Technological help on hand for Styria’s businesses
Comprehensive technological expertise tailored to the needs of business – this is what Technofit Pro has offered to small businesses in the southeast of Austria. Three universities and a major R&D institute combined forces to assist small businesses in their uptake of modern technology.
"We used ERDF funding to make universities and R&D institutions accessible for regional SMEs in a very hands-on way. Dozens of projects kicked off in the course of TECHNOFIT PRO demonstrate the sustainability of our technology transfer team effort."
Christoph Adametz, Technische Universität Graz
Businesses with little or no experience in innovative processes were taken under the wing of Technofit Pro whose staff of seven transfer specialists drew on the expertise of 1 000 scientists to help in areas of need. As many as 160 small businesses attended specially organised Technofit Pro events, 30 were coached by an individual expert or given guidance on innovation projects.
Redressing the balance
By addressing the specific needs of small businesses established in the peripheral areas of Styria, the Technofit Pro project sought to redistribute innovation performance levels more evenly. The relatively high performance levels of these areas had up to that point been attributed to several large industrial companies, four universities, two polytechnics, two major R&D institutes and nine centres of excellence rather than Styria’s small businesses.
To redress this balance, the four Technofit Pro partners (3 universities and 1 R&D institute) offered consulting and coaching services tailored to the needs of the business concerned. These services were provided through a neutral, not-for-profit transfer network and were based on a coordinated and standardised approach.
The activities undertaken include: the development of four packages of innovation services; the hosting of events attracting 160 small businesses, and the delivery of individual expert meetings to 30 small businesses.
The Technofit Pro project saw EU funding targeted directly at facilitating innovation in small businesses. Support - which otherwise would have been non-existent - was channeled into expanding the knowledge and technological expertise of these businesses.
From the 90 individual innovation audits, 25 projects got underway. While these projects received a modest amount of funding, their combined activities acted as a lever for a new segment of the regional economy to engage with academic institutions.
The steps taken so far are just the beginning. Styria’s Regional Competitiveness programme which runs from 2007 to 2013 will continue to give support to small businesses by building their innovation levels through various transfer networks.