This policy aims to improve efficiency of companies’ innovation and to promote demand for organised research, especially by SMEs of industrial districts.
This policy aims to improve the efficiency of the innovative processes of enterprises in technological districts and to promote a demand for more qualified and organised research, especially by SMEs belonging to the districts themselves. SMEs in general are lagging behind in investments dedicated to R&D. The circumstance that SMEs in Emilia-Romagna are often operating geographically in delimited industrial districts creates the opportunity to provide incentives to local networks of SMEs presenting collective initiatives. Its objectives are: strengthening the functions related to innovation and R&D, highlighting their central role in the overall organisation of SMEs and promoting their more effective management at company level. The organisation of networks of SMEs is focused on research and development activities, also with a view to developing new enabling technologies to encourage diversification of district production.
The policy interests 16 geographical industrial districts of Emilia-Romagna, that are specialized in specific production sectors. It is focused on several sectors among which the agro-food sector. The main target of the policy are the SMEs operating within industrial districts, which are stimulated to create a network or consortium in order to apply for funds for innovation.
The total budget of this policy was € 12,500,000 € of which € 4,511,000 from the Ministry of Economic Development and € 7,989,000 from the Region Emilia-Romagna. Out of this amount € 800,000 had been allocated to the agri-food sector. Each network contract could be funded up to € 100,000.
Evidence of success
More than 70 training workshops and focus groups have been organized by the 9 implementing bodies, with specific focus on ‘managers of innovation’. 281 SMEs have created 93 networks, that have implemented innovation projects in 16 industrial districts, employing 297 young researchers. In the agro-food sector 6 networks of 22 SMEs have been funded employing 20 young researchers. Specific innovation tools have been developed to the benefit of all companies operating in the district.
For the SMEs, more flexibility in the rules to obtain the reimbursement of eligible costs would be necessary for a future call. The excessive burocracy may have impeded some SMEs not to present projects for funding.
Potential for learning or transfer
Key element of the policy is the enhancement of collaboration of SMEs within geographical industrial districts focused on the implementation of collective innovation processes.
Preliminary to this policy is the identification and the official recognition of industrial districts, that are an agglomeration of enterprises, generally SMEs, located in a limited and historically defined territorial area, specialized in one or more phases of a production process and integrated through a complex network of economic and social interrelationships. This policy aims to improve the efficiency of the innovative processes of enterprises in technological districts and to promote a demand for more qualified and organised research, especially by SMEs belonging to the districts themselves.
The policy relies on knowledge about innovation processes in SMEs. Knowledge is required about the contemporary dynamics of competition between and collaboration among SMEs.
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