Topic of the practice
Good Practice Information
Innovation Assistant responds to the need to strengthen technological and innovation competence in regional SMEs, especially smaller firms and SMEs in rural areas. These target groups suffer from a lack of highly qualified staff, caused due to the long distances from educational organisations, fear of contacting R&D institutions and the perceived less attractive location of the company. Innovation Assistant stimulates SMEs to employ recently graduated staff in order to overcome these barriers. Innovation Assistants are employed for a definite project and funded for a maximum of 15 months. The action is open to SMEs of all sectors of industry and industry-related services. The support consists of 4 pillars:
-Grant for the labour costs of the innovation assistant;
-Mandatory training of the innovation assistant by a specially designed post-graduate training programme established at the Donau University Krems;
-Grant for the project and innovation assistant-related consultancy;
-Accompanied monitoring/evaluation of project by an external consultant.
If needed project related external advise through Technology and Innovation Partner LA (TIP LA) is also possible.
Innovation Assistant is nowadays a key tool in the regional innovation system and has been mainstreamed into the Funding Program managed by the department of economic affairs and technology of the Regional Lower Austrian Government
Evidence of success
The ex-post evaluation of the finished projects shows the following results:
• In 85% of the cases there was a major jump for the company in developing new products or services;
• Two-thirds of the “Innovation Assistant” projects led to sustainable and significant collaboration with external innovation partners – thereof 50 % with other companies (value chain partners, but also competitors!) or with R&D institutions;
• In 90% the projects result in broadening existing markets or opening up new markets;
• More than 85 % of the participating companies reported significant improvement of their project management know-how due the new full time employed “Innovation Assistant”. The compulsory training programme with focus on innovation-related management skills is also contributing to additional management know-how;
• 2 years after finalisation of the funding project two-thirds of the former “Innovation Assistants” were still employed by the same company. Thereof two out of three remained in their position as innovation specialists and project managers. The others changed into higher management positions;
• More than half of the participating companies haven’t had a fully developed innovation strategy when starting their the “Innovation Assistant” project. Most of them made use of the opportunities offered by the “Innovation Assistant” programme to reflect their own innovation strategies, to define future innovation targets and to complete/improve their business/innovation strategy;
• About 80 % of the participating companies created in addition to the “Innovation Assistant” further new qualified jobs in product/service development, production and marketing – on average 2 new long-term jobs resulted per programme participant;
• In average every Innovation Assistant project generates an additional investment of 185,000 Euro by the companies.
Contact details to obtain further information on the practice
Regional Government of Lower Austria, Department for Economic Affairs, Tourism and Technolgy