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First time innovator


According to different surveys, only 50 % of SMEs are engaged in some type of innovation. This means that there is a need to increase the number of SMEs engaged in this process.

Written by Christian Saublens

Reviewed by David Walburn

 

The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS process

What can be expected?

A quote

References

Experts' comments

 

The concept


Provide support to SMEs to identify their potential of innovation and to engage in an innovation process. This supposes to overcome internal barriers (management, market intelligence, access to finance and skills, …) and also to assess the capacity and necessity to develop partnerships with knowledge, technology or solution providers.

 

How to implement it?


Build a comprehensive support service scheme to help entrepreneurs in becoming self confident in their ability to engage in innovation projects. Such a scheme could, for instance, include services such as innovation business plan assessment, brainstorming workshops to identify sleeping innovation projects, vouchers to acquire innovation management capacity, mentors to implement innovative projects, …

 

Step in the RIS process


Step 3. Elaboration of an overall vision for the future of the region.

Step 5. Definition of a coherent policy mix, roadmaps and action plan

 

What can be expected?


An increased number of entrepreneurs engaged in innovation activities.

 

A quote


"Through a distinguished method track down companies which are not yet familiar with the innovation process." - Syntens, a Dutch consulting company

 

References


http://www.syntens.nl/eu/Documents/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20stakeholder%20ENG%20_2_.pdf

 

Mr Christian Saublens


 

Christian Saublens has more than 30 years of working experience in European trade organizations. Since 1992 he is the Executive Manager of EURADA, the European Association of Development Agencies, a network of 145 organisations. Christian has been involved in the organization of numerous conferences and meetings dealing with all matters related to regional development. He wrote several papers and working documents on business support schemes for SMEs. He played an important role for the dissemination in European regions of concepts such as benchmarking, business angels, investment readiness, proof of concept, clusters, open innovation, financial engineering, crowdfunding, … Several times Christian has been appointed as an expert by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions.

christian.saublens@eurada.org

 

Experts' comments


The first point to make in commenting on policies to boost innovation and entrepreneurship, is just how similar the concepts are in theory and in practice, and it follows that associated policies will also be the same or very similar.

The second point to make is that within any population of small businesses, only a minority will show any capacity for either characteristic. This is to be expected. The task of economic development is to identify those firms which have potential for growth and innovation, and to intervene where possible to support them. The scale of the task is not characterised by using the overall number of SMEs as a starting point. The challenge is to identify which firms within the big number have the potential.

When, as in this case, the objective of policy is very general indeed, to support firms which might “be engaged in some sort of innovation”, a very different range of interventions might be expected compared, say, to an aim to increase the number of firms suitable to attract business angel investment. This latter group would be a very tiny proportion of SMEs indeed.

A region-wide programme to encourage small firm innovation will require high profile activity involving participation from a broad range of organisations which have active involvement with SMEs. This list will most certainly include municipalities which interact with SMEs through their procurement of local goods and services, raising taxes, and regulating certain aspects of business activity. The list will also include banks, accountancy firms, lawyers and some larger private companies.

 The programme will need to be sustained over a long period of time to have any effect. This is no “one-off” piece of communication.

With such a generalised programme, there will be issues about how to assess the results, which policy-makers will need to consider at the outset.

 

Mr David Walburn


After a career in business David Walburn joined Greater London Enterprise in 1986 where he was responsible for venture capital and other small business support, before becoming Chief Executive of the organisation. He was the Chair of the London Business Angels Network and played a key role in the setting up of the European Business Angels Network. He has worked with the UK government and the European Commission on developing public policy initiatives to improve the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. He was the Chair of Capital Enterprise, the umbrella body for organisations supporting micro business development in London, until 2012.

For the last ten years he has been a Visiting Professor at London South Bank University where he headed the Local Economy Policy Unit and was the managing editor of the journal Local Economy.

He has served as President of EURADA, and been a member of a number of advisory bodies of the European Commission.  He has been an active member of the International Economic Development Council in Washington DC and has a wide range of international contacts with economic development organisations.

He continues to write and lecture on small business finance and regional economic development.

davidwalburn@london.com

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