Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ENviSION — Result In Brief

Project ID: 645791
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.
Country: Netherlands
Domain: Industrial Technologies, Digital Economy

Tools for SMEs to innovate their business models

To realise maximum potential and impact, technological innovation necessarily requires sustainable business model innovation (BMI). A new self-service platform is empowering SMEs to overcome a deficit in this area.
Tools for SMEs to innovate their business models
BMI contributes to performance and innovativeness, but it is not yet common practice for SMEs. To help rectify the situation, the EU-funded project ENviSION developed a platform incorporating 29 easy-to-use tools for BMI. Accessible on a dedicated BMI platform, “the ENviSION platform is unique because it is the first to be specifically geared to the needs of SMEs and supports the whole process from initial business model idea to testing and implementation of the ideas,” explains Professor Harry Bouwman, project leader.

From understanding to design to implementation

ENviSION carried out quantitative research through a survey and also executed over 100 case studies. This approach and the data generated helped to examine BMI in specific types of SMEs, including family businesses, firms led by women and high-tech/ICT enterprises. More advanced statistical analyses helped to delve deeper and explore, for example, differences between female and non-female leadership and between different types of BMI drivers.

The research showed the impact and utility of BMI tooling, and findings were used to inform design and development of the platform and tools. The result is a platform that offers advice on which tools an SME should use for its specific challenge and which innovation paths to follow.

The tools employ a novel approach, responding to ‘I-want-to’ paths completed by SME users – e.g. ‘I want to grow my business’. Beyond ease of use, this renders the platform truly self-service in nature. These unique novel tools, Prof. Bouwman notes, “cover the phases from initial strategic orientation towards designing, testing and implementing new business models.”

Empowering BMI for SMEs

SMEs and SME helpers can help to define, evaluate and plan implementation of new business models. Project partners collected feedback in various ways: from users of the platform, users of the tools via online courseware and case study participants. Evaluation of the tooling confirmed that the developed tools are suitable for use and easy to handle by SMEs.

BMI is not exclusive to start-ups or high-tech businesses. “Family firms, low-tech firms and micro-firms similarly benefit from rethinking their business models,” says the project leader. ENviSION’s tools are tailored to SMEs’ markets, industries and competences. “By starting from the intrinsic needs of an SME, the tools guide users to improving their business model step-by-step,” he adds.

SMEs now in the know

Since launching in 2016, “143 000 users (unique IP addresses on platform) have used the platform at least once over the runtime of the project,” Prof. Bouwman reports. Further, 47 000 have participated in massive open online courses featuring ENviSION and ENviSION tools to learn to use BMI and BMI tooling.

Hundreds of participants have also taken part in live webinars featuring ENviSION tools. This online video offers an overview and more information on the BMI course.

Project efforts have increased awareness of BMI and the use of business model tooling, reaching 20 million SMEs via dozens of multipliers such as SME organisations and chambers of commerce.

Partners have produced a dozen journal publications, while another 15 are under review, and presented more than 30 conference papers. Notably, the project has published ‘Business model innovation. Hands-on tools for your business makeover’, a DIY book for SMEs as a target group.

BMI for ENviSION too

There is a non-profit foundation (Stichting Envision) in place to guarantee further use by SMEs of the platform, the professor says, adding: “of course we used our own tooling to develop the business model for further exploitation.” The project consortium will keep the platform alive and is actively looking for investors.


ENviSION, business model innovation, business model, self-service platform
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