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Enhancing the innovation management capacity of Finnish SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in 2015-2016

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FINKAMIE2016 (Enhancing the innovation management capacity of Finnish SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in 2015-2016)

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

Lack of innovation management capacity is recognised as an important barrier to creating economic impact (competitiveness, growth and jobs) from innovation activities in SMEs. Sustainable economic renewal requires not just research and development but also commercialisation and successful economic exploitation. This it is crucial for growth and welfare in European societies, also socially.

The general objective of the project was to achieve overall long term capacity building in (Finnish) SME’s, particularly to make the innovation system in the companies more efficient and effective and to increase and accelerate the economic returns from innovation in the SMEs.

The first specific objective was the identification of bottlenecks to the creation of economic impact and address these bottlenecks with the help of capable coaches. The target group of this objective was companies benefitting from grants by Horizon 2020's SME Instrument. The beneficiaries in Phase 1 had up to 3 and in Phase 2 up to 12 coaching days.

The second specific objective was to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of innovation processes in small and medium sized enterprises with significant innovation activities.

Both objectives were contributed in the project and more that 100 SME's were served in the project. Great majority of these target companies started to improve their performance as a result of the actions.
The project included two different service packages for two different target groups:
1) KAM (Key Account Management) for SME Instrument beneficiaries
2) EIMC (Enhancing innovation management capacity of SME’s) for SMEs having significant innovation activities and a high potential for international growth

The KAM services included in the first meeting a presentation of the coaching priciples as well as needs and gaps analysis (done by smE-MPOWER assessment tool). This was followed by listing potential coaches (if the SME did not have desired coach by themselves), support for the coach selection and coaching plan preparation and facilitating coach-SME-EASME interaction. The service package included approximately 2,5 days in Phase 1 and 4,5 days in Phase 2 The company specified actions depended on the companies' needs and schedule. Mainly the reuslts from the completed coaching activities have been positive. The clients have benefitted in receiving external expertise which is quite challenging to find by other means. There has been a wide variety of development issues and a holistic approach but the most common benefits have been strategy, contacts and better practices in entering new markets.

The KAM service was provided by Turku Science Park Ltd.The KAM service was performed to all Finnish SME Instrument beneficiaries, 69 SME's in total. The KAM process is completed in 28 companie and the service for the remaining 41 companies will continue under the following project period on 2017-2018.

The EIMC service included assessment of the SME innovation management capacity by using the IMP3rove assessment tool or smE-MPOWER. The next step of the service was creating an action plan based on the assessment and finally implementation of actions to tackle the innovation gaps found in the assessments. The actions done during the development phase were directed to various issues like business and innovation strategy, internationalisation, digitalisation, r&d process development, market and customer need understanding and finances.

The EIMC service was performed by Finpro to 37 and by Turku Science Park to 5 Finnish SMEs. From altogether 42 companies served 21 cases were completed and the remaining 21 cases will continue under the following project period on 2017-2018.
The project has supported 111 SMEs overall. The service process is completed in 49 cases and it continues in the remaining 62 cases. In addition to KAM and EIMC services, COSME activities have provided or at least introduced for these client groups. Per implementation strategy, clients were signposted to another EEN advisor or services were provided by the KAM/EIMC service provider, depeding on the case and SME's needs. The is a clear synergy between H2020 and COSME activities when these target groups can benefit from both activities. Among others, COSME activities provided for these target groups were partnering activities, advising in internationalisation and market entry preparation and advising in funding opportunities.

Expected impact of the services provided is remarkable but challenging to measure. In short term the impact includes improvements and development in business processes among companies in the project. In long term impacts show as revenue growth, profit increase, tax incomes and new jobs. It is expected that the companies served in the project will create at least hundreds, believable thousands of new jobs in the next few years. In addition to these direct impacts there are expected multiplier impacts for society including more new jobs. The big majority of clients in this project represent environmentally friendly technologies, enhancement in human well-being or other societal implications. This means that the project has not only economic but also other positive impacts.