How best to coach SMEs? JIC is sharing its expertise with European regions
30. 11. 2016

How best to coach SMEs? JIC is sharing its expertise with European regions

JIC has drawn up a comprehensive methodology to help innovate the business of SMEs. It constitutes one of the most effective methods for helping enterprises achieve greater competitiveness. It also offers other agencies an objective and matter-of-fact set of instructions. The EU contributed 50 thousand euros to help develop the manual. Today, one of its authors, Jindřich Weiss, will be presenting the work to the European Commission in the Swiss city of Geneva.   


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent key players in the European economy. They employ approximately 67% of the EU workforce. In this way, they help ensure economic growth, bring new innovation to the marketplace and create jobs. Politicians right across Europe are looking for effective support tools that are able to accelerate the growth of such companies in their regions. One such tool is JIC PLATINN, which links up South Moravian companies with experienced mentors from a variety of business sectors.


This is the first ever Czech coaching programme to work systematically with SMEs. “In many aspects of business, we in the Czech Republic are still trying to catch up with the West. However, the work undertaken by the JIC with well-established businesses of up to 250 employees has been winning admirers for the South Moravian Region from the west. Thanks to many months of work on the part of my colleagues, other innovation agencies now have the opportunity to acquire our know-how, clearly set out in one document,” enthuses Jindřich Weiss, Business Innovation Team Manager.  


A collective of authors from four countries, including JIC, have together put out a so-called Design Options Paper. It offers other regions a set of recommendations that must be followed when introducing coaching into well-established companies. It presents a set of tools for use and describes how, as an agency, to go about organising all your coaching. In doing so, it draws on the know-how of three organisations that successfully work alongside mature businesses. These three groups are the JIC, the Lithuanian Innovation Centre and the Swiss organisation Platinn, the latter serving as the archetype for its Czech equivalent. JIC joined these agencies as part of the annual Peer-BIT project, which culminated this autumn.


The manual should improve coaching in any country of the EU. Despite several cultural differences, the difficulties facing companies are the same all over Europe. “Only a minority of these concern technical matters, most involve personnel, material, commercial or organisational factors, as well the soft aspects of doing business. If there is any difference between the Czech Republic and other EU countries, then it lies in the Czech Republic’s weaker network of international connections. Coaches are often called upon to help out with gaining market access abroad,” explains Christoph Meier, founder of the Swiss coaching programme Platinn, who also had a hand in the document’s creation. It was his method of working with companies that JIC drew upon when it created its JIC PLATINN programme.


The practical reality of coaching according to the methodology of the Design Options Paper is something that South Moravian firms have been experiencing since 2014. One company that participated in the programme is a manufacturer of hi-quality doors and door frames from the town of   Hodonín.“A great benefit for us was the process map, which helped us optimise our manufacturing processes. Thanks to the approach of the expert we were allocated, the results of our co-operation were soon apparent. As an external consultant, he was able to identify opportunities and helped us take the decision to build a new production hall in Hodonín,” says Martin Zlomek, Managing Director of the company Zlomek, expressing his satisfaction with his company’s expansion, initiated thanks to the coaching programme. More than 70 companies like Zlomek have so far passed through the JIC PLATINN coaching programme.  


The Design Option paper may be downloaded here.


Press officer: Martina Pouchlá, 602 476 863, 


JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) 

The JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) supports people in creating and developing companies which change the world. Every year its services are used by approximately one hundred companies - from those just jotting down their first ideas, through to rapidly growing start-ups and established technology firms. Start-up companies which have gone through JIC programmes have created more than 1,400 new jobs and hundreds more in related services. Over its 13-year existence, the JIC has initiated almost 360 collaborations between researchers and companies. Through these and other activities, the JIC helps to improve the competitiveness of South Moravia, making it one of the most innovative regions in Europe. 


JIC PLATINN is a programme for well-established tech firms in the South Moravian region. Consulting with their chosen expert, such firm gains a new insight into their business and gets a specific action plan leading towards new growth.  Applications are welcome from any technology company older than three years, with a staff roster greater than 10 and a registered office in the South Moravian Region. The company first undergoes an analysis of its innovation opportunities. This allows the JIC to ascertain where its strong points are and where it has unused potential. Next up is the so-called 1st phase, in which the expert draws up a company plan listing the necessary changes. If the company needs help implementing these changes, then it can move on to the 2nd phase. The innovation audit and the first 40 hours of expert consultation are free. In the project implementation phase, however, the company must contribute 50% of the cost of the 80 additional hours. A company can re-enter this phase of the Platinn programme repeatedly. 

The smE-MPOWER methodology

The smE-MPOWER methodology is a comprehensive approach to coaching SMEs in areas of business innovation. This methodology enables such undertakings to develop and follow their own innovation strategies over the long term, thanks to working with tools facilitating careful decision-making over future plans. By innovating within its business, a company creates new important value - not only for the customer, but for itself.   Innovation occurs in the form of any and all creative changes in one or more of the following dimensions: the offer, process, distribution and customer. The tools used by smE-MPOWER are founded on a structured approach to the analysis and improvement of these four innovation vectors. Almost 20 tools have been developed for use in the various phases and aspects of coaching SMEs – from analysing demand and market segmentation, through to comprehensive consortia for the creation of partner projects between SMEs. All the methods, tools and know-how found in smE-MPOWER are available under the public licence "Creative Commons ShareAlike" in order to guarantee their transferability and to strengthen the position of small and medium-sized enterprises.


The Peer-BIT project, financed through the European Commission’s programme Horizon 2020, ran from October 2015 until September 2016. Besides JIC, project consortium members included the Lithuanian Innovation Centre (LIC) based in Vilnius and the Upper Austrian Business Agency (TMG) with its head office in Linz.