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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VEBIN SME 2.0 (Delivering services on behalf of H2020 for enhancing the innovation management capacity of SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in Flanders)

VEBIN SME 2.0 Report Summary

Project ID: 674831
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.3.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VEBIN SME 2.0 (Delivering services on behalf of H2020 for enhancing the innovation management capacity of SMEs by the Enterprise Europe Network in Flanders)

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

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

This projectl aimed at continuing the services of EEN in Flanders with regard to the key account management for the SME instrument under the H2020 programme as entrusted by the European Commission to the Enterprise Europe network. It also concerned the additional support services that EEN delivers in Flanders with regard to the enhancement of the innovation management capacities of SMEs as decided in the H2020 programme.The Flemish VEBIN consortium - being selected for delivering the EEN services in Flanders - delivered the services concerned in their region in 2015 and 2016, and did this in close coordination with the H2020 NCP for SMES and the NCP for Access to Finance in Flanders. The services are embedded in the regional innovation support system to the benefit of Flemish companies, and a system is in place to monitor how the consortrium manages the services and how feedback is organised in order to ensure a high quality service provision and an added European value, while respecting the principles of additionality. The consortium in the past two years has particularly reflected on the signposting of clients among all relevant support stakeholders and to the efficient use of resources and tools. It also confirmed the consortium's willingness to cooperate whenever requested by EASME or the Commission to share best practices among the participating EEN consortia and to give feedback on the implementation of the services in the region of Flanders (Belgium).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"Particular attention has been given to the internal coordination of the KAM and EIMC activities as new services for the EEN and the organisation of smart signposting of clients within the VEBIN consortium in charge of the overall EEN activities in the region, and to ensure a close interaction with the NCPs for Horizon 2020 in Flanders (more specifically the NCP for SMEs and the NCP for Access to Finance) .
An important element in the project management is also the interaction with the local support ecoosystem for SMEs in the region. The focus of the project has therefore been on smart signposting, delivery of high quality service with a distinct Europan added value, taking into account the existence of local support systems and thus respecting the principle of additionality.
The first cut off evaluations of the SME instrument in 2014 resulted only in a very limited number of Flemish companies having been selected. Therefore we diligently looked into the causes there might have been for this and how we could remediate this through our own services.
This resulted in an even more close cooperation with the NCPs in the region and with other stakerholders. We also identified some weaknesses on the internationalisation strategy of SME instrument potential candidates and remediate this since 2015 with our consortium partner Flanders Investment and Trade, the Flemish agency for internationalisation. Another weak point is the ""investment readiness"" of our clients: we pay enormous attention to this and signpost them to other stakeholders in order to help them remediate this weakness. Undoubtedly, this will be a major point of attention also in 2017 in view of the next Phase 3 of the SME instrument coming into force.
The main success factor of our approach has been the organisation, at regular intervals, of a ""challenge"" during which beneficiaries can discuss their business case with a panel of four of our EEN experts (financial aspects, strategic business development in general, and more specifically marketing aspects and internationalisation strategy, IPR and certification issues, ...). During ths one-hour discussion major attention is also given to the H2020 societal challenges making the SMEs aware of how to embed their own project in the overall EU strategy to tackle the main societal challenges.
Particular attention has also been given to the mastering of convincing storytelling as we detected major weaknesses with regard to this aspect among the majority of our clients. We also organised a specific workshop on this with external experts, and we will definitely plan further focus on this aspect also in the following contract period.

Evaluating the results of the first cut-offs resulted also in another more focussed communication strategy for the SME instrument among the Flemish business community.
Further efforts have also been made to promote the programme among potential coaches in the region and to encourage them to apply for registration at EASME for future coaching assignments.

In 2015-2016 a total of 15 clients received KAM services, while 64 clients received EIMC services. Important to note is that from the 64 clients that received EIMC services in this two-years period 5 obtained a Phase 1 SME instrument grant, 1 obtained a Phase 2 grant in the January 2017 cut off, and 18 obtained a Seal of Excellence for the SME instrument (both Phase 1 and Phase2) in the course of the 2015-2016 period.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The corrective actions taken after the first project period in 2014 already show their impact resulting in more approved SME instrument projects from Flemish applicants (both for phase 1 and phase 2) and more mature applicants for innovation and/or internationalisation
projects in general.
We strongly believe that the holistic integrated approach we have developed in the consortium leads to effective results for our clients who give us highly appreciative feedback on our actions.
The impact of our actions is, amongst others, visible, in the relatively high amount of Seals of excellence awarded to Flemish companies for Phase 2 of the SME instrument (32 in total of the Flemish cases have received SoE of which 18 have been intensively coached by our consortium). Though not funded, many of the applicants reached the treshold, meaning they can compete with other applicants in other member states. The consortium is also taking further care of these SoE cases and looking with them into alternative funding solutions. Quite a lot of the participants recognise the valuable support they receive from the EEN consortium, even those that in the end did not receive EU funding. among the youngest clients of our EIMC services (less or around three years of existence) we notice also that they get now easier invited to investment fora, incubator programmes, etc. because they gained investment readiness, better strategic management skills and more insight in the internationalisation process they are embarking in.

Given the rising number of Seal of Excellence for our region, we started also raising awareness among our own policy makers in order to investigate with them if and how the co-funding instruments of the government of Flanders should be adapted more to the needs of this given target group. A similar dialogue is also going on with financial insititutions, on an adhoc basis case by case where appropriate, in order to facilitate the access to finance of these promising smes.

The experiences gained in the present project period helped us also to get more insight in the process and the needs of the scale-ups in our region. We will use, among other, the lessons learnt in the past period of 2015-2016 in the Specific action launched for EEN with regard to the scale-ups. The results of this specific action in 2017-2018 will also come to the benefit of the services established within the framework of our EIMC and KAM services.

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