How effective are public innovation support programmes?

– by Eva Diedrichs –

In many countries public innovation support programmes are in place – mainly to support the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). A recent international IMP³rove survey including SMEs’, policy makers’, and intermediaries’ view on the impact of public innovation programmes revealed room for improvement.

Although more than 70% of the SMEs indicated that they have obtained measurable innovation output results

  • only 11% of the SMEs mentioned that they would not have been able to achieve these results without the support programme(s) they benefitted from.
  • In contrast to this, more than 20% indicated that they would have been able to achieve the results through other means.
  • The remaining share of SMEs answered that they “maybe” could have obtained the results through other means.

This indicates that these innovation policy programmes were not fully addressing those companies which perceive support programmes to be vital for their innovation success.

Focusing on policy makers´ responses, more than 70% prioritized the commercialization rate of SMEs’ innovation output as the most important criteria. However, the extent to which the innovation policies met this criterion received the second lowest score by the policy makers themselves ahead of the growth in employment rate of benefitting SMEs.

Figure.1 Importance of success criteria in relation to success criteria achieved based on international survey of 44 policy makers from more than 20 countries (both axes: average importance rankings for all 8 success criteria)

How can effectiveness of innovation policies be increased while addressing market failures? First of all, SMEs need to assess their innovation management capabilities and then develop them based on the assessment’s results. After developing capabilities in the front end of the innovation process, we have to put focus on the commercialization of the innovative product, service, process or business model. Secondly business advisors supporting SMEs in their efforts need to develop expertise in supporting SMEs in all dimensions of innovation management. They should advise SME management on how to create strong business impact by systematic innovation management. With the IMP³rove online innovation management assessment as well as the training and certification programme for business advisors, coherent services of proven value are available to be integrated in existing and new innovation programmes.

If you are interested in discussing concepts to develop innovation management capabilities in your region(s) building on the IMP³rove services, please contact us. We are looking forward to supporting you in creating effective innovation policies for SMEs.

diedrichsEva Diedrichs is founding managing director of the IMP³rove – European Innovation Management Academy EWIV, non profit ( Prior to this, she gained comprehensive experience as senior consultant at A.T. Kearney in different industries including Aerospace and Defense, Financial Sector, Medical Device, Pharma, Public Sector, Telecom supporting large and medium sized enterprises in developing and implementing innovation strategies, developing innovation processes and in transforming organisations. In this role Eva Diedrichs also led the project IMP³rove, the European Commission’s flagship project on innovation management.

With her global experience in innovation management she advices public agencies and institutions in developing effective innovation support programs. Eva Diedrichs is also actively engaged in the development of international standards on innovation management. She was convener of the European CEN TS 389 Working Group “Innovation Management Assessment” that developed the European standardization document, CEN TS 16555-7, and is convener of the ISO Working Group on “Innovation Management Assessment”.

She is author of several articles on innovation management and co-authored the book in core competences.

IMP3ROVE AcademyIMP³rove – European Innovation Management Academy, non profit ( offers innovation management support services to enterprises, consultants and intermediaries. It also provides financial actors, policy makers and academia with consulting support and technical assistance related to innovation and innovation management. The services include innovation management benchmarking for enterprises, training and certification in innovation management, research on innovation management issues and promotion of best practices in innovation management. With its global network, IMP³rove Academy has set the standard for innovation management assessment. IMP³rove – European Innovation Management Academy emerged from the European Commission’s flagship program “IMP³rove”. It was supported by the European Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and receives continued support by Horizon2020.

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