Building regional structures to deliver qualified consultancy services concerning knowledge and technology transfer for SMEs in large rural areas.
Particularly in large rural regions with a broad mix of sectors, the question arises as to how the large number of SMEs can be reached with tailor made qualified counseling services for knowledge and technology transfer.
The German federal state of Lower Saxony with an area of approx. 47,000 km² and 8 million inhabitants has integrated its 45 districts and independent cities. If at least three districts or cities cooperate, they can apply for ERDF funding and use qualified advisers for knowledge and technology transfer in their region; these can be external consultants or your own employees. The cooperating districts or cities must therefore submit a consultation concept and ensure the co-financing of the ERDF funds.
As a result, SMEs can be offered recipients and beneficiaries with free counseling services. The offer includes a “first stop-consultation” (max 1 day) and a subsequent intensive consultation (10 days max.). The subject may be an analysis of innovation performance, the development of project ideas or the initiation of cooperation with research institutions.
The administrative procedures are carried out by the respective districts or cities. For companies, only minimal administrative effort is required. This ensures very low-barriers to use this service - adapted to the respective regional situation - and very short paths between companies and consultants.
The district of Hameln-Pyrmont cooperates with three neighboring districts. Together, a long-standing private consultancy was commissioned. The contractor uses two consultants. The project management lies with the districts. The total costs are 220.000, - € p.a.
Evidence of success
Currently, about 90% of the districts and cities participate. Often, three to five districts cooperate, using external experts to provide consulting services. They specifically target small businesses that are not yet innovative.
In the cooperation area of the district Hameln approx. 200 SMEs are advised annually. This results in an average of 22 - 25 cooperation projects with universities per year and follow-up investments in research activities of an average of 150 to 200 €.
A key challenge lies in the fact that so far only companies or projects can be consulted, which correspond to the RIS3 of Lower Saxony. In addition, the technology transfer is aimed at scientific institutions from Lower Saxony. This limits the counseling options.
Potential for learning or transfer
Especially for large and less densely populated regions, involvement of local authorities is a good way to introduce existing SMEs to innovation and technology transfer. By co-financing these authorities are particularly interested in a successful implementation of the offer, at the same time the use by the SMEs is much easier and more attractive.
Different consulting concepts with regard to external and own consulting staff, special competencies of the consultants as well as the ways to approach the SMEs are practiced. Advantages and disadvantages can be communicated and transfered upon request.
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