Supporting Non-technological Innovation in Owner-managed Manufacturing SMEs through increased capacity of business intermediaries

October 2017 -
March 2021


Policy area:
1. Innovation 1.3 Non-tech innovation


Business intermediaries, owner-managers and universities jointly develop and apply innovative tools and methods for business counselling that respond to the specific needs of owner-managers of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Owner-managers of SMEs tend to be driven by different considerations than SMEs run by employed managers, for example, their own family’s well-being, the employees’ situations and lack of time for developing their own managerial skills.



Intermediaries struggle when counselling SME owner-managers

Despite of a wide range of professional tools, a majority of business intermediaries experience complex challenges and insufficiency when counselling SME owner-mangers. The majority of their existing tools are for companies with externally recruited and educated management with a rational attitude. Owner-managers are driven by more complex and subjective considerations as for example long-term interest, the local society, employees and relations. The project provides the intermediaries with new tools to improve the dialogue to be more personalized and based on trust. These tools take into account owner managers’ attitudes and expectations and give the companies solutions that support their development and growth.

Targeting owner-managed manufacturing SMEs

A large number of European SME’s are owner-managed and they represent sectors with huge potential for innovation, growth and increased employment. The project includes representatives of such ownwr managed SMEs in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Finland and Denmark. Through a co-creation process with non-profit intermediary organizations and universities of applied science the project develops tools and methods for business intermediaries that respond to the challenges the owner-managed SME’s faces. Overall, the objective of the project is to establish good and valuable communication between owner-managed SME’s and business intermediaries across the Baltic Sea region.

Highlights by mid-term:

Two test rounds of the SNOwMan counselling toolbox were completed. After collecting data and inputs from owner-managers of SMEs, the project partners developed a prototype of the counselling process between business intermediaries and owner-managers. The model covers six business-related themes, called “steps”. They include: 1) trust building 2) visions 3) identification of challenges and needs 4) strategy and action plan 5) operationalisation 6) measuring and evaluating outputs.

The first test round focused on steps 1-4. Five owner-managers from each country involved in the project (Denmark, Poland, Finland and Lithuania) participated in meetings to test the developed counselling model. The involved business intermediaries also tried out the developed guidelines on how to lead the counselling interview with a logical sequence, specific methods of conduct, questions and pieces of advice to each step. At each test, an observer was present to note the interaction between the owner-manager and the intermediary during the counselling process.

After implementing some adjustments, the SNOwMan partners tested the toolbox once more. The counselling process became smoother this time and better perceived by forty owner-managers participated in the second test round.


€ 2.09
€ 1.63
Eni + Russia
€ 0.00
€ 0.00



Project manager

VIA University College

Susan Dalum

4 587 554 027

Legal representative

VIA University College

Harald Elmo Mikkelsen


Financial manager

VIA University College

Karin Reinholt


Communication manager

VIA University College

Julie May Wulff Nielsen

4 587 554 037