No passengers in the DRIVE for Growth
Cooperation between public authorities, business development agencies, research organisations and industry is helping to drive innovation and growth among SMEs in North West Europe.
Research in Europe has consistently highlighted relatively low levels of innovation among SMEs in Europe in comparison to their counterparts in the USA and Japan. In Ireland, Forfas, the national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation has, in particular, identified the need for small and micro-enterprises to become more innovative in their approach to business and to the marketplace, and to develop a new basis for competitive advantage. Recognising this challenge, the South West Regional Authority in Ireland, with other partners from Ireland, the UK and Germany, developed the DRIVE (Directing Research into Viable Enterprise) for Growth project.
The project is specifically based on the identified need to better network the knowledge base that already exists in EU regions. To facilitate this, each partner region established a Group for Regional Innovation and Development (GRID) to promote and support greater linkages, interaction and productivity between research communities, support agencies and industry. On a transnational level, these groups help to foster a single space where SMEs and research institutions in North West Europe can benefit from a critical mass of resources in relation to market development, available research, production capacity and networks.
Dynamic web-based platform
A key objective of the project is to develop structures, within and across the partner regions, which facilitate the collection of knowledge, based on research and development, production expertise and “know-how”, and to make this knowledge available to research institutions and SMEs on a transnational basis. This enhanced communication between research institutions and SMEs is intended to create new opportunities for SMEs, as well as promoting a greater focus on applied research, which will, ultimately, contribute to economic growth and employment creation.
An important innovation in the project is the development of a dynamic fully automated web based platform (www.driveproject.eu), which is implemented across all the partner regions. Once an individual or organisation is registered, the tool will automatically track developments of interest, such as new research or sub-supply opportunities. It also helps researchers to find industry partners and networks companies in a range of sectors.
Some concrete outcomes of the project to date include:
- The completion of Business Innovation Benchmarking Surveys in each partner region, involving a total of 350 respondents;
- The establishment of four regional GRIDs, with the participation of the public sector, business development agencies / networks, research organisations and the private sector;
- The development of a new web-based platform to promote exchange and collaboration between public authorities, business support agencies, research institutions and industry;
- The registration of over 170 businesses on this DRIVE for Growth platform, with over 200 regular users and a target of 600 users by the end of the project;
- The participation in the project, to date, of 10 research institutes;
- The participation of over 600 businesses in regional events organised within the framework of the project;
- The registration of over 4000 businesses from across the partner regions on the project mailing lists.