Achieve More / ACHIEVE More
Innovation in the service sector is considered as a central driver for increasing Europe’s competitiveness. Therefore, the European Commission announced in 2006 to promote and support the development of young innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in the service sector.
Despite the particular relevance that was attested to the service sector during the last years, considerable weaknesses and market failures remain. These relate to deficits in carrying out breakthrough innovations which would facilitate the formation of fast growing enterprises with a highly international scope of activity.
One reason for these weaknesses is seen in the below average degree of investments into research and development in the service sector compared to producing industries. Furthermore, only few innovation-related political measurements exist which explicitly take into account the specificities of fast growing enterprises. Therefore, a repositioning of innovation-related policy which take better into account the service sector needs is required. Although some first indications for such repositioning become visible – for example through the initiation or planning of initiatives for innovation in services in some EU-member states – so far the promotion of technological innovation is still prioritised. The underlying line of thought is a linear understanding of innovation processes being principally driven by technological progress. Innovation in services is, however, less characterised by technological novelties and rather by organisational change and social factors. In fact, innovation in services is more likely to be linked to changes in non-technological, disembodied innovation processes, organisational arrangements and markets, and thus is considered as complex phenomena.
Furthermore, it is assumed that firms can increase their competitiveness by their ability to combine technological and non-technological innovation. Although, not yet fully researched, this assumption is in line with service innovation as being characterised by social and organisation factors. Both aspects, i.e. the lack of political initiatives and the lack of research, result in a limited understanding of the levers that promote innovation in services. To address this problem the European Commission initiated a Knowledge Intensive Service Platform (KIS Innovation Platform). Its objective is to promote technological and organisational service innovation in the context of research, competences and capabilities, enterprises, funding schemes and clusters.
The project «ACHIEVE More – Enabling the Success of Entrepreneurship and Innovation through Incubation and Clustering» addressed the above outlined problems. It dealt with barriers and challenges in the start up phase of knowledge intensive service companies in the ICT sector. The 36 months project was funded under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) of the European Commission in the context of the Europe INNOVA initiative which is responsible to maintain the KIS Innovation Platform (KIS-IP). Its partnership consisted of 11 institutions from five different countries.
As one out of three projects of the KIS-IP ACHIEVE More aimed at developing and implementing instruments that support the dynamics of innovation. Instruments that aim at connecting processes of knowledge generation in firms with access to finance, clusters and supporting services such as business incubation centres take centre stage.
The specific objectives were:
- To develop, validate and implement at EU-wide level a highly innovative, interactive and focused business support mechanism – the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ex-change, to support young innovative KIS-ventures with high growth potential.
- To facilitate access to finance by the development of seed funds linked to business incubators and clusters, thereby focusing investment funding on those businesses that have been identified with the greatest growth potential.
- To effectively consolidate the knowledge of project partners and stakeholders on the research and skills needs of KIS ventures with high growth potential, improving their networking capabilities with relevant clusters and European networks with the view to search for research and business partners.
- To effectively contribute to policy making in regards to the reorientation of innovation policy towards services at the EU level.
The ACHIEVE More project was delivered through 8 workpackages, focused around assembling and delivering a partnership that can work together to deliver better business incubation and clustering for ICT SME, enabling them to raise finance more successfully and get to the market quicker. The workpackages were based upon five central measurements:
- To build out a pan-European partnership, with a core of 50 leading European business and technology incubators, 15 ICT Cluster organisations, 5-6 funding agencies with direct access to up to 400 KIS-ventures with high-growth potential across the EU.
- To design a ‘Entrepreneurship & Innovation Exchange’ platform, process and programme which will facilitate swift and timely exchange of better practice between all members of the partnership, both those who are on the leading edge of business support and cluster building and those who aspire to join them.
- To bring together a mix of public and private funding agencies, who will work to develop new approaches, tools and models to valuing service industries and making the case for investing in them.
- The tools will be shared not only across the partnership, but will also be promoted widely across the finance and regional support funding community in the EU and beyond, as a means of encouraging them to engage with this challenging topic.
- To form a group of independent experts in the areas of incubation, clustering, business development and financing early stage that will discuss the functioning of this extended 'system' of services innovation support. They will then be able to make recommendations for policy intervention, which will be of great use to the European Commission.
The core of the project was the ‘Entrepreneurship & Innovation Exchange’ platform (EIX) which is considered as a highly innovative, interactive and strategic support mechanism. It was implemented to assure a timely access to new instruments, results and evaluation programmes across the EU. Target groups of the platform were institutions supporting enterprises but also enterprises themselves.
IAT led the work in WP 6, drawing on its expertise and capabilities developed during its participation in the INNOVA NICE (Networking ICT Clusters in Europe) project, and best practice emerged from other cluster networking initiatives and the European Cluster Alliance expert group (e.g. ProINNO Cluster Alliance, INNOVA Cluster Network).
Clusters are ‘nodes’ within a sector where companies, academia, industry and public authorities have strong connections, collaborating and exchanging knowledge and experience. Today, clusters are considered as business environment of increased innovation and competi-tiveness with ability to increase regional contribution towards the achievement of the Lisbon Agenda. However, clusters are largely geographically based, usually benefiting companies within its locality. It is extremely difficult for ventures that are not geographically based in the cluster, to gain access to its benefits. Effective cooperation between clusters from different countries (i.e. cluster alliances) is also quite rare. Therefore, the main objective of WP6 is to facilitate access of KIS-enterprises to related clusters and European networks with a purpose of search for new research and business partners by developing and validating a practical mechanism for Access to Clusters.
The following activities were carried during the course of the workpackage:
6.1 Cluster Mapping: Analyse secondary data and results from a number of cluster networking initiatives (i.e. cluster studies, INNOVA Cluster Networks, ProINNO, etc.), identifying best practices and effective practical mechanisms for connecting together clusters in different countries and for facilitating KIS-ventures to access the benefits of clusters in terms of identifying research and business partners. The effectiveness of identified best practices for networking with clusters will be analysed in the view of the different lifecycle stages of cluster development. The results of this activity will be fed into the E&I Exchange.
6.2 Access to Clusters: Implement a number of selected access-to-clusters tools and mechanisms identified within the ACHIEVE More innovative software clusters. The results of NICE project had highlighted that being in a cluster does not necessarily imply effective engagement of its members in joint R&D activities or activities that result in new or improved services. This is especially true for high-technology SMEs.
6.3 E&I Exchange: Roll out the results to the rest of the ACHIEVE More Network through the E&I Exchange by organising Access to Clusters Workshops with members.