Innovative Sector Exchange
Priority AxisTechnological and Social Innovation
Framework Conditions for Innovation
Lead partnerKent County Council
Project budget2 855 597 €
ERDF amount1 713 358 €
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.
ISE aims to identify SMEs in need of creating extra value and to accelerate innovation through facilitating cross-border connections, collaborations & tech-transfer with other SMEs, knowledge institutes and experts. The project aims to deliver two main support trajectories: ‘introducing innovation’ (WP1) to a number of priority sectors and 'incubating & clustering innovation’ (WP2&3) among SMEs with growth potential from sectors highlighted in regional S3 strategies. Many partner regions are ‘innovation followers’. ISE will increase the number of SMEs innovating and taking innovations to new markets.
- Taster sessions and workshops to introduce innovation principles to a range of SMEs from priority sectors linked to RIS/S3 strategies
- Updated diagnostic tools to help SMEs develop concrete plans to innovate
- Intensive support through an innovation pathway events programme for SMEs with growth potential primarily (to no limit innovation possibilities) from the following sectors: mechatronics, new materials, agri-food, digital/creative
- Creation of cross-border clusters and a supporting web platform and connecting members to global innovation expertise and the international business community
Cross border approach
SMEs recognise the need to innovate and successfully compete globally but a triple-helix effort is required to help them and this needs to go beyond national business support services in order to maximise the impact on SMEs. ISE’s cross-border collaboration will combine and link the individual knowledge, experience and opportunities of each partner region to harness this capability and realise innovation potential among SMEs. The project’s framework of new techniques & activities will provide a unique opportunity for 2 Seas area companies to jointly adopt innovation techniques and grow their business.
ISE is an Interreg 2 Seas project which supports businesses from 5 regions (Kent, Hauts-de-France, East & West Flanders, and the SW of the Netherlands) with becoming more internationalised & innovative. The 7 project partners helped SMEs to enable them to grow their business & find international contacts. ISE focused on 4 target sectors: Food & Drink, Mechatronics, Digital & Creative & New Materials. Since the start of ISE, over 1000 SMEs have benefited from the project by taking place in the following activities:
- 31 Taster Sessions which introduced innovation methods to SMEs
- 8 workshops on innovation and internationalisation topics with speakers and experts sharing from the other partner regions (162 SMEs)
- 117 innovation & internationalisation 1-2-1 diagnostic assessments with small businesses to provide recommendations and new contacts
- 12 sector-focused ‘Innovation Pathway’ events in France, Belgium, England and the Netherlands which brought companies together for 2 days programmes to focus on innovation, market insight etc. and to network and make new business contacts (272 SMEs involved)
- Organising 2 cross-border conferences (141 SMEs) including one digital innovation summit
- 4 cross-border clusters formed with 2 being further developed - food & drink and digital & creative. The 2nd has launched itself as the ‘Imagineers International’ cluster which will continue beyond the life of the ISE project.
- Organising 7 visits for companies to major international trade shows to focus on market trends and contact building as well as ISE ‘pitching sessions’ and networking activities to encourage joint working and contacts between businesses from the different regions (117 SMEs). The Major Innovation Events were Horecava (Amsterdam) in January 2020, CEBIT (Hannover), JEC World (Paris), Hannover Messe, Tech Open Air (Berlin), Anuga (Dusseldorf), Industry (Barcelona). Our final planned event, Tavola 2020, was cancelled due to Covid-19
Feedback from participating companies was very positive:
“I could not have achieved our exports without the ISE project.”
“I have hugely profited from ISE by acquiring valuable business growth information. It has been helpful to share information and contacts with networking groups, especially in Europe. We have also been able to sign up with one of the UK’s well know artisan food wholesalers recently thanks to ISE networking influence.”
"I met new businesses and learnt about new processes, materials and applications"