Innovative Sector Exchange | 2 Mers Seas Zeeën


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Innovative Sector Exchange

Priority Axis

Technological and Social Innovation

Specific objective

Framework Conditions for Innovation

Lead partner

Kent County Council


Start Date


End Date


Project budget

2 855 597

ERDF amount

1 713 358

ERDF rate



    Common challenge

    The majority of businesses in the 2 Seas area are SMEs. They employ a large proportion of the population and their growth is vital to develop the economy and boost employment. SMEs grow as they innovate and internationalise and they often request coaching and support. Innovation (process, product & service enhancement) and internationalisation (collaborations/tech-transfer) are closely linked but many SMEs lack awareness of how this can apply to their sector, regional context or in new markets. ISE's support packages are a value for money solution to help more than 500 SMEs address these challenges.

    Main Achievements

    ISE is an Interreg project which supports businesses from 5 regions (Kent, Hauts-de-France, East & West Flanders, and the SW of the Netherlands) with becoming more internationalised and innovative. There are 7 project partners (Kent County Council, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Aditec, VOKA East Flanders, VOKA West Flanders, POM &the Innovatiehuis) and together they are delivering support to SMEs to enable them to grow their business and helping them find international contacts.

    Since the start of the project, almost 900 SMEs have benefited from various events in their regions in the form of 31 'Taster Sessions'. These aimed to introduce innovation methods to SMEs and to promote the ISE offer. The taster sessions were followed by 8 Sector-Focused Workshops which were led by experts from the wider partner regions. The workshops were delivered in all ISE regions and were attended by 166 SMEs. November 2017 saw the start of cross-border events which to date have brought together businesses from the 4 countries from all ISE target sectors: Food & Drink, Mechatronics, Digital & Creative & New Materials. 10 Cross-border events have been organised so far by the partners (Innovation Pathway Programme) with 250 SMEs having benefitted from attending, thus making new connections & participating in bespoke activities with a focus on product pitches, networking and building contacts. Businesses have also obtained useful insights and feedback on the potential of their products and services to fit in the different markets. Feedback was collected from these events and this is an example of what they have said: "I just wanted to say thank you again for such a wonderful few days, the organisation was perfect and the event was so inspiring. There will definitely be some business to be done following this event."

    The 1st of the Major Innovation Events took place in June 2018 with another 7 of these events planned for 2019. The event was organised around CEBIT, Europe’s biggest digitisation event & the SMEs that attended became the 1st ISE cluster members for the Digital & Creative sector. ISE SMEs can also benefit from 1-2-1 assessments to explore their export & innovation potential. This is thanks to the diagnostic tool developed by the ISE partners. 88 businesses across the ISE regions have benefited from this tool which has provided them with concrete recommendations. There are more opportunities for SMEs to get involved in 2019.

    For more information SMEs can visit



    VOKA Kamer van Koophandel West-Vlaanderen

    VOKA Kamer van Koophandel Oost-Vlaanderen

    Stichting Innovatiehuis

    Provinciale Ontwikkelingsmaatschappij (POM) West-Vlaanderen

    Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

    ADITEC Pas-de-Calais (Association pour le Développement de l’Innovation et de la Technologie )


    URL / Download

    Programme of cross-border innovation workshops delivered to support SMEs as a new innovation service

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Service
    Target: Business support centres and agencies - Innovation agencies - SMEs /enterprises

    Cross-border innovation guide created

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: Innovation agencies - Organisations representing SMEs - SMEs /enterprises

    'Innovation Pathway' programme delivered to help companies apply innovation techniques

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Service
    Target: Innovation agencies - Organisations representing SMEs - SMEs /enterprises

    Programme of innovation taster sessions delivered to support SMEs as a new innovation service

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: Business support centres and agencies - Local, regional and national authorities - SMEs /enterprises

    Updated diagnostic tool developed to help SMEs assess innovation & internationalisation potential

    Theme: Cluster development - Innovation
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: Business support centres and agencies - Cluster organisations - SMEs /enterprises