‘Incubated’ small and medium-sized enterprisesshould be ideal partners for innovative research consortia.But the reality of limited resources within the enterprisesthemselves, combined with competitive pressures, often restricts theirparticipation. This is despite the availability of incentives to encourage privateinvestment in R&D at national and European level. The Boost-it project will support andtrain SMEs from the ICT and associated sectors from six countries to enable them to take activeroles in FP7 research consortia. The services and tools provided will also enable them to access otherfunding opportunities and boost their innovation potential.
Purpose-designed supportive business environments that are createdto encourage growth for young, dynamic companies are a commonfeature of national and regional economic strategies across Europe.However, most of these ‘incubated’ SMEs struggle to become solidbusiness realities as they face strong competition in the global marketplace often with limited resources. On the positive side, theseenterprises are open to embrace change, have close links to anincubator organisation with its existing networks, resources andfacilities, and are usually close to other incubated and complementarySMEs. They are frequently in close proximity to knowledge andtechnology poles that often result in incubated SMEs being amongthose companies with the greatest potential for innovation.In parallel, national governments in Europe are trying to meetLisbon objectives, in particular in terms of private investment in R&D,and are encouraging spin-offs and entrepreneurship by providingincentives, such as tax benefits or other support, to create high value-added research structures in companies. At present, incubatedSMEs do not often take advantage of such incentives, as they lackthe resources and information to apply, being too focused in theirdaily business needs.
The ETI project will improve the exploitation of incubated SMEsinnovation potential by developing a range of services to help thembenefit from European and national incentives. Boost-It will developa range of services and tools that can support incubated SMEsthrough the life cycle of their own innovation projects. The projectis geographically focused on the EU accession candidate countriesand recent new Member States and will work to promote theirparticipation in the next EC Research Framework Programme (FP7)and other international initiatives.The project will concentrate on niche SMEs that are currently under-represented in RTD programmes. These incubator SMEs should beideal partners for RTD consortia and innovative projects. They areusually hi-tech firms involved in ICT development or automation andcontrol applications and are often enterprises that have been spunout of other larger companies or created by universities orentrepreneurs.
Boosting SME skills and success
“An incubated SME should be the ideal RTD project partner.”
The Boost-It project is coordinated by Inovamais – an innovationand technology consultancy company from Portugal – and involvesnine innovation service providers: organisations that provideincubator facilities. These will provide access to individual SMEorganisations in Portugal, Poland, Israel, the Ukraine, Croatia andHungary. The project also involves five science parks. The innovationservice providers supply added-value services to incubator SMEs,such as laboratory or office space, commercial support services andother advice and access to facilities. The Israeli model for incubationof SMEs has had considerable success and the involvement of Israeliorganisations in Boost-it will allow small firms from other countriesto share in their best practice.
All nine incubator organisations will provide a list of between20-40 potential SME clients that are suitable for the project. Theconsolidated list of SMEs will be refined to around 200 companies.The project partners will go to at least 150 of these companies tomake technology audits and will also visit all companies to assesstheir development needs, their ideas and potential. This will producearound 30 potential project ideas or concepts to be promotedtowards FP7 or other European or national funding programmes.In addition, the Boost-It team will be able to assess the competenciesof the SMEs to participate in other project consortia of which theyhave knowledge. The main objective forBoost-It is to enable theparticipation of at least20 incubator SMEsin FP7 and thenew Competiti-veness andInnovationProgramme.
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