Sectoral approaches to the improvement of business support delivery

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Focusing on specific industrial sectors in terms of economic development policies is coherent with the concept of Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3), which has been massively adopted in European regions over the past decade, and the equally largely spread European cluster policies.

Among the lessons learned over the years in terms of support to industrial clusters are:

  • Facilitate the growth of clusters by building upon existing strengths, i.e. implementing evidence-based policy,
  • Adopt an inclusive and participatory cluster approach (i.e. involving businesses, investors, academics and policy-makers, and making links with related policy themes such as R&D, innovation, entrepreneurship, access to finance, SME internationalisation etc.)

(Source: Smart Guide to Cluster Policy, European Union, 2016)

The RECREATE  - REinforce Competitiveness of REgionAl Transport SMEs - project has the ambition to adopt such an evidence-based and holistic approach by improving all the relevant schemes that could potentially deliver growth to the transport SMEs in the four project regions: West Midlands (United Kingdom), South Aegean Region (Greece), Lithuania and South-West Oltenia (Romania). This includes especially support for:

  1. Research and Development
  2. Rapid development and implementation of products and services
  3. Access to finance schemes
  4. Internationalisation opportunities.

Action Plan for the West Midlands region

The Action Plan developed within RECREATE for the West Midlands region, under the leadership of Coventry University Enterprises Ltd, in close collaboration with regional stakeholders such as Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub, illustrates well the approach described above.

The Action Plan focuses on channelling the resources of 3 specific programs funded under European Structural and Investment Funds 2014 to 2020 for the subregion Coventry and Warwickshire towards SMEs from the mobility sector. All 3 programs are running until June 2023:

Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub delivers bespoke advice and support on a range of key issues for businesses allowing them to cut through time-consuming bureaucracy and access a single point of contact. Since 2014, the Growth Hub has helped more than 2,800 businesses grow. It also secured more than £65M in private sector investment for companies they have supported.

The RECREATE Action Plan foresees a sectorial approach within the Growth Hub addressing the following sub-sectors: manufacturing and engineering, transportation, services. Relevant companies will receive sector-specific advice instead of the current general advice.

The Programme supports SMEs in developing innovative and new to the market products, services or technologies by offering financial and non-financial support (one-to-one business mentoring; workshops to enhance knowledge and skills in areas such as new product development and user testing; usability tests and user evaluations; access to finance with grants).

The RECREATE Action Plan foresees a sectorial approach within the Programme by providing sector-specific non-financial support to transport SMEs, mainly in the fields of Intellectual Property and business mentoring.

UXPLORE is a £3.8M project part-funded by the ERDF. It aims at supporting businesses to take advantage of digital connectivity (everything from WIFI and broadband through to standalone 5G networks). Besides mentoring and workshops on digital technologies, UXPLORE provides also grants to help businesses prove their concepts for products and services built for 5G.

The RECREATE Action Plan foresees that the programme shall aim for attracting companies within the transport sector.

Inspired by different good practices from Lithuania - the Mobility Innovation Centre, the Lithuanian Engineering Industries Association (LINPRA) and the Association of Transport Innovation (TIA) - the Action Plan shall enable to channel existing resources towards SMEs from the transport sector and at the same time improve the quality of the business support provided thanks to a specific sectorial approach, making use of the expertise available in the region.

The expectation is that specific support delivered in the framework of a strong sectorial approach, integrated across different programmes, is likely to generate a higher impact compared to generic support. Coventry University Enterprises Ltd will monitor closely the results of the 3 actions above during the period December 2021 – May 2023. Other RECREATE partners have adopted similar approaches in their specific regional context.

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Economic development