Peer Learning for Innovation Agencies supporting SMEs

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Peer Learning for Innovation Agencies

The last period for H2020 calls for proposals is coming soon, and with it, great opportunities to take part in a project and get funding for the gap between H2020 and Horizon Europe. Projects will encourage the development of many topics and approaches in innovation in support for SMEs, with the aim of putting new skills into practice. Actions are to be innovative enough to put into practice, not only sharing good results.

 

SME innovation is crucial for regional development, but too many times SMEs face problems to carry their products or services out till the final stage. Most of the times, this incapability is produced by a financial shortage. To palliate this, innovation agencies play an important role in designing and implementing innovation support programmes for SMEs, and thus act as intermediaries for SME innovation. Nevertheless, the transfer of good practices, the enhancement of those already existing and the establishment of new innovation support programmes for SMEs is still advancing quite slowly.

To accomplish better cooperation among service providers for SME innovation leading to better quality of services, PRO INNO Europe launched INNO-Partnering Forum. This forum provided an open platform where the different European innovation support providers can meet and seek mutual learning and exchange experience. The view will be always to improve their efficiency and to find and test new promising trends in support of innovation.

The INNO-Partnering Forum has contributed to create some requirements to achieve a permanent learning mechanism for SME innovation; these are:

  1. That learning activities need to be based on clear methodologies and have to be demand-driven. This means that they will only be launched when agencies recognize by themselves the necessity of their programmes being revised;
  2. That peer learning activities are designed to benefit from a secretariat or an animation structure assuring horizontal flow of information among those interested agencies.

The INNO-Partnering Forum developed two joint methodologies regarding the above-mentioned requirements; they are:

  1. A quality management system implemented through a peer review system;
  2. A ‘twinning+’ methodology combining elements of traditional peer reviews and twinning. It is done in small learning groups of those agencies interested.

Thus, the Peer Learning for Innovation Agencies call aims at making available to national and regional innovation agencies the two methodologies. These methodologies will be provided as elements of permanent peer learning environment, and they will have as objective to give incentives –small lump sum grants– to the agencies engaging more frequently in these peer learning activities. This should be challenge-driven and should follow the will of the agency of either revising the format of their programmes or introducing a new scheme. Moreover, the support to peer learning activities shall be available at any time when there is need or opportunity for the agencies.

Peer learning is open for all topics in innovation support to SMEs. When it comes to methodologies, for this action the only ones recognised as learning methods are the ‘Twinning+’ and the quality management scheme for innovation agencies based on EFQM. This latter model provides a common vocabulary and a conceptual model of an organization. This facilitates the sharing of ideas and experiences. This model is an updated one, offering benefits for the analysis and documentation of good practices; presenting availability of support all over Europe, as well as support materials and more users, so there are more possibilities for comparisons.

To conclude, we would like to highlight some interesting details. Firstly, funding for grants awarded under this topic will be, as it has been said before, fixed lump sums, with a minimum amount of 15,000 and a maximum of 50,000. Secondly, agencies willing to apply must know that this action is not purely to promote the exchange of good practices, but to investigate and develop new topics and approaches in innovation support to SMEs in order to put the developed skills into practice.

More information can be found here.