Published on: 24/10/2012

The overall objective of the project is to increase the impact of regional strategies for the Information Society and ICT promotion and development in SMEs in order to transform business models, to promote networking and to improve regional economic competitiveness.

Some specific objectives are to:

  • identify Information Society Good Practices at the policy level, implemented within the participant regions and the EU, where policies and its instruments have promoted ICTs usage in SME's as a tool to networking and accelerating Innovation on 3 key sectors: agri-food, tourism and services/commerce.
  • bring together decision-makers and key stakeholders form different regions in Europe in order to exchange experiences and knowledge in ICT's promotion initiatives in business.
  • select, following a selection criteria based on a transferable basis, the best practices for a deeper study and evaluation of their innovativeness, the networking involvement, the effectiveness and efficiency, policy reach as well as its potential and critical points to be transferred.
  • deploy a Good Practices Transfer process plan that will cover from the initial identification of good practices and policies hidden behind to the final transfer of such good practices in less experienced regions by the commitment of Regional Transfer Action Plans.
  • produce and disseminate a methodology to ease the future deployment of such successful experiences.
  • transfer Information Society identified Good Practice's policies and initiatives per region that will set its beneficiaries (SMEs) in the next step to fulfil the future i2010 objectives.
  • involve regional final beneficiaries (SME's) in the project activities to facilitate the exchanges and cooperation among them.
  • increase the degree of cooperation among SME's in Europe at a regional and interregional level by obtaining from the exchanges real networking experiences based on ICT.

Policy Context

The project is divided into 3 different Components, two transversal (C1 and C2) and the core component (C3). More specifically:

  • Stage 1 Transversal: Management and coordination: It is essential that the cooperation between all the partners is extremely close, communicative and participative. This makes the virtual and presence work meetings a core element of cooperation.
  • Stage 2 Transversal: Communication and dissemination: All along the project's implementation this transversal stage will allow the permanent feedback and wide dissemination of the project's goals, strategy, outputs and results among other European regions and stakeholders.
  • Stage 3a: Good practices identification, selection and benchmarking: Starting form existing database and previous studies on Information Society and business, a selection of good practices will be done following established criteria in order to assure that the resulting good practices deal with the specific issue and sectors tackled in the project and that they are transferable. A limited number of good practices will be studied and analysed in deep detail through a common methodology.
  • Stage 3b: Exchange of good practices: the aim of this stage is to bring together different key actors at a regional level to exchange their experiences and identified good practices. Exchange seminars will be organized. Partners will assure the participation of policy makers, stakeholders on each selected sector and SME's. At the Seminars, forums will be provided to facilitate exchanges at different level as well as practical sessions on concrete practices. A common methodology for Good Practice selection and development of Regional Transfer Plans will be elaborated during the exchange stage.
  • Stage 3c: Following a common methodology established during stage 3b, 8 Regional Transfer Plans will outcome.

Concrete outputs from different stages will be adopted: a 'Guide of good practices', a 'Transfer Handbook of good practices', relating to good practices on ICT promotion among SME's to facilitate networking.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Following a common methodology, partners have identified and described 80 good practices (GPs) -10 per region- at policy level that have helped SMEs from the targeted sectors to go digital. During the 1st Exchange Seminar in Greece (September 2010) partners exchanged their GPs identified and a selection of 40 most suitable - 5 per region - was done. The selection criteria that were used are: ICT Application, Value Network potential, Innovation, Results, SMEs application, Budget, Transferability.

Partners worked on the detailed description of those GPs selected focusing on its transferability following an agreed methodology. Stakeholders and key regional actors were invited to the 2nd Exchange Seminar held in Italy (December 2010). 60 participants exchanged their opinions on the GPs. Following this event, stakeholders selected at regional level the most interesting and suitable GPs according to regional priorities and needs from among those presented in Italy to be transferred to the regions.

Therefore, 8 Best Practices, 1 from each participating region and covering the 3 targeted sectors were selected. The selected 8 policies were deeply studied based on an evaluation: a SWOT analysis, a cost/benefit analysis, an Impact analysis (Inputs/Outputs) as well as the identification of areas for improvement. The 8 good practices selected and studied are the following: I-Kraft (from Denmark to be transferred to Spain) Video guides of Viana (from Spain to be transferred to Denmark) Bank of Tourism potentials (from Slovenia to be transferred to Italy) Spesa Pronta (from Italy to be transferred to Slovenia) Agrasz online (from Hungary to be transferred to Greece) Prof-ELP (from Greece to be transferred to Hungary) WebCheck (from Ireland to be transferred to Malta) Trolley Mania (form Malta to be transferred to Ireland) The 3rd Exchange Seminar (Denmark September 2011) hosted 8 training sessions, where stakeholders from the importing and exporting regions as well as technical staff from the partners exchanged practical information and doubts were clarified. The next step to be undertaken during the first semester 2012 is to organise study visits where stakeholders involved in the transfer will visit in situ the good practices selected. From the information collected during the training sessions, study visits and different exchanges, each region will establish a Transfer plan.

Main results, benefits and impacts

The way the transfer of GP will be included in the regional policy frameworks and how ICT use will improve the competitiveness of SMEs will be briefly described:

I-KRAFT Project (Denmark) in Navarra
A quite similar programme is being implemented within the 'Digital Response' Programme Plan supporting the integration of ICTs in Navarre.

