Munich: The German capital city of Berlin will be playing host to a very special kind of summit meeting on 5 July this year when the country's most innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gather for an awards ceremony. Project mentor Ranga Yogeshwar will be presenting them with the compamedia Top 100 prize for innovation at the city's Axel Springer Passage centre. This is the 20th year that compamedia's accolade for innovation has been awarded. Munich's iwis motorsysteme is among the winners and is being recognised for the second time.
iwis motorsysteme GmbH & Co. KG has been noted for innovation ever since the firm's inception. One hundred years ago, the company was making bicycle chains. Today it is a market leader in the production and development of chain systems for the automotive industry, for industrial applications and for agricultural machinery. None of which would be possible without the creative input of its 1,100 employees. “Our colleagues' ideas are at the forefront of what we do, “ says managing director Johannes Winklhofer. “Those ideas are constantly being tried out and put into practice. As an incentive, we award an Innovation of the Month prize, where the winning inventor receives a financial reward. “ The company has invented an innovations management system called Ideefix and there are boards hanging in all the plants where people can write down new ideas. The scheme's managers ensure that every new idea is reviewed within a matter of days, and that feedback is passed on to its originator.
In addition to Ideefix, the company creates other opportunities for sharing new ideas such as regular 'innovation circle' meetings where employees get together on a regular basis to discuss new ideas. Progress and ideas management also take centre stage at innovation meetings and continuing professional development events. Employees are encouraged to go on inhouse training courses, run by colleagues or external suppliers, in order to learn new skills and develop their creativity. The courses pay for themselves. The firm generates 25 per cent of its current revenue from new products developed in the past three years.
The Top 100 award is based on academic research into the firms concerned conducted by Professor Nikolaus Franke and his team from the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. This year these innovation experts have examined a total of 245 companies. The findings of this research are made available to the participating firms in the form of a benchmark report that reveals their potential and provides practical tips for immediate application. “This success can be attributed to an outstanding team performance by senior management and the entire workforce, “ says Winklhofer. “It demonstrates that we are heading in the right direction. We will now use the results of this survey to further refine our innovations management. “
In addition to iwis motorsysteme, a further 102 firms in three size-based categories will be receiving the Top 100 award. They include 51 German market leaders and 21 global market leaders. Roughly two-thirds of these firms are family-owned businesses. All of these companies together generated total revenue of approximately €13.5 billion in 2012. The Top 100 leading innovators reinvested around 10 per cent of this revenue directly in research and development, whereas German small and medium-sized enterprises in aggregate spent only 1.4 per cent on R&D. Consequently, the award-winning firms are more successful: they generate 42.6 per cent of their revenue from products and services that they have only brought to market in the last three years, while the corresponding figure for German SMEs as a whole is a much lower 8.9 per cent. This has meant that 86 of the Top 100 firms (83.5 per cent) have generated growth that has outperformed the respective industry average – by almost 15 percentage points on average – over the past three years.
The project's mentor is the journalist and television presenter Ranga Yogeshwar.
Project management and partners
Since 2002 this project has been managed by Professor Nikolaus Franke from the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. The focus of his research is on entrepreneurship, innovations management, and marketing. He is one of the world's leading experts in the field of user innovation. The Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research is acting as the Top 100 project partner and the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper is the media partner.
Organiser: compamedia – mentor to the best SMEs
compamedia GmbH was founded in 1993 and has a team of 19 employees who organise the Top 100, Top Job and Top Consultant competitions for German SMEs. It also launched the Ethics in Business initiative. It supports and awards prizes to small and medium-sized firms for outstanding achievements in the fields of innovation, human resources management, consulting and corporate social responsibility. compamedia works closely with leading universities on these projects.