I-Start aims at boosting integration and collaboration among companies, through the implementation of innovation projects for business clusters.
Small and micro companies frequently struggle to develop innovation projects, not only due to a lack of investment capacity, but also due to the difficulty to grasp the various opportunities available. This is particularly relevant for ceramic companies in Umbria Region, largely consisting of family-run businesses and micro enterprises.
The main target of the I-Start Programme are small and micro companies. It complements the other funding tools / programmes of Umbria Region, encouraging the creation of business clusters gathering SMEs facing similar needs and challenges, related to, i.e., territory / sector, specific themes, production chains, marketing / internationalisation. The objective is to boost innovation and encourage cooperation among companies/sectors, to support SME competitiveness.
I-Start operates in two distinct ways:
1) Awareness-raising activities among SMEs on the opportunities connected to innovation projects and on the advantages of collaboration with other companies (clusters) and universities/research centres;
2) Calls for innovation projects (process / product and / or research innovation) addressing clusters.
SMEs in the various clusters share project costs (35% co-financing) and results.
I-Start is managed by Umbria Innovazione - Innovation Agency of Umbria Region. It accompanies the I-Start clusters in the innovation process (from development of business / innovation idea to project implementation) and supports the creation of the cluster

Resources needed

For the 2012 and 2013 editions the funds granted to the projects amounted to € 1,280,190.00 (65% co-financing).
Moreover, human resources from Umbria Innovazione are necessary to manage the Programme and work with the clusters.

Evidence of success

In 2012 and 2013 I-Start supported 75 projects, involving 239 companies (109 micro, 99 small, 28 medium, 3 large). For a total value of € 1.967.760 (65% co-financing from cluster companies).
For ceramics, I-Start supported the design of: a tableware line, a cup for hot chocolate, a line of glasses in borosilicate glass 3.3 and a line for cooking / serving.
One of the glasses was chosen by BMW Motor for the launch of SUV X5. The cup was optioned by the European Association CHOCOLATE WAY for the

Potential for learning or transfer

Elements of I-Start that can be of interest for transfer and that are particularly relevant for ceramics and for crafts sector are:
• Special attention paid to the enterprises (micro / small) that normally struggle more to embrace innovation and access to funding opportunities;
• Wide range of services offered to target SMEs, from the support in the development of the innovation idea, to day-to-day support to clusters during the innovation process;
• Easy processes and forms to participate in the programme, reducing the administrative burden, which can also be an issue for micro companies with no dedicated staff;
• Support to networking among companies and to collaboration between businesses and Universities / Research institutions;
• Flexibility in terms of approach of the specific clusters and needs addressed.

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Main institution
Umbria region
Start Date
January 2004
End Date
December 2014


Emanuela Bossi Please login to contact the author.