Together you are twice as strong. INOQ GmbH impressively demonstrates that this applies not only to humans, but to plants as well. The company, based in Lower Saxony, develops and distributes biostimulants, soil fungi that settle on the roots of plants, thereby enhancing their resilience. While looking for solutions to make their product development more efficient, INOQ turned to the Enterprise Europe Network, the world’s largest support network for small and medium-sized enterprises, and was successful in receiving support.
When Dr Carolin Schneider presented the idea behind INOQ in 2001 on the NDR show 'Landpartie', the scientist and entrepreneur had no idea how high the demand for their recently completed products would be. The telephones began ringing that same evening. "It was chaos", Schneider recalled. "We had a name, logo and packaging pattern – but we were not set up for this overnight market entry." The product that triggered it all is called mycorrhiza. These are special soil fungi of natural origin, which, when added to the soil, create a symbiosis with certain plants. As a result, the plant becomes more resistant to drought and a lack of nutrients - or in other words to stress. With INOQ products, everyone can now buy the right fungi for their plants. Areas of application range from vegetable cultivation in private gardens to gardening and landscaping, and through to plant production.
Big ideas, big risks: time for innovation management
The products sold by INOQ are research-intensive. This means great innovation potential – but also comes with a high entrepreneurial risk. Fifteen years after the company was founded, the time had come to develop its structure. The team was to be bolstered by an innovation management specialist through the EU programme HORIZON 2020: SME Innovation Associate. In order to receive the support, INOQ brought experienced consultants on board: the Investment and Development Bank of Lower Saxony (Nbank), which promotes companies in the region as part of the Enterprise Europe Network. "The team's advice was fantastic – helpful, constructive and friendly", Schneider praised.
The grant application brought the success they had hoped for: INOQ was able to hire Dr Miguel Arato as an employee, who took innovation management to a whole new strategic and structured level. Funding from the EU programme financed the salary of the sustainable business model specialist for one year. "Dr Arato came exactly at the right time and was a real asset to the company", recalled Schneider. "It was not without reason that we took him on after the end of the year."
Conquering the market with European support
INOQ soon made use of the Enterprise Europe Network's support again – this time to apply for the SME Instrument. The EU funding instrument is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with high growth potential and an idea with high market potential. Jörg Büsel from Nbank, who works as an Enterprise Europe Network consultant for INOQ, spoke highly of them: "The company uses European funding programmes to attract new talent and implement innovation projects." In addition to strong demand from retailers and consumers, INOQ plans to significantly expand its product and customer portfolio, thereby taking the company to the next level. "We want to serve conventional agriculture", said Schneider, "and to do so we need to move into industrial production." The first phase of the SME Instrument was successful for INOQ and a feasibility study was carried out. The application for phase two is ongoing – it's now a matter of securing financial support for market entry.
For the targeted expansion, INOQ not only has Germany in its sights, but neighbouring European countries – especially Spain. Initial success has already been recorded. "INOQ GmbH has developed into an international champion and innovation leader in the industry", stated Enterprise Europe Network consultant Jörg Büsel. This is a development to which the Enterprise Europe Network has made a significant contribution, and will continue to do so in the future. "We will also be happy to provide support measures for INOQ as part of its ongoing market development." For example, a profile has already been created for INOQ in the Enterprise Europe Partnership Opportunity Database. Carolin Schneider has also drawn some positive conclusions regarding the collaboration: "I can only encourage every SME to take advantage of European funding opportunities. With the Enterprise Europe Network at their side, applications can be made successfully!"
Contact to the resononsibel partner of the Enterprise Europe Network:
Enterprise Europe Network Niedersachsen
Contact to the company:
Dr. Carolin Schneider
Tel.: +49 (0) 58 42- 98 16 72
Fax: +49 (0) 58 42- 4 93
Backgrouninformation about the campaign #EUOpen4Business: www.EUOpen4Business.eu