IM2, a Maturity Model for Innovation in SMEs

Juan Ignacio Igartua, Javier Retegi, Jaione Ganzarain


With the aim to discover and assess specific aspects of management and evaluate their ‘maturity level’, both practitioners and academics have developed a wide range of maturity assessment models over the last decades. In spite of its broad proliferation, their focus is very functional based and specialized, with a detailed approach that only suits big organizations and not small enterprises. On the other hand there is a need for small SMEs to develop practical approaches towards innovation, with clear and defined directions to develop structured innovation processes based on and integrated innovation management approach. Thus, this paper presents a tool to quickly assess the maturity of a firm’s innovation approach. A literature review on maturity models was carried out to in order to build the structure of the Innovation Maturity Model tool (IM2), whereas the content of the tool is also based on a literature review on best practices in SMEs management and innovation. Application of maturity models to Innovation in SMEs is a first-step to focus innovation management in the strategically right areas, and will help organizations to integrate this methodology into their culture, fostering an organizational learning approach. The tool presented in this paper illustrates an agile way to assess the maturity of a firm’s innovation approach and a practical a first-step to focus innovation management in the strategically right areas, and to establish action plans in order to advance in the achievement of stablished objectives, fostering an organizational learning approach. The proposed IM2 maturity model has been applied in a specific region in Basque Country were small SMES, Local Development Agencies and the University through an action research project. Specifically, the pilot project was carried out using the practical application of IM2 scheme. About the elements to be considered, the review of the literature has helped to identify different maturity models that could be considered in an integrated manner when developing this Innovation Maturity Model (IM2) approach for small SMEs. Thus, when building IM2 two main questions need to be answered, one related to the objects classification and another about the maturity scale to be used. Therefore some best practices were considered from the existing literature. Hence eleven categories were considered: Strategy, Competitiveness, Manufacturing Excellence, Innovation, Value propositions and business model, Internationalization, Advanced Management, Digitalization, Sustainability, People, and Territory. We consider that this experience shows a practical method to foster innovation in small SMEs through the mastering of innovation management, the implementation of key factors and the promotion of a learning experience through a "step-by-step recipes". The assumption that organizational change and evolution occur in predictable patterns in SMEs is partially confirmed, although opportunity (as an appropriate or favourable time or occasion) is a key factor in SMEs approach towards innovation. Finally, we consider that further action research should be done in order to improve and adjust the factors, the levels, and levers. In addition, we consider that the relationship between the implementation of IM2 and innovation performance of participating companies could be a future research topic.

Keywords: SMEs; Innovation, Innovation Management, Strategy, Maturity Models

IM2, un Modelo de Madurez para la innovación en PYMEs

Resumen: Este artículo presenta una herramienta para evaluar de una forma rápida los enfoques y prácticas de innovación de una PYME. Para el desarrollo del modelo de madurez propuesto (IM2), se ha realizado una revisión de la literatura que se ha centrado en las buenas prácticas relacionadas con la innovación y su gestión. La experiencia de implantación muestra la bondad de la herramienta a la hora de focalizar la innovación en áreas estratégicas de la empresa, así como un método práctico para el fomento de la innovación en las PYMEs a través de una “receta paso a paso”.

Palabras clave: PYMEs; Innovación, Gestión de la innovación, Estrategia, Modelos de Madurez

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