High-quality global players operating in niche markets—that describes many Limburg manufacturing companies in a nutshell. Economically speaking, they form one of the most important sectors in the province. Nine of these Limburg manufacturing companies are currently investigating the transition process from a product-based to a service-orientated business. Recently, they started an innovation assistance project called “Creating value through new or improved services” at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). The project concerns one of the four priorities of the LimburgMakers support programme, which was developed by LIOF, the Chamber of Commerce and the Province of Limburg.
A good foundation for further growth
The purpose of the project with LimburgMakers is to further develop service-orientated activities at innovative manufacturing SMEs in order to strengthen their competitiveness, and thereby structurally strengthen this sector and establish a good foundation for further growth. This approach is based on the European Service Innovation Scoreboard (ESIS) from the European Service Innovation Centre (ESIC), an analysis that shows the impact of integrating innovative service-orientated activities within organisations. ESIS not only provides good insights into the positive effects for these specific companies, but also shows the positive structural effects on the entire region.
That requires a different view
“Such a transition is possible only by developing a new business model based on services rather than products,” says Charles Mevis, Programme Manager for Development & Innovation at LIOF and Programme Manager for LimburgMakers. “That requires a different view—of the products, the customers and the market. This of course means that the organisation itself will also change accordingly. In other words, the impact on the organisation, as well as on the profitability, can be significant. Also, education is essential for this. There is a lot of knowledge available for the manufacturing industry from SBE. For example, there is a bootcamp where, during five intensive sessions, businesses can gain new knowledge and insights and learn a lot from each other. Also, master’s students from the block Value Based Marketing develop strategic solutions for participating companies. This is a challenge. They work with an established business, an existing problem and a real client that is critical. We hope of course that their interest in Limburg SMEs is sustainable.”
New business models
“The participating companies represent a diverse group”, says Benedict Persoon, Support for Entrepreneurs Adviser at the Chamber of Commerce. “Even during the launch of the programme, it seemed that each of these companies was seeing the potential for new business models, almost on a daily basis. During the first knowledge session, Dr. Paul Iske, Professor of Open Innovation and Business Venturing at Maastricht University’s SBE, made an appeal for this and it soon became clear that these companies have huge amounts of data. The combination of the knowledge with the product and the data is unique. It is not as simple as one-two-three to replicate. These companies know their potential value to their customers. They also want to stay here in the region and use Limburg as a base from which to grow further. In this way, stimulating innovative service-orientated activities in these innovative manufacturing companies goes hand-in-hand with strengthening the region.”