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, facing increasing worldwide competition with a lower price for an equal product. The development of new service activities is a mean to make a difference.
This GP is consists of implementing solutions focus on the uses of a product or the offer. It intends to bring more value to its customers.
This approach is implemented by Nékoé, an economic development association that supports companies and organisations in the Centre Val de Loire Region in the emergence and design of user-oriented services.
They rely on a recognised and proven user-centred design approach that puts the human-user at the heart of the process and strongly stimulates collective intelligence.
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.
For example, they helped an SME, SIDAMO, supplying construction equipment, to rethink their offer and propose new services such as a user hotline, training programmes, warranty extension...

Resources needed

The Nekoé team is composed of 5 employees.
The association works with 15 external experts and group 50 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 funds.

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.

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Main institution
Centre, France
Start Date
January 2009
End Date


Nathalie Boulanger Please login to contact the author.

Good Practices being followed by

Ronan Gingles

Cork City Council