Steinbeis experts and CEFE promote the interests of innovation initiatives for SMEs in India
India is a fascinating country on a number of levels, due to its amazing culture, the strongly growing economy, and the entrepreneurial spirit of its people. But at the same time, the subcontinent also has to deal with a number of social upheavals. The country is considered highly competitive and in some sectors of industry, it is innovative. For many SMEs, innovation, research, and development are simply not on the radar as relevant topics. As part of a program called Promoting Innovation in SMEs launched in 2016 by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) Steinbeis experts from Germany and India, as well as CEFE International (Cologne) provided successful support to SMEs in India.
The IndInnovation project worked on two levels. First, the project team developed a training program for SMEs with plenty of case studies, and courses were run for a number of SMEs. Second, the experts developed a training program along similar lines for so-called intermediaries – chambers of commerce, technology parks, incubators, transfer offices, business support organizations, and other network multipliers.
The training program was based on a fairly innovative approach for India broken down into three phases. During Phase 1, both programs offered a 5-day training module based on case studies for SMEs and intermediaries to discover more about the topics of innovation, technology, product development, and process development. There were differences in the emphasis of content with made-to-measure instruction both for the SMEs and the intermediaries.
Based on the content of Phase 1, during Phase 2 the course participants were offered intensive mentoring – a novel concept in the Indian market. This allowed Steinbeis and CEFE to provide further support to individual innovation projects within the SMEs and intermediaries. During Phase 3, participants on the program were asked to present the current status of their innovation projects at a “finishing school.”
The SMEs on the program were particularly open in presenting their innovation concepts to the other participants, sometimes even revealing prototypes developed during Phase 2. The Indian project partners had not anticipated this at the beginning of the project and were positively surprised by the outcome. In reality, the company owners were extremely honest and open and this is an important prerequisite for promoting technology transfer even more intensively in the future.
To ensure that the program developed and run by Steinbeis and CEFE could be organized on a local level from the outset, the project partners also asked four leading Indian business schools to become involved. These were allowed to take the training manuals and the three-phase process, and the plan is for them now to offer and run the program in the Indian market and thus safeguard the long-term survival of the project. Another important aspect of the project was to provide Indian business school lecturers with instruction on the special method of adult education called experiential learning. The fact that the program has met the expectations of the SMEs and provided an initial stepping stone into innovation processes is underscored by the large number of queries from industry received by the experts at Steinbeis India. People are asking for support with their own innovation processes. Also, a partnership agreement has now been signed with a further Indian management institute. Again, the aim will be to promote technology transfer through this university into local industry.