INNO -rethinking business networks – instrument for strategic planning and implementation of the smart specialization strategy, elaborated at regional level
The North-West Development Region needs to attract higher value-added investments to accelerate its growth rate. The regional innovation ecosystem is poorly connected, so much so that after following several elicitation techniques used in research (survey, brainstorming sessions, workshops, and field visits) it was identified that the best solution to connect all actors with the purpose of developing and implementing smart specialization projects is via an online open innovation platform.
INNO platform was developed as a tool to promote investment at regional level, as well as to stimulate innovation among all actors in the ecosystem. It is managed by a dedicated team (it is an entire department) within the North-West Development Regional Agency that animates the ecosystem and has permanent contact with stakeholders in the region to determine them to create content and find solutions to the challenges they face through the platform. In other words, to make them “early adopters”.
The platform addresses all actors in the innovation ecosystem, from companies, to universities and research institutes, public authorities, or NGOs, at all levels, horizontally and vertically, on the principle of multi-level governance. Even individual users can find a purpose on the platform. The creation of digital communities and marketplaces allowing all regional, and not only, stakeholders to interact was INNO’s supreme scope.
Human resources with business analysis, UX design, digital product competences recruited from within different departments of the agency – the equivalent of 3 person one-year full-time dedication to serve the platform communication.
Evidence of success
The platform can be considered a complete success when all key players will be able to interact with each other without the intervention of the platform administrator. The interaction between them must be reflected within the Regional Innovation Scoreboard, in sense that the region should become a moderate-innovative region. Until then, the tool is a success because it helps the agency launch and promote all calls for smart specialization projects and gather ideas for the strategic portfolio.
There are 2 major challenges that the agency faced during the implementation of this initiative: a technical challenge regarding the implementation, so that the platform is functional and intuitive, and a community challenge dependent on the active involvement of stakeholders.
Potential for learning or transfer
Potential for learning is highlighted through two characteristics: the platform’s design process and the process of animating the stakeholders.
The platform’s design process was guided by the agile principles, and the development was not incremental (waterfall), but accompanied by constant validation with the stakeholders. The team had two business analysts with an agile mindset that provided a competitive advantage in fast-paced and complex environments such as the regional innovation ecosystem.
One of the learning elements concerns the requirements engineering process: elicitation - analysis - specification - validation. The project is a good practice example because it started with a well-conducted market research, which identified the needs of the market and customers, collected the requirements, and transformed them into functionalities. The principle behind the development of the platform was “short and frequent iterations”, or in other words continuous improvement.