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Expert Help programme evaluation


The Expert Help programme was designed to stimulate product and process innovation by raising the level of competence and technical ability in SMEs, and increasing SME awareness of the importance of using external technical advice. The evaluation aimed to: explore how the new ‘devolved’ arrangement between SEN, the contractor ESS and LECs had developed; review variations of programme delivery across the Network; gather the views of providers and clients with respect to the operational qualities of the programme; assess the effect on client businesses of the support received under the programme; and recommend areas whereby programme delivery and administration may be improved.


The methodology consisted of: a postal survey of participant companies (162 respondents); face-to-face interviews with 29 companies; and interviews with LECs, Innovation and Technology Counsellors (ITCs), Design Counsellors (DCs), the Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise staff.


Finds that there is no central monitoring framework for Expert Help, making it difficult to accurately show programme impacts in quantitative terms. It has effectively ceased to be managed or delivered as a national programme. Observes that Expert Help addresses the issues for which it was designed, with 70% of companies using Expert Help in new product and new process development work. Advises that contracting the counsellors wholly externally to SE could damage the ‘honest broker’ value perceived by clients and LECs. The ITC counsellor has in most cases become incorporated within the LEC set-up and regarded as a LEC staff resource.


Due to the closure of the contractor, advises that other programmes support the work of the ITCs and DCs in a new configuration that reflects the realities of technology support at the local level. The same level of support may be provided without the infrastructure costs associated with running a separate programme. Recommends improving the operational effectiveness of the technology-based assistance by ensuring: ongoing ITC recruitment, retention and development; effective ITC networking to ensure cross LEC access; standard SE network operating guidelines; an appropriate performance measurement framework; and the introduction of aftercare.

Author Frontline Consultants; Policy Research Network (Scotland) Limited
Published Year 2009
Report Type Evaluation
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses
  • Innovation
    Business innovation, Innovation system