Innovation support agencies, i.e. the regional and national agencies that design and/or implement innovation support programmes for SMEs are important intermediaries for SME innovation. Focus, design and delivery mechanism of innovation support programmes determine to a large extent the economic impact from the supported actions and the satisfaction of the beneficiaries with the support provided. The European Union has in different programmes, including for example the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the Competiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and INTERREG, supported mutual policy learning and exchange of ‘good practices’. However, the transfer of good practices in SME innovation support, the enhancement of existing and the establishment of new innovation support programmes for SME remains slow; and SMEs benefitting from support programmes still often remain dissatisfied with the services received[[See for example “Making public support for innovation in the EU more effective”, Commission staff working document SEC(2009)1197.]].
The PRO-INNO Europe 'INNO-Partnering Forum' (IPF, 2009-2012) has made some significant contributions to formulating the requirements for a permanent learning mechanism for SME innovation support agencies[[See http://www.vinnova.se/PageFiles/604825187/The%20IPF%20synthesis%20report.pdf.]]: learning activities have to be based on clear methodologies and they have to be demand driven, launched at the moment agencies themselves recognise the need to revise programme formats. Furthermore peer learning activities need to benefit from a secretariat or an animation structure that assures horizontal flow of information among interested agencies. In a collaborative exercise the IPF has developed two methodologies in this respect: a quality management system implemented through a peer review system based on the EFQM methodology and a 'twinning+' methodology that combines elements of traditional peer reviews and twinning in small learning groups of interested agencies.
It is the objective of this action to make available to national and regional innovation agencies these two methodologies as elements of a permanent peer learning environment and to give incentives to the agencies to engage more frequently in peer learning activities.
The proposed activities will provide incentives in the form of small lump sum grants to national and regional innovation agencies for engaging in peer learning on all topics relevant for design and delivery of innovation support programmes for SMEs. The support to joint learning activities shall be available at any time when need and opportunity for policy learning in agencies arises. Peer learning is open for all topics for a better innovation support to SMEs. In the context of this action however, only the 'Twinning+' methodology as well as the quality management scheme for innovation agencies based on EFQM are recognised as learning methods. Participating agencies will be entitled to grants in the form of lump sums (EUR 15.000 / 50.000)[[Decision authorising the reimbursement on the basis of lump sums for the Action INNOSUP-5 'Peer learning for innovation agencies' under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme]].