The annual Innovation Monitor proves to be a valuable instrument for giving innovation both space and direction in the Northern Netherlands. Therefore, one of these days about five thousand SMEs will receive a questionnaire. What does it give entrepreneurs to participate? We asked Thijs Broekhuizen of the RUG and NOM director Dina Boonstra.
What is the Innovation Monitor again?
'With this instrument, we map the innovative strength of SMEs by looking at, among other things, investments in innovations and application of disruptive technologies,' says Thijs Broekhuizen, professor of Innovation Management & Strategy at the RUG. 'Previously, several surveys circulated, but partly to ease the burden on SMEs, we joined forces with a number of Northern Netherlands parties*. Since 2015, we have been sending out one qualitative questionnaire per year, and it takes entrepreneurs about 15 to 20 minutes to complete it. We are very happy that respondents invest this time, so that trends become visible, but also points of attention to which we can respond even better together.'
Does completing the questionnaire benefit the company itself (immediately)?
'We are raffling off among the participants two fully catered packages during Trendship 2020 (worth €500), plus an Innovation Scan and workshop led by RUG researchers,' says Broekhuizen. 'In addition, all participating companies will receive a personal innovation passport that gives an overview of where they stand compared to others. That is currently still a fairly general snapshot, but by innovating the monitor itself, we also want to provide targeted advice and recommendations back in the future. We also see opportunities in the smart matching of entrepreneurs so that more innovation power is created. The data we generate with this monitor still offers many perspectives for the future.'
What will it bring entrepreneurs?
'What is valuable for the region is also indirectly valuable for the SMEs located here,' Broekhuizen states. 'The results and insights of the Innovation Monitor influence policy within the provinces, for example. Entrepreneurs certainly notice that in the long run.' Dina Boonstra adds: 'At NOM we are also partly adapting our products, services and programs to the results of this Innovation Monitor. Take for example the start of the Smart Industry Hub, which is of great importance for the further deepening and broadening of knowledge in the field of digitalization for industrial SMEs.'
Are there any new areas of concern this year?
'Striking themes this year are innovation in social entrepreneurship and the extent to which companies' innovations depend on the ecosystem within which they operate. For example, we are curious to what extent companies are (still) primarily profit-driven or are more socially driven," the professor explains. 'The ecosystem is a point of interest because it can be a challenge to get the chain within which you work to go along with innovations. We also want to get a grip on that by asking questions about it to entrepreneurs. Furthermore, digital readiness remains an important point of attention: we would like to know where companies stand and where any limitations lie, so that we can respond to this in the region.'
How innovative are we in the Northern Netherlands?
'The monitor shows a rising trend in frontrunners, which are companies that invest and innovate themselves,' Broekhuizen said. 'We also see that radical innovations are an increasingly important part of turnover and that there is a clear increase in actively working with technologies such as sensors, big data, robotization and artificial intelligence.' (read the 2019 Innovation Monitor results here ). 'What further stands out in our region is that we are achieving more with fewer companies. We need each other here, need to work together to move forward, and that is a great strength of the Northern Netherlands.'
With the Innovation Monitor, can we further strengthen that strength?
'As far as we are concerned, certainly,' says Boonstra. 'As a booster and financier of innovations in SMEs, we at NOM attach great importance to the results of the Innovation Monitor. It provides insight and helps make connections, something we also contribute to from our networking function. We therefore warmly urge entrepreneurs to fill in the monitor. With up-to-date information about innovation, we can better anticipate the future with our services'. Broekhuizen: 'The same goes for governments, who can see through the monitor which fruits their policy is bearing, but also where improvements are needed. And for the entrepreneurs themselves, filling in the monitor is of course also a good moment of reflection.'
* The Vinci expertise center of the RUG and the North Netherlands Cooperation Agency (SNN) initiated the Innovation Monitor, supported by the partners Impact Noord, Koninklijke Metaalunie, MKB Noord, NOM, Octrooicentrum Nederland, PNO Consultants, TCNN, VNO-NCW Noord and Water Alliance.