Service Innovation as a tool to transform SMEs & deliver responsible growth
The Centre‐Val de Loire region industrial fabric is composed of a lot of SMES, in various industries (mechanics, cosmetics, electronics, aeronautics).
Among them, most are subcontractors facing increasing worldwide competition with a lower price for an equal product. Those companies are not really concerned by an enlarged vision of innovation. The development of new service activities is a mean to make the difference from the competition by creating new added value for customers. It is also a way to move to a more sustainable business model. This GP is based on a new methodology to develop innovative services in SMEs.
Innovation through associated services consists of implementing solutions focus on uses of a product or the offer. It intends to bring more value to its customers/users.
This new approach makes it easier for companies to embrace open and more responsible innovation.
The process is structured in 3 phases: understand, imagine, define.
The first phase focuses on works of collective creativity and understanding of uses, users, their modes of operation and expectations.
The second phase consists of validating the identified ideas by relying on a simulation of the service which will be presented during tests as a prototype to the target users to have their return and felt.
The third phase aims at structuring the service model in order to allow operational deployment with a minimum of risks.

Resources needed

The Nekoe team is composed of five employees.
The cluster works with fifteen external experts and group fifty members.
Specific skills are required for projects such as service ergonomist & designer. The annual operating budget represents 500 000 €. The half of this budget is composed of public

Evidence of success

This type of approach has a triple added value for the companies, the users and the policymakers. Moreover, those types of projects shown a fast return on investment and impact.
Henceforth, we have in the region a better understanding from the policymakers of those type of projects with flexibility to finance the projects of innovation trough associated services lead by SMEs.
Finally, we observed a good conversion rate of the supported companies’ commercial proposal (more than 60%).

Difficulties encountered

Cultural difficulties because of non‐natural association of innovation with technology. The Nekoe cluster offers a different approach. Lack of maturity from the companies to understand a priori the complexity of these notions and to be receptive to change.

Potential for learning or transfer

For organisations who would implement this approach towards companies :
- Target companies which have the willingness to work on a bottom‐up approach to conduct open-innovation
- Have an offer of service that goes from awareness, training to project
- Build simple demonstrators to prove the power of the methodology.
- Do not talk about the concept but concrete benefits for the company.
- Establish a beneficiary prescribing network and multidisciplinary skills.
The willingness of public policy is essential to create a dynamic.
It creates a collective capacity to bring this change of public policy approach to open‐mindedness.
This approach requires a functioning structure with high agility and flexibility of operation to implement the approach.
Main institution
Centre, France
Start Date
January 2009
End Date


Nathalie Boulanger Please login to contact the author.