is less obvious. Growth champions within a sector tend to have significantly better ‘innovation management’ ideas, they are more efficient in translating the more promising ones into projects and they are more capable of filtering out ideas which do not generate great expectations.
In order to increase the number of regional SME participating in European support programs for research and innovation, the project partners implemented means aiming at the enhancement of the SME’s innovation management capacities. The consortium’s activities during the recent project period aimed to support companies in enhancing their abilities to innovate, including the implementation of new products.
Entrepreneurs like to get “hands-on” advice, telling them, what can be the next step to improve their business. To understand the company’s real life, consultants have to go onsite and see the circumstances, the way of internal communication and various practical issues. To realise an adequate assessment of the innovation management process this direct communication is needed.
The identification of so called “bottlenecks” in the creation of economic impact in companies was a vital part of the above mentioned services. In order to benefit from European grants under the “SME Instrument” funding scheme and to gain the full entrepreneurial profit of these allowances, SMEs have to overcome their internal impediments. The project partners offered assistance to SMEs who were looking to adress their internal bottlenecks with the help of capable coaches.
Enhancing SME’s innovation management improved first of all their innovation readiness level. The companies that were consulted during the project developed a better understanding of proper management for innovative projects and future developments. During the conducted gap analysis clients were lead to identify steps to enhance their products, management processes and internal communication channels.
The internal developments which were fostered by the audit led to an increased level of professionalism. Enhancing innovation management also led to more efficient processes for the development of products. All these factors led to an increased competitiveness of the consulted SME’s and thus to an increased job security.
The NBank Innovation Management Audit Tool has been used by NBank for 14 years now. NBank carried out more than 250 company assessments using this tool until now.
The method includes assessment, gap-findings and also proposes actions and support for their realization. The assessment starts with an intensive company visit including a structured interview in which auditors gather information. This data is edited with the help of an internet-based tool, including about 200 questions evaluating the input for each process and showing the innovation capacity for the company. Cases are inserted without company data to reflect data protection. Following the tool generates figures to be inserted to the assessment report. A written report using the figures of the tool combined with explanations from the auditors is provided to the audited company. It also includes proposed further actions for the client. Within a feed-back meeting, details of the report are discussed. One central part of this meeting includes the proposed actions in particular how those can be realized.
Using communication tools of the Enterprise Europe Network Niedersachsen the innovation management service was offered. Interested companies were identified through this communication and within the customer databases of the partners. The first contact clarified if the client showed the capability for innovation management.
For 56 clients the partners have been provided by the following actions:
Step l/2: Our auditors assessed the innovation management capacity and performed a gap analysis.
Step 3: The clients were supported in the realization of the actions deriving from the action plan (personal consulting, providing contacts to third parties for special tasks)
Step 4: The end of consulting services was defined. Involved partners provided a short report on the goals reached and additional needed effort.
For the second Work package, coordinator NBank identified 8 successful SME Instrument proposals from the region. NBank acted as Key Account Manager (KAM) for these SMEs. As a first step, the companies were asked, if they were interested in our KAM-service. If the reaction was positive, the company was visited to gather further details of the proposed project. Using the same know-how as in the enhancement activity, NBank analysed the state of the art of business development for the project found within the company.
When suitable, the NBank Innovation Management Audit tool was used. Following, it was agreed which additional consulting service was needed in order to assist the implementation of the project. Together with the clients, suitable consultants were found and the cooperation was established through meetings and agreements. Throughout the consultancy process, NBank supported with hints and help, if there were any problems. Within a final report the state of development and success of the project was described. Next steps to be done in the business development were fixed and also the further needed financing was defined. NBank proposed ways to get access to suitable financing.
More than 50% of the audited companies were interested in additional services. These were offered by the members of the consortium either in the framework of activities and consulting services for the Enterprise Europe Network, or against the background of their respective host organizations and their inherent activities.
These additional services varied from simple requests such as the regular reception of newsletters to more complex inquiries. The identification of internal impediments and the improvement of the innovation management system of a company, mark the first steps towards a methodical implementation of an integrated approach towards the entrepreneurial future. The results of Work Package 1 and Work Package 2 should be supported by accompanying measures, which address the identified internal impediments. Quite a number of companies used their gained knowledge and their enhanced innovation management system as a starting point to approach their entrepreneurial shortcomings. Pursuing issues covered the following thematic areas:
- Access to finance
- Identification of suitable national and/or international distributors
- identification of partners for joint development activities
- identification of regional/ national support programs and funding schemes
During the recent project period, the project consortium managed to provide complex management enhancement support actions to 56 companies from Niedersachsen. These consulting services assisted the benefitting SMEs to increase their knowhow, helped them to strengthen their entrepreneurial competitiveness and thus, their market position leading up to an increase of job security and an improved socioeconomic fabric in Niedersachsen.