Collaborate to Innovate: How Partnerships can Accelerate SMEs use of New Technologies

Europe is in the midst of a rapid transformation. New technologies are emerging, business is changing, and value chains are growing ever more complex. To harness this technological transformation, new partnerships will need to be formed. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in particular, are affected by the speed and associated risks of this technological transformation. They face numerous challenges, with emerging technologies requiring high investment; access to knowledge, training and skilled staff; and challenging international cooperation, to name but a few.

Collaboration is key to helping SMEs access and enable innovation in emerging markets. The Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing in Central Europe (AMiCE) an Interreg funded project (2017-2020), established a collaborative network of innovation actors aiming to facilitate innovations in emerging markets.  The network supports SMEs and research and development partners who are in the process of incorporating newly developed manufacturing technologies and circular economy principles into their business.  

How does the platform work?

The specific methodology used was tested and demonstrated within the AMiCE network. It focused on addressing the three main challenges (see Figure1 ); lack of awareness; lack of access to testing facilities; and lack of support. Innovation actors across regions were linked in order to share knowledge, expertise, and capabilities for pilots. Demonstrators were also identified, and existing national and regional support schemes were leveraged, which in turn, created a solid foundation for project and business development.

Quality of the project - The blend of measures addressing the challenges holistically
Quality of the project - The blend of measures addressing the challenges holistically

The need for a cross-border approach

The manufacturing industry has plentiful opportunities, however,  Europe’s technological wave means these opportunities come with new challenges requiring the creation of new partnerships and common business and legal frameworks.

SMEs occupy a significant position in the European economy, making up 56% of active enterprises and employing 91 million people. However, as previously mentioned, SMEs are particularly at risk of falling behind thanks to today’s rapid technological transformations. 

Whilst Europe has resources, training facilities and support schemes in place, it lacks a cross-border approach for the effective support for SMEs that address the above challenges. As such, without a “one-stop-shop”, the measures that are currently in place often fail to unlock the full potential of the advanced manufacturing technologies or circular economy principles.

A framework such as AMiCE that provides individual and tailored support can be a highly important driver helping SMEs to successfully grapple with emerging technologies, both at a local and international level. 

Cross-border collaboration is of utmost importance for Pan-European networks such as the European Lightweight Cluster Alliance (ELCA). Understanding the different particularities of regions can help to exploit the full potential of advanced manufacturing technologies. By mapping regional knowledge and expertise of companies and innovation stakeholders, synergies and complementarities can be easily identified. This can help in proposing tailored support measures that can help SMEs uptaking emerging technologies more effectively.

Ricardo del Valle, Bax & Company Consultant and Manager of the ELCA network 

AMiCE cross-border alliance benefits 

The cross-border approach - Pulling the resources together
The cross-border approach - Pulling the resources together

AMiCE in action 

The AMiCE support of the Slovak industrial waste recycling SME Fecupral s.r.o. in their innovation process is a good example of how cross-border collaboration and combining experts from multidisciplinary focus areas can bring new stimuli into that process and inspire yet unexplored routes. All three challenges (lack of knowledge, access to relevant facilities, and partnerships) have been addressed through the project support scheme. The Alliance enabled the SME to co-develop different project ideas that are followed up by different innovation actors and Alliance partners in individual routes. AMiCE has qualified the scheme offered by Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) on innovation capacity building and thus proved that the Alliance’s approach of connecting also with external networks is effective.

“SMEs with a desire to innovate and adopt advanced manufacturing technologies including those that power the circular economy require easy access to information channels, funding, support tools, and piloting facilities. Thus, the one-stop shop developed and offered by the Alliance is an important enabler for SMEs to find the tailored support they need with as few as possible effort from their side benefitting their sustainable growth.”

Johanna Reiland, Bax & Company Consultant 

Strong partnerships, a key ingredient for success 

The success of AMiCE is built upon solid connections and key relationships. By continuing such commitments, important strategic partnerships and collaborations will ensure further value for SMEs and long-term sustainability throughout Europe allowing the innovation ecosystem for SMEs in Central Europe to be expanded and upgraded. 

Bax & Company supported the ALLIANCE throughout the project in defining the state of play in the regions related to advanced manufacturing technology adoption and developing a foresight study where region and sector-specific scenarios were developed to support the innovation actors in defining their support programs for SMEs. Bax & Company supported the development of a standardised support methodology that is flexible enough to be adapted to company-specific needs.

At BAX we believe well-functioning networks are the key to collaboration and as such are committed to supporting our partners in the setup of their innovation network.

To learn more about cross-border collaborations contact one of our team members below.

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