Building capabilities for the target group to undertake activities promoted by the programme

Why is this a policy challenge?

The lack of sufficient capabilities among the targeted group or within the targeted industry sector or region may prevent achievement of the programme objectives.

For instance, under the Productive Territories Programme in Mexico, local development plans identify, support and implement economically relevant business opportunities for disadvantaged groups. The success of the programme has however been limited, in that many projects did not start or, where they did, they remained unprofitable because of shortcomings in the entrepreneurial skills of those involved.

Hungary’s Innovation Voucher programme, which helps SMEs engage in innovation with the help of research institutes, universities or independent experts, has also so far not met expectations. Only few firms engaged, and in a range of regions research institutions and universities did not have adequate capabilities to support them. Hungary’s Kiút programme, which provided micro-loans to low-income groups (mainly from the Roma minority) to foster self-employment, also had a high rate of defaulted loans (around 54% on 31 October 2012). 

How can these challenges be addressed?
  • Develop and deliver inclusive innovation programmes as part of broader development strategies. Programmes aimed at supporting laggards need to integrate from the beginning capacity building and other activities to tackle unfavourable conditions limiting the innovativeness of firms and/or regions. See examples.
  • Where possible, tailor programmes to the capabilities of the target group. These adjustments, however, should not lead to a lowering of selection criteria that end up not supporting innovation (e.g. by funding ultimately non-innovation activities). See examples.
  • Invest in capacity-building activities that include not only formal education but also coaching or mentoring to foster entrepreneurial skills. See examples.
  • Invest in universal, high-quality basic scientific education. Such investments are crucial to enhance the innovation capacities of all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic background and geographical location, and therefore to ensure more inclusive societies. These effects are only evident in the long term. See examples.

Special Economic Zones – Mexico


Measure implemented:Develop and deliver inclusive innovation programmes as part of broader development strategies

To tackle the unfavourable general conditions that might undermine the successful implementation of the programme, and to ensure that local residents and firms benefit from it, the programme foresees the design and implementation of other policies to improve  education and health services, expand financial services, and develop public infrastructure.

Productive Territories Programme – Mexico

Pilot phase

Measure implemented:Tailor programmes to the capabilities of the target group 

In Mexico the Productive Territories Programme aims at reducing poverty through tailor-made development plans for poor rural communities. Teams of technical experts elaborate and validate these plans in collaboration with the local communities, which ensures that the specific needs of the targeted community and the actual financial and technical opportunities are adequately identified.

Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development - India

Initially launched in 1985 and reformulated in 1996-97–present

Measure implemented: Tailor programmes to the capabilities of the target group 

In India, implementing agencies of the Science and Technology Enterpreneurship Development programme analyse the target region’s potential and identify 3‑4 technology areas of specific relevance. Potential entrepreneurs are then identified, trained and provided with support to launch their micro-enterprises in those sectors.

Spark Programme – China


Measure implemented: Invest in capacity-building activities

The Spark Programme in China promoted innovation among rural populations with the provision of technology training to farmers and rural entrepreneurs.

National Action Plan for Scientific Literacy – China


Measure implemented: Invest in capacity-building activities

China has launched the National Action Plan for Scientific Literacy, which aims to improve the national scientific literacy needed for inclusive innovation, by investing in education – in particular basic education in underdeveloped regions – and popularising science and technology

Other examples

Measure implemented: Invest in capacity-building activities

The SME Instrument of the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme not only provides a grant to SMEs planning to undertake an innovative project, but also supports them with coaching services for up to 15 days, which may include assistance in business development (e.g. analysis of potential business opportunities, development of a marketing plan), organisation (e.g. mobilisation of the SME’s human and financial capital) and co-operation (e.g. planning innovation partnerships) (EC, 2016).


EC (2016), “Coaching under the SME Instrument”, (accessed 19 January 2017).