Benchmarking online ?
Riikka Kumpulainen, JAMK University of Applied Sciences – Institute of Bioeconomy, RDI2CluB project manager 24.09.2020
How to benchmark in a transnational context if travelling is restricted ?
This was a big question for Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme (EU development fund) funded project RDI2CluB. RDI2CluB-project unites authorities, RDI institutes (Research, Development and Innovation institutes) and business development bodies from five regions (Central Finland, Inland Norway, Świętokrzyskie Poland, Vidzeme Latvia and Estonia) to a joint quest for boosting smart and sustainable bioeconomy development in the rural areas of Baltic Sea Region. In total four benchmark visits were conducted in the project to boost the development of bioeconomy clusters and innovation ecosystems in the partner regions as well as transnational bioeconomy co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region. Fourth and final benchmark trip was planned for 2020, same time as ongoing global pandemic. In this article, we will describe how we conducted our final transnational benchmark visit to Central Finland’s bioeconomy online and our tips for that.
RDI2CluB’s “Online Benchmarking Experience” consisted of four parts:
- Video tour
- Innovation Ecosystem presentation
- Thematic discussions between local SMEs and RDI2CluB partners
- On-going online discussion on Biobord-platform
Our experience was that to get a deeper understanding of regions bioeconomy sector, more than just a presentation was needed. Our online benchmarking started with a video tour that introduced different bioeconomy sectors of Central Finland through regional strategy and business presentations. Each business representative was interviewed before filming to see which aspects were most valuable in their business for the transnational audience and which aspects would provide new knowledge. In other words, the organizations presented in the video were involved in the planning process.
* When planning a video tour, frame the topic. And pay lots of effort to planning. What is special (for example in your region) ? What do you wish to showcase ? Can everything fit to the video ? For whom video is made for ?
*Reserve time and resources to produce informative and high-quality video tour. Filming a wide scale presentation of a wide subject, such as bioeconomy, takes time and money. For RDI2CluB, the whole filming project took 6 months. Also, high quality video producer requires more budget. But the result is worth it.
The next step of the Online Benchmarking Experience was to see the innovation ecosystem of Central Finland as a whole, as it was one of the main focuses for the RDI2CluB. Traditional presentation was seen to be the best solution for describing.
*Separate, more in-depth presentation of the key aspect of the benchmarking is needed. It could also be part and theme of video tour. In our case we wanted to provide more wide presentation of the region on the video.
Thirdly, to ensure transnational discussion between different actors of our benchmark participants and regional bioeconomy actors presented on the video, we held thematic webinars. We had five thematic webinars between five regional bioeconomy SMEs and RDI2CluB partners. The idea was to, once again, go more deeply into the subject. Regional SMEs presented a topic for the thematic discussion, for example a challenge they are facing or solution that they would like to further develop. RDI2CluB partners had a change to select a thematic discussion/discussion they would have most to give for.
Our thematic discussions were:
- How to develop highly sensitive technology business without sharing the main idea behind it.
- How to make sheep farming more profitable ?
- How to further develop and test a farm-scale machine to separate the hemp fiber from the hemp hurt on field and to be used as a construction material ?
- How to move to the export markets with Finnish wood design products ?
- How to make products even more sustainable ?
RDI2CluB consists of 12 partners across Baltic Sea Region and the bioeconomy expertise and knowhow is wide. One of the main goals of the project and Biobord-platform, created in the project, is to share knowledge transnationally and find solutions together.
All thematic discussions started with presentations of each organizations present. This gave a good understanding of their expertise and knowledge. Thus, the local SME also presented their business again, more in-depth manner, and shared the challenge they are facing. After introductions there was time for questions and open discussion. Open discussion included examples of same types of businesses from different regions and their best practices. It also included examples from other sectors, sometimes it is beneficial to think outside of the box. When potential solution or idea of next steps where formed, discussion host steered the discussion by utilizing SWOT-analysis method: what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the solution.
*Announce the theme of the discussion on beforehand, so all participants have time to prepare.
*Reserve at least two hours for the discussions. Tight timetable does not leave room for creativity and for new solutions.
*Have a discussion host included that will steer the discussion if needed and takes care of the timetable. Clear instructions and clear process are important.
*Include as many representatives from the same field of business as possible to offer wide and potentially global glance to the business and to potential solution.
*If possible, record discussions and share the recording as well us summary afterwards somewhere, where discussion may continue. In our case we utilize Biobord.eu -platform.
Last step was to summarize the discussion and find a joint place to carry on joint development. For RDI2CluB this is Biobord-platform that has been developed in the project and widely used in the project implementing. Thus, SMEs were invited to register on the platform. Summary, organization presentations and the video recording of the webinar were shared on the Open Biobord, where anyone interested in the topic can join the discussion. Hopefully, new solutions will be found!
Overall RDI2CluB’s Online Benchmarking Experience was successful. The basic principle of benchmarking is to learn from other experts of a particular field of business and to implement lessons learnt to their own business. From RDI2CluB’s online benchmarking SMEs received practical advice to further develop their businesses, as well as found new contacts and new ideas. Thus, RDI2CluB partners received a wider view of that field of business and its challenges. They also received new methods and information to be shared for their region’s businesses. Open Access is a key principle of RDI2CluB and Biobord-platform. The video tour produced for the Online Benchmarking Experience will also be a useful too to showcase the benefits of sustainable businesses and what all is counted to bioeconomy. It may also be used in educational purposes and in region’s marketing.
*Make result durable and multipurpose
Join the discussion on Biobord!
Picture by Diana Pitkänen 2019.