The reasons for choosing this best practice and benefits searched:

  • the similar features of the Region;
  • the purpose to promote the ICT development of SMEs and micro-SMEs is in line with the strands of work of the 'Digital Response' Programme;
  • its know-how contributes to encouraging new initiatives within the strategic guidelines, compiling an inventory of sources of knowledge and services provided;
  • matching the offer of knowledge with actual needs and demands of SMEs.

Innovative Territorial Agro-Cooperation Network, (Hungary) in a Region of Western Greece
The Region of Western Greece (RWG) follows policies for the enforcement of the competitiveness of the Agro-Food sector and supports actions for a model based on local traditional products. The proposed transfer plan contributes to the EU common agricultural policy, which focuses on the assurance of adequate European food production that goes hand in hand with economically viable rural communities. Additional, RWG, is in line with Greek Regional initiatives of Basket of Region's Products. This basket forms the basis for regional policies supporting agro-economy networks between agro-business organisations leading to better marketing and promotion of products.

Bank of Tourism Potential from Primorska (Slovenia) to Emilia-Romagna Region (Italy)
Tourism sector is very important in Emilia-Romagna's economic framework. For this reason the Regional Tourism Authority decided to organise the offer dividing the sector into 4 thematic areas: Adriatic Coast, Apennine mountains, Art city centres and Spas, in order to fully promote the Region's tourism potential. The sector is characterised by a multitude of small hotels, many of which family run, often according to a traditional model which is often not up to date with the most state-of-the-art technologies. Most of them being extremely small, they lack the financial resources to invest in innovation both organisational and technological, and are in need of new stimuli to innovate and stay competitive. The awarding system for the most deserving ‘idea makers’ and the evaluation method of the entrepreneurial idea will encourage the sector.

WebCheck (Ireland) to Malta
WebCheck is a scheme, which is currently being implemented in Ireland by Failte Ireland. The scope of this scheme is to help SMEs operating in the tourism industry to identify their web development needs and to plan, develop and promote their websites. Businesses benefit from on-site consultation in order to devise the website development plan and assistance on how to promote one’s website. Furthermore, workshops are held to assist such enterprises in which practical tips and guidelines are offered. The consultation starts off by having a website review through a telephone conversation with the enterprise who would like to benefit from the scheme. This is followed by an on-site visit in order to assist the enterprise to address issues of concern present in the website.

SPESA PRONTA (Emilia Romagna, Italy) to Goriska (Slovenia)
The agricultural and food production system in the Goriška region lacks suitable operating and financial tools for promoting local farming production lines. The aim of this implementation is firstly to define a harmonised production/distribution/consumer line system in the agri-food sector. The opportunities of this initiative had shown that it enhances corporate social responsibility through a public initiative, promotes sustainable mobility, favours networking among suppliers/retailers, expands eCommerce at a local level, contributes to managerial innovation: partnership between public and private entities, contributes to a reduction of carbon monoxide emissions, improves air, chooses local suppliers (producers/growers) and thus sustains local businesses. Local commerce is encouraged and as a result the food supply chain shortens, thereby contributing to a reduction in ground transportation and containment of product prices. With regards to the project’s strong points vis-à-vis other online shopping services, it was noted that the promoters have the propensity to actively listen to their customers.

Professional European Language Portfolio (ELP) to improve EU Workers Employability by the Improvement of their Professional Foreign Languages Skills (Western Greece) to West Transdanubian Region
The West Transdanubian Regional Development Agency (WTRDA) has a major and crucial role in regional programming and implementation ICT based projects; it can therefore offer the opportunity to expand and integrate our institutional, strategic, financial and practical tools and possibilities in the field of SME development. WTRDA deals with many types of multinational projects such as business development, innovation, R&D, urban mobility, rural development, expert mobility and policy design.

Trolleymania.com (Malta) by Border Ireland
There is no doubt that local business, whether they have an internet presence or not, are not able to compete with larger global players in the online retail sector. The concept of the 'Local Mall' is a good one as it allows smaller retailers to collectively maximise the online profile. Trollymania offers the retailer instant eCommerce capability and expertise (without the fear of uncertain development and running costs, knowledge deficit and management resource).

The benefits for the local region of the Trollymania initiative include the following:

  • Easier for start-ups to have an online shop;
  • Offering retail outlets access to a new market at relatively small cost;
  • Delivery costs are reduced and delivery itself is facilitated;
  • Easy access to local goods from abroad.

Lessons learnt

The ICT-VN project has made it possible to identify, study and draw up Transfer Plans for the exchange of Best Practices between 8 European regions promoting the use of Information and Communication Technologies within three economic sectors (agri-food, tourism and trade).

As for its development, the most noteworthy aspect of the project has been the excellent understanding among partners, which has allowed a quick decision-making process and efficient running of the entire project. However, difficulties have been encountered during its implementation. One of which, although not intrinsically related to the implementation of the project, is the political and economic instability Europe is experiencing recently. All the regions have highlighted this situation at all the meetings, for it makes it impossible to guarantee the transfer of the Best Practices in the short term.

Nevertheless, perhaps the highest rating factor has been the level of involvement of the regional agents and bodies, their active participation in the Meetings and their excellent attitude and interest they have shown for the proposals and goal of the project. As a result of these exchanges, each region has drawn up a regional transfer plan whose implementation will increase the impact of regional Information Society and ICT policies in SMEs, by making available collaboration networks, thus increasing their competitiveness.

All the project outcomes will be collected and published through two project guides: ‘Guide of Good Practices’ and ‘Transfer Handbook of Good Practices’ that will be presented at a Final Seminar to be held in Brussels, where project results will be disseminated.

Scope: Local (city or municipality), National