Innova-FI has had a significant impact on the Portuguese National Innovation Agency (ANI) approach to policy-making in the field of financial instruments, resulting in a more participatory and user-centric approach. The project's success was based on stakeholder engagement and adapting best practices from partner regions, including Slovenia's ABC Accelerator, Poland's TechnoBIT Venture and Beskid Technology Accelerator, and Greece's Equifund Initiative.

ANI, Portugal's national innovation agency, has led the Innova-FI project to enhance the usage of financial tools for regional development and innovation. The project has introduced novel financial instruments for SMEs in Portugal based on best practices from partner regions.

One of the project's direct outcomes was the inclusion of financial tools in the national smart specialization strategy policy-mix, which has increased the use of financial instruments as a means of supporting SMEs and regional development. Lessons from Innova-FI have also led to a more participatory approach to policy-making and implementation, with public and private sector stakeholders collaborating to develop financial instruments that address the specific needs of the region and its businesses.

ANI's action plan has focused on bridging the gap between investors and SMEs/startups, informed by insights from the Exchange of Experiences process. A tool within the Portal da Inovação website maps investors, S&T organisations, and firms in Portugal, serving as a live repository and brokerage tool.

Lessons learned from the project were also useful in the implementation of the Innov-ID Call, a joint initiative by ANI and Portugal Ventures that provides quasi-equity financial support to firms engaging in R&D and innovative activities.

ANI has adapted best practices from partner regions to fit the local context, including the ABC Accelerator in Slovenia, TechnoBIT Venture and Beskid Technology Accelerator in Poland, and the Equifund Initiative in Greece.

Key Learnings from the Innova-FI project:

1. User-centric approach to policy-making and financial instrument design is essential. ANI has adopted a participatory approach to policy-making and FI design, which involves engaging with SMEs and other stakeholders in the development process. This has allowed ANI to better understand the needs and preferences of SMEs and tailor policies and FIs to meet their specific requirements.

2. Access to information is crucial. The project has highlighted the importance of sharing information on existing instruments and initiatives with SMEs, as well as facilitating brokerage of opportunities and sharing good practices. ANI has recognized the value of providing SMEs with clear and concise information on FIs and supporting them in accessing these instruments.

3. Collaboration is key. The project has emphasized the importance of collaboration with other regions, national and regional stakeholders, and the pooling of resources. ANI has worked closely with Portugal Ventures on the Innov-ID call, which has benefited from the project's learnings, and has recognized the importance of building strong partnerships to support SMEs.