Managing Open Innovation in SMEs
Managing Open Innovation in SMEs – When we started to focus on SMEs, we were curious to understand if our approaches and tools developed around Open Innovation for large Corporates could be applied to SMEs.
Of course, innovation is a key element of competitiveness for an SME – especially when it operates in a highly technological sector. SMEs are considered more flexible and agile than a Corporate, but by definition they have fewer resources than large Enterprises.
Is innovation difficult to implement in SMEs?
And that’s where the problem lies: with fewer resources, there is a strong temptation for an SME to relegate innovation to the rank of second priority, behind customer emergencies or the release of the latest product or service. Innovation requires a regular, continuous effort, based on information, knowledge and partners. To maintain this effort requires an organization, people and skills.
How to understand the needs and management of Open Innovation in SMEs?
We had the opportunity to set up a European project on Open Innovation and SMEs with partners in Italy, Germany, England, Slovenia, Greece and Turkey. The project lasted three years, during which we were able to involve several hundred SMEs in order to better understand their innovation practices and needs, in different countries, in different cultures, in different sectors of activity such as food products, construction, energy, chemicals, etc.
How do the innovation needs of SMEs differ from those of large groups?
The project allowed us to understand that the innovation needs of SMEs differ significantly from Corporates in some aspects. For example, many SMEs innovate on an ad hoc basis, around a particular project. An innovation support service offering an annual subscription will therefore not be suitable: a very flexible model is required, on demand. The project also taught us that SMEs do not form a homogeneous group when it comes to innovation. Some are constantly innovating, others very occasionally. Their needs and the solutions to these needs will therefore be significantly different, with a much stronger need for support for SMEs that occasionally innovate.
What is the purpose of Open innovation for an SME?
We also found that innovation for an SME must also be a means of making itself known and promoting its own skills and innovations. In an SME, the commercial function is never far from the Research and Development function and vice versa.
Finally, we have become convinced that SMEs must be involved in Open Innovation practices. They have everything to gain from this, given their limited resources and their constant challenge of competitiveness. As long as they get involved with certain methods and means.
Discover in this Ebook:
How to maintain a flow of innovations with limited resources, time and budget?
How can you open up to new markets while remaining focused on the short term?