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Co-designing and piloting demand-driven mechanisms, skill-sets and measures for stimulating and facilitating open innovation across European innovation systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INVITE (Co-designing and piloting demand-driven mechanisms, skill-sets and measures for stimulatingand facilitating open innovation across European innovation systems)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

The European Union is a world-leading knowledge generator. Still, this wealth of knowledge remains underexploited as many ideas and research results with promising business and social potential never make it to the market. This market failure of European innovation systems to translate their most promising scientific advances into marketable innovations was coined by the European Commission as the “European Paradox” in 1995 and more than 20 years later has yet to be resolved.

In this context, INVITE set off to co-create a well-connected European Open Innovation (OI) ecosystem, in which knowledge meaningfully flows across borders and is translated into marketable innovations, bringing increased socio-economic benefits to EU citizens. To this end, INVITE co-designed, piloted and demonstrated a pan-European service platform, which we dubbed as the Open Innovation 2.0 Lab (OI2Lab), to better link the fragmented innovation systems of the EU, empower EU businesses to tap into Europe’s knowledge-base as well as increase the participation of private investors in OI projects.
The work performed under the framework of INVITE kicked-off with an in-depth analysis of the landscape of the European OI ecosystem and its stakeholders, with a view to setting the stage for the demand-driven design of the OI2Lab and its services. An interview-based survey of 50 OI stakeholders shed ample light on the needs and requirements of prospective users, whereas a comparative analysis of the services offered by key European OI intermediaries revealed meaningful insights into gaps, complementarities and opportunities for the OI2Lab.

Building on the findings of these activities, INVITE involved 30 expert stakeholders in the co-design of the OI2Lab during a dedicated co-creation workshop. The meaningful ideas collected during the workshop led to the co-design of OI2Lab’s 3 OI support services, namely (i) the smart matchmaking service, (ii) the OI management service and (iii) the links to financing solutions service as well as to the development/ customisation of OI2Lab’s gamified digital platform and tools, including the (i) open multisided marketplace, (ii) the e-learning environment, (iii) the online collaboration space and (iv) the opportunities tool.

The OI support services and digital tools of OI2Lab were successfully deployed and tested in real operational environments through 3 pilots running across 2 rounds, as follows: The 1st pilot deployed an innovation voucher scheme that supported SMEs to find suitable partners and launch their own cross-border OI projects to boost their competitiveness and growth and, all while also facilitating knowledge flows across European innovation ecosystems. The 2nd pilot employed an e-learning intervention offering a suite of e-learning courses, webinars and real-life case studies to equip innovators (in business and academia) with the practical knowledge and skill-set required to not only create, but also effectively capture value from OI. The 3rd pilot tested a co-investment scheme, leveraging public funding to support 11 SMEs in better communicating their innovations to potential investors, reducing their perceived risk and therefore increasing the chances of successfully securing suitable financing.

In parallel, a tailored dissemination, communication and community building strategy was implemented to promote the results of INVITE, while also fostering participation in their testing and validation. In this respect, INVITE has developed targeted promotional materials, animated its web portal and social media, issued newsletters and articles, disseminated its promotional video, attended several external events and created mutually beneficial synergies with relevant initiatives and networks. By the end of the project, a practical replication and scale-up guide was developed and actively disseminated, providing meaningful guidelines and lessons learnt to facilitate the replication of the project’s pilots. Last but not least, an evidence-based business plan, built upon market research and stakeholder-validated business models, was elaborated along with alternate individual exploitation strategies and pathways with a view to guiding and facilitating the exploitation of the project’s assets beyond the end of the grant.
INVITE's pilots and OI2Lab's OI support services and digital tools were deployed in real-life settings generating valuable evidence on how we can tap into the potential of OI to resolve the persisting “European Paradox”, addressing business needs and challenges along the way.

A total of 40 SMEs participated in the voucher scheme of INVITE accessing tailored business and/or financial support to launch and drive value from their own OI project. In parallel, the e-learning intervention trained over 500 innovators to search, identify and/or absorb externally developed knowledge, developing their OI skills. At the same time, the 11 SMEs that participated in the project’s co-investment scheme improved their investment readiness and developed meaningful pitching skills and tools to attract investments. Along the way, the digital platform and tools of OI2Lab supported more than 540 registered users to learn about OI, identify new opportunities globally, connect with partners and grow their business.

Evidence collected through the deployment of INVITE’s pilots and OI2Lab indicate that they can create positive impact at company and regional level. This includes (i) enhanced competitiveness and growth at company level achieved through new products /services that better respond to customer needs, improved capacity for innovation and access to markets; and (ii) increased innovation performance and development at regional level brought about due to more innovative solutions coming from SMEs in the region along with the additional turnover of SMEs driving growth and new job creation. Moreover, it appears focusing support schemes on fostering cross-border OI can indeed enable knowledge flows between innovation ecosystems. Innovation ecosystems strategically linked through SMEs can facilitate collaboration and co-creation for the exploitation of research results in the market, ultimately contributing towards resolving the infamous “European Paradox”.

With that in mind, the activities of the project reached out to and engaged with a considerable number of stakeholders raising awareness about the benefits of OI. The experiences gained and lessons learnt throughout the duration of INVITE were compiled into a meaningful guide that was disseminated to 230 policy makers and funders across 158 EU regions. Using this guide the pilots of INVITE could be easily replicated in other regions as their model requires relatively little funds and can adapt to regional conditions/needs or serve as the starting point for more tailored schemes. With relevant funding in place, they can be scaled up efficiently with the help of business support structures (e.g. agencies, networks, clusters, etc.) for the benefit of the European OI ecosystem, economy and society as a whole.