Europe is gradually becoming a more innovative continent. Innovation has been placed in the centre of Europe 2020 strategy for its key role in business expansion, employment creation and economic growth.
Innovation Union Scoreboard (2015) states that EU innovation growth has been increasing at an average annual rate of 1.0% between 2007 and 2014. Still, the growth has not been equally strong across all innovation dimensions and indicators. While Europe has been getting stronger in Innovation Enablers and Firm Activities, a notable decline in EU SMEs’ Innovation Outputs has occurred. The share of SMEs with product/process innovations has shrunk by 1.7% and that of the marketing/organizational innovations by 3.3%. Sales of innovative products have declined by 0.8%. The discrepancy between innovation inputs (enablers and firm activities) and innovation outputs proves that Europe still has to tap into its innovative potential and is yet to poise itself better to be able to fully cash in on its innovative products and services.
Commercialization of innovation is becoming an urgent problem. The most recent Innobarometer survey (2015) confirms EU SMEs experience difficulties in bringing innovative products or services to market. It also states that SMEs face more constrains to commercialization of their innovations than bigger companies. Lack of marketing expertise has been a problem in commercializing innovations for 39% of SMEs, compared to 23% of bigger enterprises.
Among SMEs, young firms (0-5 years old) have the highest potential for innovation, growth and jobs creation (DynEmp, OECD). At the same time, they represent the most vulnerable group due to:1. low survival rate – in a majority of EU Member States only 40% to 60% of firms born in 2008 survived until 2012 (Annual Report on European SMEs 2014/2015);2. shortage of skills related to planning and managing innovation process and bringing innovative ideas to market (same as above).
The data analysis reveals a need for training which will provide young SMEs with fail-safe methods of introducing innovative products/services to market and gaining commercial success. The INN-COMMERCE project addresses this challenge setting up the aim: to foster commercialization of young SMEs' innovation by improving their knowledge and skills in promoting and marketing innovative products or services through gamified training, specifically tailored to their needs.
Specific objectives include:
- Developing curriculum and e-learning content addressing the challenges young SMEs face in commercialization of innovative products/services;
- Providing young SMEs with an open educational resource complete with learning materials on the innovation process with special focus on commercialization of innovation;
- Delivering clear guidelines for young SMEs and C-VET institutions on using the developed materials and resources in their practice;
- Collecting SMEs’ best practices in applying marketing strategies for successful commercialization of innovative products and services.
The project employed a life-cycle methodology, which implies a sequence of activities for planning, executing and disseminating the project results. In the lifetime of the project, the following intellectual outputs have developed:
- O1. Course curriculum and learning content including a) presentations supplemented with voice memos and b) game-like exercises
- O2. Gamification strategy and interactive/ gamified content implemented on the e-learning platform
- O3. Guidelines for SMEs and VET providers explaining the nature of INN-COMMERCE training
- O4. Collection of best practices in applying marketing strategies for successful commercialization of innovative products and services.
Gamification approach to learning design helped to make INN-COMMERCE training a productive and fun experience. Interactive content were developed in a way allowing for flexible self-paced learning. The partners provided detailed instructions for engaging with all learning materials, including video-presentations, quizzes and interactive game-like exercises.
The INN-COMMERCE project is targeted at EU SMEs which are 0-5 years old and C-VET providers. At least 445 representatives of the target group were directly involved in the project activities and events (prototype workshops, national small-scale conferences and the project final conference). In addition, the project reached more than 100 000 indirect beneficiaries through broad dissemination activities. By achieving its objectives, the INN-COMMERCE project contributed to strengthening the innovation performance of EU SMEs, thus supporting economic growth and employment creation in Europe.