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French MEDiterranean Support for INNOvative SMEs

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MED4INNO (French MEDiterranean Support for INNOvative SMEs)

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

MED4INNO Project proposal is an extension of the running MED2EUROPE Project financed under COSME Program for Enterprise Europe Network activity. The project covers the whole of the French Mediterranean area with 3 regions: Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, Languedoc - Roussillon and Corsica (NUTS1 - FR7). The project is operated by 3 partners located in the 2 major regions (PACA and LR), Corsica being covered by signposting for this specific Action:
- Agence Régionale de l’Innovation et de l’Internationalisation des entreprises de la région PACA (ARII PACA) for Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Region
- Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Région PACA (CCIR PACA) for Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Region (and Corsica through Signposting)
- Transferts LR (TLR) for Languedoc-Roussillon Region

The main objective of the project is to support high potential SMEs to challenge, analyze and improve their (innovation) process in order to be more competitive.

All SMEs have their own innovation strategy, formally developed or not, and in fact they particularly need to challenge it and analyze how to improve some items. The aim is to reinforce support to innovative SMEs by providing them a dedicated service package. The project purpose has been to address 2 types of regional SMEs:
- SMEs which are benefiting from SME Instrument grants, with a service package named Key Account Management action (KAM)
- SMEs with significant innovation activities and a high potential for international development, selected among our Clients database or signposted from partners, named Enhancing Innovation Management Capacity Action (EIMC)

Each partner has to deliver an average of 33 Service Packages during the project. Services provided by project partners are free of charge. Content of Service Package is adapted with the type of activities (EIMC or KAM), but we can sum up with this following generic process:
- 2 days – first contacts meetings, diagnosis with needs assessment analysis
- 1 day – Needs & gaps analysis, action plan and final report
- Up to 4 days – implementation of action plan and final report

Conclusion of the action : our companies need to be better and deeper supported on key support services such as HR & Organization, IP management, financial assessment, business model evaluation in order to accelerate their commercialization to first clients or early adopters of their new technologies.
MED4INNO Project partners started 43 services packages (15 in KAM and 28 in Innovation Management) with a total 23 closed cases. This is less than 50% of the expected target of 100 cases in two years:
- 31 for Partner 1: 15 done (6 KAM – 9 EIMC)
- 36 for Partner 2: 11 done (4 KAM – 7 EIMC)
- 33 for Partner 3: 17 done (5 KAM – 12 EIMC)

Most of our beneficiaries are small of medium sized companies or startup companies with real potential of growth. But we witness the following split between incremental and/or radical innovation proposed and developed by our beneficiaries:
- Most of them are “radical innovators” for SME-I projects and KAM cases;
- Most of them are “incremental innovators” for our EIMC support action.

To explain our delay concerning the number of cases started, Project partners (in charge of both KAM and EIMC activities) faced with 2 mains issues:
- A lack of beneficiaries on SME Instrument program (WP1 KAM) : we expected at least 25 cases, we had 15 to proceed;
- A lack of means (staff) and candidates (SME to target) to balance with Innovation Management service package on WP2 (EIMC).
KAM and EIMC actions represent a new range of services provided to SMEs, and they are delivered among a large number of SME support services already existing in our ecosystem. So our project met challenges ahead: how to offer attractive and efficient support services to SMEs, how to assess intermediary results during the service process, and how to cooperate smoothly with other regional service providers or experts.

KAM services have been mostly appreciated by SME-I beneficiaries, even if, in some cases, CEO didn’t invest enough time to look at right coaches proposed, or didn’t follow the timeline of the coaching plan, or didn’t reply to our calls to initiate the contact with them (3 cases among 15).

EIMC services still need to be well marketed to our clients and to be integrated in our ecosystem. EIMC Value proposition is not clear enough from the company: what will we be able to provide to our clients? Which improvements will we be able to bring to them? What kind of impact the company could expect?
Concerning the implementation of EIMC action by itself, things are not easy also to launch with volunteers. When cases start with the client ready to benefit from the service, it is :
- Difficult to maintain the clients motivated till the end of the process: SMEs need to foresee expected impacts of such involvement (several days) before starting something,
- Difficult (but necessary) to involve the whole management team from the beginning: they have to participate to the action from the first interview to the recommendation phase for sharing
- Difficult to translate our “recommendation” into concrete actions with SMEs often having limited means (time to invest, money to pay external advices we cannot provided).

In terms of impact, only few cases are completed (no real impact yet identified), and we have difficulties to close cases as we are still interacting with our clients after the action.