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Boosting the Innovative Potential of Romanian SMEs

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Ro-Boost Inno SMEs (Boosting the Innovative Potential of Romanian SMEs)

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

The objectives of the Ro-Boost Inno SMes Consortium implementing the specific actions for increased innovation management fall under the Consortium’s vision stated in the implementation strategy: to help “SMEs in Macro Region 4 Romania become active players it the single market in terms of: innovative capacity, entrepreneurial discovery, dynamic partnership, proactive responsiveness to change, agility in accessing available funding with high impact implementation (smart investment).”
In this light 2 objectives were aimed by the RO-Boost Inno SMEs:
• To enable SMEs with growth and internationalization capabilities to achieve their full potential through innovation by supporting them in attaining the means and techniques to efficiently manage innovation in all its aspects.
• to facilitate ambitious SMEs’ access to means to achieve better performance in the implementation of their innovation projects within the SME Instrument Programme
Thus the Consortium sought throughout the reference period to raise awareness among innovative SMEs of the importance of the management of innovation processes in attaining and sustaining growth through continuous adaption and improvement of the business value. The Consortium engaged in challenging obstacles face by innovative SMEs and also in filing in the gaps existent in the regional business support ecosystem. The specific tools related to innovation management were thus exploited to provide meaningful insights in estimating the risks of investments in new innovations and helped SMEs to identify means of reducing these risks.
To this aim, in 2015 the 4 experts involved in the project participated in the training “Introduction to Imp3rove Approach”, 2 of them participated in training related to Action Plan Development and 1 of them participated in the Business Model Innovation training.

All innovation experts, also involved in the COSME EEN service delivery, have actively disseminated the enhancing innovation management capacities service opportunities among SMEs in Macro Region 1 of Romania, via events and through direct contact. By these two means the Consortium recruited potential beneficiaries and selected the suitable ones upon intake assessment interviews.

The Consortium supported fully 12 companies in the 2015-2016 period in corroboration with increased international competitiveness supported through COSME advisory and partnering services.
As a result, the 12 beneficiaries have defined and implemented new processes into their business for structuring their innovation projects and improving their innovation life cycles in order to exploit to the full the knowledge and resources within the company and turn them into value for their existent / future customers. In particular, the support provided helped companies to define clearer targets for their innovation projects to shorten the time-to-market / time-to-profit, to better structure idea generation to fulfill the changing needs of their customers, and to improve their business models. Furthermore 3 more SMEs reached the phase of action plan development and shall implement the proposed action in 2017. Though reluctance of SMEs in South West region was higher than envisaged, other 6 SMEs from South West Region have committed to engage in the process in early 2017, and similarly 7 other SMEs from West Region devoted to undergo the assessment in 2017.

Thus, even the process of raising awareness of the innovation management concept as a whole and the Imp3rove Instrument in particular took considerable time, the results obtained reflect a first success in acquainting the innovative SMEs with the tools and benefits in generating business value and sustaining growth. The experience gathered in the 2015-2016 also brought to the attention of SMEs the gaps in innovation coaching and mentoring available in the regional landscape which the Consortium sought to fill in directly or via signposting. The Imp3rove instrument though complex, has been highly appreciated by the beneficiaries which later agreed to share their experiences to other innovators within the events organized by the Consortium.
TThe EIMC beneficiaries appreciated highly the support in analyzing the report and defining actions to improve the current state. During action plan implementation, 85 % of the EIMC beneficiaries reported that input of the Innovation Consultant was essential. They also acknowledged support contributed greatly to going through the process much faster than it would have gone without the support.
Clients were reached through actions carried out as part of the EEN COSME activities. The intake assessment was done as part of Work Package 1 and all clients were supported with different advisory service at different stages. Furthermore, following the innovation management assessment, all EIMC beneficiaries have been supported during action plan implementation. In all cases, action plans were implemented to the full.

Though the impact cannot be estimated so early in the process, beneficiaries acknowledged a better understanding of the innovation management in general and increased capacities to steer innovation within the company and define strategic plans for each project. As for the long term impact, all partner envisage that the changes made following the support provided shall be reflected in the companies’ time-to profit, in particular for their incremental innovation projects, and time-to-market in the case of their radical innovation projects, and consequently in the revenues generated from the innovation results. Increase in number of employees following the income growth is the common denominator In all cases. Acknowledging the critical role management of innovation plays in the economy of business growth, all beneficiaries requested repetition of the assessment in the next years.

In the case of KAMs, no achievements could be reported due to lack of SME Instrument awards granted to SMEs from Macro Region 1 of Romania in the reference period. The Consortium acknowledged in its Implementation Strategy and Work Programme the lower levels of innovation in the macro region and critical need of enhancement in the area. The Consortium envisaged the risk of low performance of regional SMEs in SME Instrument calls. Though the Consortium made concurrent efforts in promoting the opportunities among innovative SMEs, the emerging start-ups showed insufficient technological readiness in this period, while more mature SMEs showed reluctance in EU wide competition due to insufficient background checks of competition. Both challenges have been addressed with the clients individually under COSME and 2 SMEs expressed their interest in preparing an application for the SME Instrument in the coming years. One start-up from Ramnicu Valcea, South West Region, has been evaluated positively in the last Phase 1 cut-off date in 2016. Since the award procedure was scheduled for early 2017, the associated KAM shall be reported in the subsequent contract.