Successful Approach for Improving Innovation Management for SMEs

It's a well known fact that Europe's competitive potential is dependent on the capacity to be truly innovative and creative in launching new successful products and services. This can be a daunting challenge for many organizations, not the least for small and medium sized enterprises that often lack proficiency in innovation management. IMP³rove is an approach developed especially to meet the needs of SMEs to help them develop innovation management performance with sustainable impact.

InnovationManagment spoke to Dr Eva Diedrichs, who is the responsible project manager for IMP³rove, the European Commission’s major project on innovation management. IMP³rove stands for IMProving Innovation Management Perfromance with sustainable IMPact.

What is IMP³rove?

– IMP³rove responds to the needs of European enterprises to become more competitive based on systematic innovation management. Over the last four years it has set the benchmark in innovation management support in Europe. Innovation management is a key driver for sustainable and profitable growth and as a result for competitiveness in Europe.

– However, especially small and medium sized enterprises lacked proficiency in innovation management. They had also difficulties in finding the required quality of professional support in many European countries. Therefore, the European Commission launched the IMP³rove project. It builds on the innovation management consulting experience that A.T. Kearney has from their numerous consulting projects and from their “Best Innovator” Contest in Europe, and on the expertise that the German Fraunhofer Gesellschaft as applied research organization has in this field.

According to Dr Diedrichs IMP³rove is unique as it links innovation management performance and business performance.

– It offers a truly European benchmarking with the largest and most up-to-date database on innovation management. More than 2.500 enterprises in Europe and beyond have benefited from IMP³rove.  It builds on a European network of more than 400 trained IMP³rove experts. The IMP³rove benchmarking is based on an online assessment (www.improve-innovation.eu) that allows the comparison with the growth champions and the average within the own sector, country, size or age class or across the sectors, geographies, size or age classes.

– With the online benchmarking IMP³rove achieves efficiency in the assessment. With the integrated personal consulting process IMP³rove ensures effectiveness of the innovation management improvements. The trainings that are offered within IMP³rove increase the proficiency in innovation management consulting.

Who are the most likely beneficiaries of IMP³rove- concept/method?

– We were surprised about the versatility of IMP³rove when we collected success stories from all over Europe demonstrating the impact of IMP³rove. SMEs, consultants, intermediaries, cluster managers, financial investors, policy makers and academia definitely benefit from IMP³rove.

Why should they use it?

– Enterprises using IMP³rove gain a very thorough understanding of the improvement potential of their innovation management. With the comprehensive IMP³rove benchmarking report, they have a clear picture where the competition is and where they stand in terms of innovation management and its contribution to the business success. If a company would like external support to improve their innovation management and business performance they have direct access to the network of IMP³rove consultants.

IMP³rove is also an option for other stake holders

Consultants and innovation support providers using IMP³rove can significantly enhance their support services. The individual service provider does not dispose of such a solid and comprehensive approach and database. Furthermore by applying the IMP³rove approach they also adhere to the European pre-standard in innovation management assessment.

Intermediaries such as innovation agencies or clusters use IMP³rove to increase the competitiveness of the companies in their region, sector or cluster. They also can improve the quality of innovation management support services based on the IMP³rove services.

Financial investors gain additional information on the future competitiveness of companies . Furthermore, IMP³rove offers the means to drive sustainable and profitable growth of those companies that the financial investors have in their portfolio.

For policy makers, IMP³rove offers insights in the competitiveness of sectors or regions. It also provides the basis for more effective innovation policies as IMP³rove studies show the barriers and drivers that companies face in innovation.

Academia can complement their curriculum with a sophisticated yet practitioner-oriented approach and leverage the IMP³rove network.

-We have regions in Europe and outside Europe that use IMP³rove to be able to better support the SMEs in improving their business performance. This includes benchmarking as well as consulting in innovation management.

How does IMP³rove work?

– For SMEs it is very simple, they just have to sign in on the IMP³rove platform, complete the questionnaire, decide on the sample against which they would like to benchmark themselves and download the IMP³rove® Benchmarking report. At any time they can involve an IMP³rove consultant if they would like to have additional support.

Consultants and intermediaries who would like to benefit from IMP³rove are offered trainings to be able to successfully apply the services to their clients. Financial investors can request the IMP³rove Benchmarking report from the company that is seeking funding. Either a trained IMP³rove consultant or a member of the IMP³rove Core Team will support them in interpreting the results.

– For policy makers who would like to integrate the IMP³rove approach in their programs we develop a customized program. We also conduct specific studies based on the IMP³rove benchmarking database. The same applies for academic institutions. They are welcome to contact us to discuss the best solution to achieve their goals.

Why should SME:s be concerned with innovation management?

– It is proven that sustainable and profitable growth comes from new products, new services, processes, business models or new organizational models – especially in times of economic crises. Companies that have a systematic and result oriented innovation management in place outperform their competitors by factor 2 or more in profitable growth. This is proven by the comparison of the growth champions and the other companies in the IMP³rove database.

Can you give us some best practice examples confirming the value of IMP³rove?

– Based on the insights from IMP³rove companies have increased sales, established new (marketing) functions or units, generated new jobs. IMP³rove consultants and intermediaries have differentiated and expanded their services and won new projects also from the public sector. Financial investors have revised their decision based on the IMP³rove results and reduced their investment risk. Intermediaries and policy makers have developed a better innovation support infrastructure in their region.

– The best proof of IMP³rove’s value is the many requests we receive from inside and also from outside Europe to become part of the IMP³rove network. This is for us the best motivation to continuously improve IMP³rove. Therefore, we are currently working on the next release of the IMP³rove platform. And we are in the process to establish the IMP³rove European Innovation Management Academy providing training in innovation management related topics and certification of IMP³rove Experts. With this, IMP³rove continues to bring its mission to life “improving innovation management performance with sustainable impact” and again set the benchmark.

About IMP³rove

IMP³rove improves the innovation management performance of enterprises based on the “A.T. Kearney House of Innovation”. It includes a thorough benchmarking, a well structured consulting process and the continuous improvement of a company’s innovation management as well as of innovation management support services. IMP³rove is a pan-European platform for all stakeholders active in innovation management. A study with a collection of 50 success stories available is on the IMP³rove website: www.improve-innovation.eu

About Eva Diedrichs

Dr Eva Diedrichs is senior consultant at A.T. Kearney, Top Management Consulting. She is Core Team member of the European Innovation and R&D Management Practice there. She is the responsible project manager for the European Commission’s flagship project on innovation management called “IMP³rove”. She has managed numerous innovation management projects in various industries such as pharmaceutical industry, medical device sector, service industries and in the aero space and defense sector. She published several articles and monographs on innovation management, benchmarking, change management and strategic topics. She co-authored a book on core competencies and gave several speeches on success factors of innovation management at international conferences. She holds a PhD from the University of Bamberg, Germany and was a lecturer at St. Thomas College, St. Paul MN, USA.

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