Brussels, 10 Jan 2005
The 2004 Innobarometer has found a mixed picture on use of public innovation support by the private sector. The survey indicates that some 31 per cent of innovative firms within the EU use at least one form of public support for their innovation activities, but that only 12 per cent take advantage of the public schemes for which they are eligible.
The 2004 Innobarometer attempts to provide an overall picture of the percentage of innovative firms using different innovation support programmes, as well as of how successful the programmes have been. The survey also addresses the question of product and process regulations - what is their impact on innovation and competitiveness?
Managers from 4,534 firms, with between 20 and 499 employees, that had practised innovative activities within the last two years were interviewed in September and October 2004. The majority or companies had introduced improved products and services since 2002, but many had also introduced new processes for delivery, production or logistics.
At the top end of the scale, over 80 per cent of enterprises in Lithuania (85 per cent), Poland (82 per cent), Germany (81 per cent), Malta (81 per cent), Austria (81 per cent) and Portugal (81 per cent) had successfully introduced new or significantly improved products or services in the last two years. While novel products or services had been introduced across all company categories, it was the larger companies that had introduced innovative processes. Further investigation indicates that the introduction of new processes is beneficial to business, as firms with an annual increase in turnover of over five per cent were more likely to have implemented new processes.
The survey sought to establish whether innovation support programmes are used more by highly innovative or less innovative firms. Interviews revealed that it is the most innovative firms that are the most familiar with the programmes, using an average of 1.6 programmes each. The less innovative firms tend to use an average of one programme. Firm size was found to have no effect on the use of most programmes, although larger companies were the most likely to use programmes that benefit 'higher innovative capabilities', such as research and collaboration.
Whether or not public innovation support programmes can be judged successful depends on their specific goal, according to the Trend Chart statistical paper on the Innobarometer results: 'If the goal is to encourage less innovative SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises] to increase their innovative capabilities, then the results would be discouraging because programme use is much greater among the more innovative SMEs.' However, if the goal is to support innovative firms that have thus far been unable to turn their innovations into commercial successes, then the goal can be regarded as having been met. 'It remains to be seen if this policy support can increase future sales or assist firms that are active in local and regional markets to break into larger more competitive markets,' states the paper.
Opinions on the effect of national product and process regulations varied significantly between countries. While over 45 per cent of product innovators in the UK, Ireland and Germany complained of a competitive disadvantage caused by product regulation, fewer than 17 per cent felt themselves disadvantaged in Slovakia, Estonia and Spain. The smaller firms contacted were identified as feeling the most disadvantaged by regulations, suggesting that they have the most difficulty meeting regulatory requirements.
The 2004 Innobarometer concludes that the companies assigned the category 'successful, innovative' are those that 'understand the advantages of collaboration and knowledge-sharing' and are more inclined to seek experts and advice for their innovative activities. 'Our results confirm that investment in efforts to support the innovative effort, combined with a strategy of openness, is a key factor contributing to the status of successful innovative firms,' the survey concludes.'
For further information and access to the Innobarometer, please consult the following web addresses: