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The Innovation Factory
Start date: Sep 30, 2009, End date: Sep 29, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The project aims to increase both the innovation capability and capacity of small and micro businesses across the INTERREG IVA region. The applicant states that this SMEs comprises the largest sector of the business economy in the region but has suffered from having the least support directed towards it as well as being the least able to avail of such support due to financial, logistical and sometimes timeliness reasons. This proposal hoped to provide this support Achievements: The overall aim of the project is to increase the innovation capability and capacity in small and micro businesses across the INTERREG IVA region. This sector comprises the largest part of the economy in the region, but often suffers from having the least support targeted towards it and being the least able to avail of such support for financial, logistical or simply timeliness reasons. This was achieved through the trial and development of a comprehensive approach to small business mentoring support based around the concept of the Innovation Agent – an in-house mentor who worked with and guided the client business through the support defined by their Action Plan and ensured that the learning from that support was embedded in the business for greater impact.The project was delivered through a variety of cross-border partners: NORIBIC (NI) and WestBIC (Ireland) were the client facing organisations who provided the Innovation Agents and undertook the recruitment, audit, action planning and support for the businesses and provided them with mentors and external support outside of iFactory as necessary. Mentoring support was provided by the six FE Colleges in Northern Ireland and two Institutes of Technology in the border region –Letterkenny and Sligo. Potential business referrals to the programme were made by the six County Enterprise Boards in the border region of Ireland. Both Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland provided referrals and client vetting.A series of world class seminars and conferences were also held with speakers such as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Christian Majgaard, Brand Head of Lego, Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project, Jo Malone of Jo Malone Perfume and Martyn Dawes, founder of Coffee Nation.The engagement and interaction between mentors, Innovation Agents and participant businesses from both sides of the border has been a feature of this project. It was designed to bring together providers of expertise to within the reach of participants in a way that had not happened before – this has been confirmed not only by the participants but also by the providers who have been introduced to a new sphere of population. This new engagement has taken place not only across the north-south axis but also from south-west to north-east and vice-versa. This would not have happened without the structure provided by iFactory, following EU funding support.In the experience of the Project team, this interchange of expertise had not happened before on any meaningful scale, hence the decision to employ the deliberate strategy of deploying Innovation Agents and mentors on cross-border assignments. The results of this strategy has been witnessed not only on the positive achievements of the receiving businesses, but also in the enhanced level of networking that has taken place on a spin-off basis, both in the workplace and at iFactory events.The iFactory was one of the first large-scale mentoring programmes and certainly the first on that scale on a cross-border basis. The model has been adopted (though somewhat scaled down) by the local Councils across Northern Ireland as part of their Local Economic Development Programmes. Currently, NORIBIC is delivering, on a commercial basis, over 5,000 hours of mentor support across 9 Council areas using the business model of associate mentors that it developed during iFactory.
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  • 2007 - 2013 Northern Ireland - Border Region of Ireland - Western Scotland (IE-UK)
  • Project on KEEP Platform
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