All blocks are in the place …

Castilla y Leon with just two and a half million population has all necessary elements of innovation ecosystem in place, including SMEs operating mainly in Agri-food and Agriculture, Transport sectors like Automotive and Aeronautic industry, R&D in Information and Communication Technologies, Energy and Sustainability, construction and services and innovation agents such R&D centres, public and private universities, financial shuttle and Regional Authorities carrying out the coherent innovation and development policies.

The challenge –  support within the reach of rural SMEs

ICE, as a key actor of the regional innovation eco-system, and in charge of regional R&D&i Programmes, actions, policies and financing measures joined ESSPO project with a view to broaden the population of SMEs implementing different types of projects financed by Regional Financial Calls for Business Competitiviness of Castilla y León. The challenge was to deliver support services to dispersed companies operating in large rural areas of the region with the consequent increase in the number of beneficiary companies in the ICE financial calls.

ESSPO contribution

Crucial actors of support delivery mechanism were mobilised in the format of regional stakeholders group, including: policy instrument owner, six Technological Centers of the region responsible for the implementation of the [email protected] Program  (delivering advanced innovation services for SME´s) and representatives of REDEI Network (120 members from public and private sector operating in sectoral Working Groups). ICE manages the Regional Financial Calls for Business Competitiveness (ERDF funds) and, as ESSPO project partner, was supporting their work. Activities taken by regional stakeholders were complemented with ideas steaming from ESSPO learning process (peer reviews, Task Force thematic workshops and exchange of good practices) which brought inspirations on SMEs need identification, network management and red tape reduction.

Dialogue leads to improvements

Thematic working groups of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network (REDEI) have been appointed (e.g. Entrepreneurship, Industry 4.0, Bioeconomy) to identify the needs of the companies and share this knowledge with other stakeholders in order to plan the support measures for SMEs accordingly. Local REDEI members also informed SMEs operating in peripherical zones about the available [email protected] Programme services. On the other hand, [email protected] Programme in its second edition was improved with advice services provided by the Technological Centers to SMEs helping them carry out the Implementation Plans by identification of necessary costs and financial options, mainly through ICE financial calls. At the same time changes were introduced to Regional Financial Calls stimulating SMEs to benefit from this instrument and improving the conditions to access the grant. Specifically: the very short application deadlines for SMEs were removed, possible project amounts increased and new eligible sectors included, with the possibility to give 50% of the budget in advance and an increase of the amount of the grants.

This collaboration network has allowed us to get closer to SMEs

admits Victoria Molpeceres Arroyo, reginal manager of the ESSPO project.