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Innovating SMEs - segmentation along lifecycle and sectors (analytical research activity)
Deadline: Mar 28, 2017  

 Entrepreneurship and SMEs
 Horizon Europe

Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Creating a higher societal impact from innovation support requires increasing its efficiency. In the recent past innovation support agencies recognised that successful innovation is not originating only from scientific research and technological development, but from new business models, the uptake of technologies, design and organisational changes. Furthermore 'internationalisation’ of business activities is seen as a case of business innovation in some countries.

A better understanding of business innovation opportunities led to an even broader array of innovation support measures put in place for SMEs. But the question arose how to better identify and target those SMEs that can create highest impact from the specific support measures; and how to offer viable alternatives to those enterprises not yet ready to implement the most ambitious projects. Representatives from innovation agencies were describing this process of matching design and delivery of support schemes to the needs, potentials and ambition of their client SMEs as ‘segmentation of the client base’.

Processes of value creation from innovation differ between industrial sectors. For example between capital intensive - but low-speed – innovation in the mining industry; the high speed innovation software development for example for gaming which is realised in networks; pharmaceutical industry with a dominant role of patents and industries with long and complex supply chains like automotive or aerospace.

Many regions try to identify potential high-growth SMEs and orient their support towards realising their full growth potential, yet the methodologies to identify high potentials vary substantially and innovation support programmes put in place are hardly designed taking account of the economic fabric or of the smart specialisation priorities of the region. Instead often a standard portfolio of innovation support measures is put in place.


The above describes three interwoven aspects of a challenge to segment the (SME-) clients of public innovation support in order to achieve a higher societal return from the investments into innovation support. The action shall contribute to documenting and analysing existing and potential new approaches to provide innovation support in a more effective and efficient way. Successfully segmenting 'innovating SMEs' – the clients of innovation agencies – is a key in that respect.

To address the described gaps proposals should address one or more of the following aspects:

  • Develop methodologies to identify segments within the group of innovating SMEs (including SMEs that are not yet innovating but have innovation potential or need) and describe portfolios of innovation support measures that typically address well their needs along innovation cycles. To that end the proposed project should rely on existing datasets (Community Innovation Survey [CIS] or others) or conduct own targeted surveys.
  • Analyse existing approaches to segment innovating SMEs and analyse existing portfolios of innovation support measures in how far they respond to the needs of important segments in the region.
  • Analyse in how far popular innovation support instruments like tax credits, vouchers, grants are biased towards certain innovating SMEs or provide opportunities to overcome existing biases.

Projects to be supported are encouraged to conduct specific communication activities targeting the relevant associations of regional development agencies and innovation support agencies.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 0.30 and 1.00 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

The result of the research action shall strengthen the capacity of national and regional ministries, innovation agencies and providers of innovation support, such as cluster organisations, science and technology parks or development agencies, to:

  • better understand the patterns of innovation opportunities and activities in different segments of the SMEs according to age, size, business activity, industry sector, organisational features and other relevant aspects;
  • better understand the impact of specific types of innovation support with low entry requirements on different segments of the SME population – of particular interest in this context are tax credits for RDI expenditure, voucher and small grant schemes to strengthen management capacity and technology uptake;
  • target existing measures better to those SMEs that can create highest economic and societal impact;
  • design new measures for specific segments of the SMEs to start or diversify innovation activities which create highest impact for their competiveness.

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