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enhancing Innovation and Key Account Management by sme2EU

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - I-KAM2EU (enhancing Innovation and Key Account Management by sme2EU)

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

I-KAM2EU aims to improve the innovation management capacity of SMEs in order to facilitate their growth of competitiveness and cross-border partnerships. The project was developed by the partners of SME2EU, the Enterprise Europe Network consortium for the three Italian regions Marche, Tuscany and Umbria.
Innovation is a key driver for the success of SMEs. But SMEs themselves are often not able to adequately develop their innovation systems. Moreover, on the local market there are no (absent or unaffordable) services that help them to go in this direction.
The main objective of I-KAM2EU was to make available the opportunity for a SME to have a rational and structured support to develop and maintain an internal innovation management system. Establishing such system can allow SMEs to become more innovative and to achieve more success with their product, service, process, organisational design and business model innovation. This would foster SME results, value and competitiveness.
Two kinds of services were addressed:
1. Enhancing Innovation Management Capacity (EIMC) service, intended for SMEs with significant innovation activities and concrete potential for international growth (about product, process, service or business model innovation) but with low expertise to manage innovation activities. It consists of: an innovation management capacity assessment, a gap analysis and the provision of an action plan to address recognised gaps.
2. Key Account Management (KAM) service, for beneficiaries of Horizon 2020 SME Instrument. It includes assistances to identify gaps and suitable coaches, and support their work to improve SME’s strategies and approaches to facilitate the exploitation of the founded project.
I-KAM2EU implemented the two services in close collaboration between all partners and in connection with the activities developed by all the partners themselves as Enterprise Europe Network members, about: the promotion of the services, the identification of candidates for EIMC service and the suggestion of further targeted opportunities for companies.
The partners agreed common operating procedures for the two services.
The partners have worked on a regional basis. Inside Tuscany and Marche where two active partners were involved, SME Instrument beneficiaries were equally allocated among the partners. Partners have informed each other about contacts for EIMC services, too.
About KAM services, the activities have been constrained in the times and numbers from the results of the participation of local companies at the SME Instruments cut-offs.
An efficient way to assign the beneficiary to a partner and to start immediately the services was enabled. In the most cases, the SME’s needs analysis was done with the “smE-MPOWER” tool. All the activities were registered and monitored in the “Case Tracker”.
I-KAM2EU supported 31 SME Instrument beneficiaries. 20 of these achieved the complete service for Phase 1. All the served clients were very satisfied with the results of the coaching.
About EIMC services, the start of works was delayed because the timing of the Grant Agreement signature. Moreover, for a long period, I-KAM2EU adopted a single tool (“IMP3rove”), but the difficulty of using it with the large majority of companies from Marche, Tuscany and Umbria (because very small) caused the inability to activate new services. Meanwhile, a few partners completed the activities with the clients activated in 2014. By the half of May 2016, “Innovation Health Check (IHC)” was approved by EASME as a second tool for the assessment, and made it was possible to reduce the gap.
I-KAM2EU completed the EIMC service in 33 companies, 14 of which approached with IMP3rove and 19 with IHC. Other 24 cases are started, and will continue in 2017; assessments were done using IMP3rove in 1 case and using IHC in other 23.
The companies involved have considered interesting the approach that stimulated a nontrivial and unusual reflection on internal processes. In general, the companies gave positive feedbacks, with a growing awareness on innovation management processes and improvements on specific points. Difficulties were: heaviness of IMP3rove questionnaire, poor benchmarking in IHC tool, the needs for access to finance to carry out the improvement plan.
Only three companies achieved both KAM and EIMC services. In total, I-KAM2EU’s activities involved 85 companies, of which 63.5% in Tuscan, 23.5% in Marche and 13% in Umbria.
Direct impact from the two actions was the improvement of innovation management in SMEs receiving the services as compared to their initial situation. I-KAM2EU successfully provided these services to 92 different companies, helping in their growth and profitability paths.
The real impacts generated by the project will be measurable in the medium period, in terms of improvement of the competitiveness and innovation capacities of SMEs and their ability to better act and evolve in the market.
The dissemination and communication activities were provided in close synergy with the SME2EU project and partners web-site, e-mailing, workshop, meetings, brochures. It increased the awareness of SMEs about the relationship between the innovation management processes and the market competitiveness.
Performing the services, I-KAM2EU offered to each client (if any) the most relevant and interesting EEN COSME services, useful to meet its specific needs. i.e. access to finance, European funds (in particular for the SME Instrument), trans-national collaborations. For SMEs receiving the Seal of Excellence for their participation to SME Instrument no specific support was delivered because at regional and national level no instrument was available in case of Seal of Excellence.
Other interactions with SME2EU were related to the participation of two partners to the national Working Group KAM/EICM which proved as a useful tool for sharing experiences.
Moreover, several staff people followed training courses on IMP3rove and on Innovation Health Check, also transferring the knowledge learned to colleagues of the other partners.
Related to the KAM activities it must be highlighted that a good practice has been created in Italy. In fact national meetings were organised since 2015 between SME Instrument beneficiaries, the National delegate of the Ministry of University and Research, SME Instrument National Contact Point and EEN referents. These meetings were attended by many SME beneficiaries and they could give to other SMEs tips, recommendations and advices on how to write a good proposal, how to manage the projects and how to deal with innovation projects.