During the agenda, the overview of the RATIO project Semester 4 activities was presented and

the stakeholders were reminded that the Action Plan would include recommendations from them and these would form the basis of the policy recommendations.

The workshop focused on developing recommendations for innovation support policy improvements in 3 areas that are critical to rural SMEs. Further work is required in refining the recommendations and developing actions to further their implementation in the current programme, future programmes or the broader ecosystem.  

During the workshop, stakeholders were divided into groups of 3. Groups were tasked with a short role-play; as early-stage, rural-based companies. The workshops critiqued the LEOs; particularly in terms of start-ups, general, women in business, and owner/managers.

It was agreed that entrepreneurs need to participate in business networks that can offer peer support, learning and opportunity to explore and tackle common business issues. These networks are also potentially important for developing a collective business voice on issues specific to the local and rural business environment. In addition to networking events, training also offers the opportunity for interactions between companies and the development of relationships that may be valuable for future collaboration. LEOs endeavor to bring their training services and events to all towns within their areas of operation.  

The stakeholder group made the following recommendations:

1. At an area level, support needs to be targeted at communicating the attractions of the area in terms of quality of life.

2. Companies need support to develop their HR function at a strategic level to improve staff recruitment and retention. This should form part of the training and mentoring supports delivered by LEOS but may also be considered in grant aid criteria as part of the business plan review.

3. The development of entrepreneurial culture within companies should be supported. We propose a pilot action on creativity for innovation through the development of innovative human capital.

4. SMEs need advice and support in the use of appropriate legal structures and tools for incentivising an intrapreneurial culture. This would include offering a share of equity to employees.