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Enhancing the Innovation Management Capacity of SMEs (by EEN), Slovenia

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - We4SMESLO (Enhancing the Innovation Management Capacity of SMEs (by EEN), Slovenia)

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

"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 is 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 will achieve this objectives with providing: 1.) Enhancing the Innovation Management Capacity of SMEs. The beneficiaries will receive diagnostic of their innovation system based on the standardized IMP³rove tool. This will 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 will 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 will receive the most appropriate services and support to enhance the probability of successful exploitation of the innovation project and to leave a footprint for the future sustainable growth of these beneficiaries.
In the project We4SMESLO preparation phase the hardest thing was to predict the correct number of successful Slovenian SMEs applying for SME Instrument projects. We predicted to provide 6 KAM services in year 2015 and 7 KAM services in year 2016. The target for year 2015 was reached after the second cut-off date in June 2015, and target for both years was surpassed in November 2015. In two years we provided 35 KAM services, the number represents almost three times higher number than anticipated in the project preparation phase.
Slovenian SMEs mostly appreciate and understand the value added by the coaches, all except one accepted coaching in the 2015-16 period.
Consortium partners planned to have higher number of EIMC services than KAM services in the project duration period. We planned to provide 14 IMP3rove approach analyses in the year 2015 and 13 in the year 2016. Our plan was to provide at least 1 EIMC service per month (on consortium level) and then adopt the pace of provision of EIMC services based on the results of SME Instrument beneficiaries after each cut-off date. If the number of KAM services would be close to zero we would provide more EIMC services, if the number of SME Instrument beneficiaries (coming from Slovenia) would be higher than anticipated, we would provide EIMC services in smaller amount. The reality was that number of Slovenian SME Instrument beneficiaries was three times bigger than initially planned which meant that provision of EIMC services slowed down and all together we performed 3 IMP3rove approach analyses.
The project goal was twofold: to support SME Instrument beneficiaries in coach selection process (KAM service) and to enhance innovation management capacities in SMEs (EIMC service). We can conclude that improvement of innovation management capacities in the scope of the project did not reach nationally requested/necessary levels neither in terms of number of SMEs served neither in the impact of EIMC services provided to 2 SMEs, primarily due to very limited amount of project financing available for these very successful singular actions. Based on our understanding about local SMEs and local services provided by SME support environment services for enhancing innovation management capacity are missing and need to be supported in bigger extent than in reporting period.
In the period 2015-16 consortium partners supported overall 38 SMEs, majority (35) with KAM services and 3 SMEs with services to enhance innovation management capacity in SMEs.
All KAMs 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; most support was given in the field of IPR protection (UK, Sweden, Ireland; freedom to operate analysis etc.), information about reliable contacts in foreign countries (e.g. list of architects in Sweden, a list of experts in the fire safety sector, etc.), contacts of stakeholders and legislation in specific fields in Slovenia and abroad (e.g. tunnel operators; fire-safety standardization), revision of business model and key partnerships. Special care was given to invite the beneficiaries to related events being organized by the EEN. We promoted Phase 3 activities organized by EASME, specifically we promoted Overseas trading fairs to SME Instrument beneficiaries from respective field: Bio International Convention (USA), FOE2017 (Japan), IE Expo (China). To our knowledge beneficiaries coming from Slovenia up to now did not participate to the fairs, mostly because theirs products/services being the objective of the projects are underdeveloped for public presentations.
In some of the cases quite significant support was given additionally to KAM services to the SMEs in terms of Individual Advisory Support (EEN’s basic services) with limited success by now. We expect that SME Instrument Phase 2 beneficiaries will be able to demonstrate significantly enhanced growth and profitability once the projects will be finalized. Consortium partners will monitor the progress of SME Instrument beneficiaries and continue to support beneficiaries with EEN services.
SME Instrument is well accepted among Slovenian SMEs due to simple formal procedure and relatively quick evaluation procedures, availability of more cut-off dates during the whole year and wide range of topic. Due to clear goals of Phase I and Phase II projects are easy to understand and consequently the implementation of projects is easier and in-line with companies’ processes. Support of Phase III will be crucial for success of SME Instruments beneficiaries in order to support introduction of products and/or services to the market and also to support needs of growing SMEs for capital, finances and other business support (e.g. talent scouting, IPR, legal counselling on BCC markets etc.).
The importance of SME Instrument was recognized also by Ministry of Economics who will further support this action with the Seal of excellence calls, starting in the beginning of 2017.