Supporting SMEs in creating sustainable exploitation strategies

15 / 02 / 2023

According to state-of-the-art, the most common reasons why SMEs fail in their endeavours include:

  • lack of capital or funding,
  • inadequate management team,
  • faulty infrastructure or business model, and
  • unsuccessful marketing initiatives.

Consequently, designing a credible roadmap for most small and medium-sized companies seeking to bring innovation to market and contribute to business scale-up is critical.

It is crucial to create a trustworthy plan for the majority of small and medium-sized businesses that aim to introduce innovative products or services to the market and contribute to business expansion.

As part of the EUHubs4Data project, CARSA is supporting SMEs in defining a strategy to ensure they fully exploit their results at the end of the experiments. To this end, CARSA has developed the Data Exploitation Tool to guide SMEs in outlining activities and timelines for best using the results generated in collaboration with DIHs from a technical perspective, developing market buy-in and presenting these results to the market. Based on the information provided by SMEs, CARSA produces a list of action points and suggestions to improve the strategy and roadmap in the post-experimental phase.

In the context of the second open call for experiments, all 14 SMEs involved developed the first version of their exploitation plan. Given the nature and size of SMEs, all plans focus on the practical use of the results for commercial purposes. In general, most of the plans have room for improvement, the main reasons for this being:

  • SMEs underestimate the importance of demonstrating a clear plan, even a preliminary one, or
  • SMEs tend to focus more on realising and validating technical goals and mistakenly believe that working on exploitation concepts is too early. It is observed that the level of detail of the plans is not always associated with the maturity of the technology and proximity to the market (TRL and MRL levels).

Although SMEs have a clear vision and are aware of the high potential of their solution, some general action points have been demonstrated to be valid across all the exploitation plans:

  • Test the feasibility of their business idea in advance to anticipate possible conflicts for successful exploitation.
  • Increase efforts to improve the “communication” of their essential business elements (Unique Selling Point, create a buyer persona, IPR analysis, etc.).

Interestingly, not all 36 exploitable results from SMEs have a financial impact. The figure below shows that many results can generate an environmental, operational, and promotional impact. Therefore, albeit briefly, it is recommended to consistently demonstrate the actual value of these other results and how the company would use them, even if only used internally.

Source: CARSA, Elaboration of data gathered in the Data Exploitation Tool

CARSA will continue to improve the tool and the service as it is considered a strategic instrument for entrepreneurs. It represents a key take towards appropriate marketing activities and promoting innovative results. The commercial success of a result depends on its technological innovativeness and uniqueness but also on a comprehensive plan to market its innovation.