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Overview

NPD - NET is a interregional cooperation project aiming to support New Product Development through the establishment of intra- and inter- regional networks of specialized service providers. In the project participate the regions of Central Macedonia and Attica ( Greece ), the LEIA Development Centre (Basque Country, Spain ), Cardiff Business School ( University of Wales , Cardiff ), Institute Jozef Stefan ( Slovenia ), Tartu Science Park ( Estonia ) and the Regional Development Agency of South West Oltenia ( Romania )

New product development (NPD) is about the renewal of products which because of technological and socio-economic conditions became obsolete and the gain of new markets for existing products. While in many regions technological innovation may reduce employment, mainly because of the introduction of ICT and automation, in the case of product-based innovation, regional wealth increases in parallel with employment. However, it is quite difficult for many EU regions to develop product innovation skills because NPD covers a wide range of expertise from consulting (product conception, market analysis, competition analysis, marketing etc.) to product design and prototyping.

The philosophy of NPD-NET is to address the regional gap in terms of NPD services and practice, especially in the Least favored countries (LFRs), by developing inter- and intra- regional networks providing relevant services, while sustaining the awareness of business about the importance of NPD.

NPD-NET will be based on the integration, regional adaptation and implementation of a digital stepwise guide (NPD roadmap) developed by URENIO research Unit, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki under the ERDF Innovative Action Programme 2000-2006 (currently hosted by http://www.vrc.gr:8080/roadmaps/en/roadmaps/npd/index.html . It will soon be hosted in this web site.

The roadmap provides a continuous support to users in the NPD process, following a level-assessment methodology approach. Each level consists of distinct actions that need to be taken by the user. At the end the user conducts the assessments that will provide directions either for forwarding to the next level or postpone or discontinue the NPD process. Each level of the roadmap is supported by a set of tools, documents, web links and organizations that help the user of the roadmap to accomplish it successfully.

The scope of NPD-NET is to develop and test a network-based innovation model, in which the linear sequence of tasks along new product development is replaced by an intra- and inter- regional co-operation process, in which the skills required to complete NPD are provided by specialized regional actors, linked physically and virtually on the Roadmap tasks.

This view is compatible with the newest EU approaches on innovation, defined in the framework of the Lisbon Strategy and affirmed latter at Barcelona , 2002 European Council. In this Strategy ( COM (2003) 112 final ) the Commission considers as very important to support measures that encourage the companies to innovate. Even if R&D is considered to be an essential factor for long-term growth and European prosperity, the evolution of the innovation concept - from the linear model having R&D as the starting point to the systemic model in which innovation arises from complex interactions between individuals, organisations and their operating environment - demonstrates that innovation policies must extend their focus beyond the link with research.

NPD-NET is based on the imperative of innovation to penetrate the entire productive network, not as a concept but in practice, so as to aid the development of knowledge-based businesses as well as rural areas and tourism. From the overall process of new product development, our project pursues two aims:

•  To improve the external conditions in the regional institutional environment for the creation of new products by local companies with the support of intermediary agencies, and

•  To diffuse a new model for network-based product innovation to a large number of regional organizations and companies.

The first aim of improvement of the external conditions for new product development will be achieved with the pilot projects focusing on the creation of business clusters enhancing creativity, technology intelligence, and technology watch, the setting of new industrial design support centres, and the promotion of learning networks among businesses and the academia.

The second aim in diffusion of new product models to a large number of companies will be achieved with dissemination practices, company mentoring schemes, which transfer the results obtained in specific companies and technology centres to the entire regional productive fabric. Thus, new product development will not be sealed into a small number of firms, but diffused to the entire Region, with positive impact on SME competitiveness and employment. The introduction of new products is a primary indicator of innovation, and this project will affect directly the innovative capacity of local companies.

The activities planned to be taken for each participated region are the following:

  1. Organization of the Regional NPD Support Centre . For each participated region the partner institution will play the role of Regional NPD Support Centre, that will be the main actor for NPD netwoks uptake in the region.
  1. Regional NPD appraisal and creation of network-based NPD. The Regional NPD Support Centre will conduct an appraisal to record all resources available locally for NPD. This survey will examine all important indicators regarding the innovative capabilities of the region and will conclude with the action plan that will highlight the practical steps need to be taken for NPD uptake as well as the definition of regional support needed to be provided to the NPD sectoral innovative actors. By NPD sectoral innovative actors we mean the new activities that may cover many traditional sectors (e.g. in the case of smart furniture, both the furniture and automation industries are covered). NPD sectoral innovative activities will create a critical mass of complementary products leading to the creation of a strong regional product . These new activities have to be substantiated by the creation of new niche markets. Viability studies must also be conducted to substantiate the investment basis for attracting capital for NPD sectoral innovative actors.
  1. Adaptation of NPD roadmap. The Regional NPD Support Centre will adapt the NPD roadmap according to local needs, networks and skills derived from activity 2. The adaptation must be directed to the selected NPD sectoral innovative actors in each region.
  1. Enhancing local NPD knowledge with creation of NPD qualified consultants NPD-QC. The Regional NPD Support Centre will make an open call to all consultants in the region to participate in an open training in the usage of NPD roadmap. The training will lead to a qualification for NPD services. The NPD-QC' s will be placed in an index by the Regional NPD Support Centre. SME´s must choose one of them in the NPD process at a later stage. The training process will include knowledge and technology transfer from leading organizations in the areas of selected NPD sectoral innovative actors in each region.
  1. Awareness for NPD. The Regional NPD Support Centre will launch an information campaign for NPD to SMEs and academia. Joined workshops will be developed minimizing the gap between industry and academic institutions. The awareness campaign will include diffusion of results of step 4 into SMEs. Awareness will cover: (a) the procedures needed for developing new products, as well as the definition of the product mix necessary for sustainable development of companies.
  1. Participation of SMEs in New Product Development . The Regional NPD Support Centre will make an open call to all SMEs that are interested in developing new products along the network-based NPD model.
  1. Dissemination of the network activities in the EU. This will include: (a) Conferences in the partner regions where the results of the operation will be presented (b) Publications (brochures, papers) about the policies and instruments developed during NPD-NET (c) Meetings with industry executives presenting the services NPD-NET could provide. 
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