SME competitiveness in Europe relies heavily on innovation and thus the successful implementation of a National/Regional Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS³) and the quality of its design and delivery mechanisms for financial and non-financial support services. In line with the 2014-2020 ERDF thematic priorities, these support services should enhance R&D+I activities or strengthen enterprise competitiveness.
The links between RIS³ and SME support services are important and for successful SME support services to be deployed in all regions the following elements should be considered:
- to involve SMEs and their representative organisations in RIS3 development design as well as identify the different categories of the regional SME population to be able to provide targeted and high value-added services and work on the basis of strategic business portfolios;
- to adapt support service schemes to a wide typology of enterprises but also to the innovation capability, willingness and readiness of their management teams and focus support not only on R&D but on innovation in the wider sense;
- to create a policy mix that combines financial support with advice, access to specialist infrastructure as well as a network of professional facilitators, including the support to risk reduction tools, investment readiness and proof-of-concept and the leveraging of public procurement to support SME innovation and growth;
- to properly use monitoring and evaluation to measure the desired structural change and to manage the implementation of the strategy, allowing for informed corrections of the policy-mix, not just measuring transactions.