Successful business support policies and delivery mechanisms are relying increasingly on flexible networks of local, regional and national players, which are able  to adapt to changing requirements through constant knowledge exchange and collective learning.

In numerous regions across Europe, such processes have been supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). In analogy to biological ecosystems, such regional systems are called business support ecosystems. The TRINNO project (Business ecosystem for TRadition and INNOvation), funded by Interreg Europe, provides the following definition:

“The business ecosystem should support the whole process from the entry of possible entrepreneurs to the continuous support during the lifecycle stages of enterprises” 

The ingredients of a Business Support Ecosystem

The TRINNO partners developed a model for a comprehensive Business Support Ecosystem, validated through a European wide online consultation performed in the framework of their project activities. The model is based on:

  • The various phases of a company lifecycle, starting with the stand-up phase, i.e. before formally establishing a company, continuing with the start-up and scale-up phases and ending with the exit and maturity phases.
  • Three service categories, i.e. soft support, physical infrastructure and funding schemes.

The picture below displays the most relevant business support services as identified by the TRINNO partners in the context of fostering digital innovation in traditional sectors:

What is provided in the model and who should use it?

The model provides interesting input for policymakers from different perspectives. It displays a comprehensive set of business support instruments (specific examples are provided in the Business Support Ecosystem full report) and can therefore be used as a source of reference when developing new regional policies aiming at fostering the digital transformation of SMEs. This is what the TRINNO partners are doing, but other Interreg Europe projects have started adopting the TRINNO approach.

An example is the DEVISE – Digital tech SMEs at the service of Regional Smart Specialisation Strategies Interreg Europe project. Mrs. Silvia Stumpf, Business Agency Association, Varna, Bulgaria – a partner in the DEVISE project – commented:

“The adopted methodology seems to be very detailed and useful for regions like Bulgaria. We have started developing the new 34 European Digital Innovation Hubs in Varna and we will definitely use the methodology and available documents in our activities.”

How should the model be used?

Business support ecosystems are evolving over time and when new actors come into play, the model can be used as a tool to monitor the local players and their services over time.

Displaying players and services on the Business Support Ecosystem reference canvas can thereby support the identification of overlaps and gaps in a given regional environment. From a transnational perspective the model provides a convenient benchmarking tool to compare business support ecosystems among different regions and initiate mutual learning processes.  

Sources and further reading

TRINNO project;

TRINNO (2016);

Business Support Ecosystem, Interreg Europe.

Image credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay