ROCKET: Strengthening the competitiveness of SMEs by fostering regional cross-border cooperation in key technologies
Joint projects, especially in the field of Key Enabling Technologies (KET), require a basis of trust between the partners. Therefore, joint projects often take place between partners who have known each other before. Therefore, the same participants often take part in funding calls. Along the national borders, the language barrier adds another hurdle for new stakeholders.
Overcoming this hurdle requires the presence of organisations in the respective regions who can help potential applicants. ROCKET (Regional Collaboration on Key Enabling Technologies) was created precisely for this purpose. It brings together a consortium of clusters or networks from both sides of the Dutch-German border in the INTERREG VA area.
The consortium accompanies potential applicants from cradle to grave to lower the administrative thresholds. This means they discuss possible ideas and approaches to new technologies and markets with SMEs. They identify partners on the other side of the border and support them in the application process. After a positive evaluation by an external jury of experts, they accompany the project partners throughout the entire duration of the project and also ensure that the project is visible to potential customers for the first time, e.g. through coordinated communication.
In this way, new products and services for life-science, manufacturing and energy applications based on KETs were supported by funding feasibility studies and innovation projects.
The total budget of the ROCKET project was 10 mio. EUR. The majority of the budget was allocated to the funded projects. In addition, there was a low overhead for the management of the project even for the Core Partners.
Evidence of success
In April 2016 ROCKET started with 4 pre-approved cross-border "pioneer innovation projects" to show that the idea works and is sustainable.
From April 2016 to October 2017 three calls for project proposals were published. In total, 17 cross-border feasibility studies and innovation projects involving 70 companies, research institutes and universities were initiated and successfully completed. The activities also led to the winning of the German-Dutch Business Prize by an innovation project.
The geographical limitations made it difficult in some cases to form project consortia, as potential project partners were not located in the assisted area. In the end, however, project consortia were formed after a more intensive search and based on contacts with other multipliers already known.
Potential for learning or transfer
The holistic project approach in supporting companies (especially SMEs) before and during the application process as well as in the implementation of cross-border innovation projects along national borders ensures a successful implementation of the project.
This requires primarily a trustful cooperation between experienced network organisers, clusters or similar organisations in the participating regions and involved project management organisations. These must see themselves as service providers for the projects and solve all challenges that arise unbureaucratically.
With every round of calls for proposals and every newly started innovation project, further SMEs can be inspired to join this type of cooperation, as the successes of the other projects are directly communicated.
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