Although SMEs are referred to as the backbone of Europe’s economy, it is really micro enterprises (with less than 10 employees) that sustain employment and have most growth potential: 9 out of 10 SMEs are micro-enterprises, they employee one third of the workforce and produce more than 40% of economic value added (EC, Annual Report on European SMEs 2018).
With innovation at the forefront of the drive for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, it follows that innovation support and training should be focussed on the micro sector. However, innovation policy and practice -at EU and national level- is still dominated by the conventional R&D model, involving high investment in hi-technology. Although suitable for large companies, especially in industry and manufacturing, this is not viable for most micro-enterprises given their acute financial constraints and ongoing low levels of consumer spending across Europe.
Lean innovation offers an alternative route to innovation; a cost-effective, low-tech approach, it prioritises design thinking and agile experimentation to generate value-maximizing products and services, thus helping small businesses grow in spite of their economic conditions. In addition, unlike traditional innovation, which is resource dependent, lean innovation is a knowledge and skills based approach and so vocational training organizations can play a key role in developing these skills.
Our overall goal is to introduce the lean innovation skillset to our education system and by extension to our economies. To do this we will work with a range of enterprise education providers from local authorities to community organizations, to improve the quality of learning opportunities that are available to them. Specifically, we will produce;
Formative Self Assessment Tool. This online, interactive diagnostic tool enables users to evaluate their current innovation capacity and “readiness”. It constitutes the first phase of the learning process for micro enterprises and entrepreneurs, but also allows trainers’ back-end access to the results of their group for better understanding
Lean Innovation Curriculum and OERs consist of a complete set of learning objectives, training materials and case studies providing entrepreneurship trainers and lecturers the ability to impart to micro enterprises/entrepreneurs the knowledge, skills and self-belief required to engage in great product and service innovation using lean innovation methods and techniques.
Lean Innovation Online Course. The OERs will be adapted into a series of short modules for use on computers, tablets or smartphones, for micro enterprises. This enables access to high quality learning for those who prefer self-led learning due to geographic, time or other constraints.
The structure of LIME has been designed so that the activities carried out are capable of generating the desired change within each of the target groups, and that together this will create system-level change. As more and more VET organizations implement the training model, the project will generate an increase in the availability and quality of innovation education. This will lead to the thousands of small businesses acquiring a lean innovation mind-set and engaging in low-tech, practical innovation thanks to the improved education they receive.