ANI and NESTA - a British foundation for the promotion of innovation, published the conclusions of the “SoftPower” Task Force in a report entitled “Innovation Agencies as catalysts of change: understanding the value of non-financial support for European innovators”. The document is the result of work performed by 17 innovation agencies in Europe, led by ANI in cooperation with NESTA, which involved an extensive 2 year-long collection of information and widened debate involving several entities of the innovation ecosystem.
The conclusions of the report confirm the growing tendency of public innovation agencies to focus their activities on non-financial support services, with a highlight on qualifying companies towards building profiles which favor innovation. A majority of these agencies have been progressively focusing on supporting customized R&I which is based on and adapted to the particular needs of the companies.
This new model of practice implemented by the innovation agencies, which is more heavily centered on companies’ plans for development rather than on financing single projects, warrants a greater sharing of risk with highly innovative companies during the initial phase of a project or idea, allocating public commitment to a long term follow-up effort which includes an assessment of results.
The report also includes some recommendations, such as the need for greater flexibility in the rules for applying financial resources. The landscape of Europe’s innovation agencies is highly diversified due to different institutional structures. As such, methods of intervention within such innovation systems are quite diversified as well, resulting in considerable variations between support services and instruments.
The discussion around the next R&I framework program of the UE, the “Horizonte Europa” program, and the creation of a European Innovation Council, will be decisive for innovation agencies to be able to structure their activities. When proposing a type of practice which is more focused and interventional in terms of innovation financing, the upcoming framework program poses additional challenges relative to the type of support offered, targeting individual and long-term support, client segmentation and controlled actions, preparation for idea-focused on-site assessments, access to investors and innovation management advice.