Preparing a company inquiry as a part of the RIS3 monitoring system
Given the need to include more qualitative information in the RIS3 monitoring system in the South Savo region, the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences Xamk worked out a webropol-survey via e-mail for companies. It was planned in collaboration with the Regional Council of South Savo. The starting point of the inquiry was to get more detailed information about indicators like the needs, points of interest and future visions of businesses than it was so far available. In the following, a few observations are described based on our experiences while preparing the survey as a part of the RIS3 monitoring system.
On one hand, the purpose of the survey was to provide relevant information to support the monitoring of the smart specialisation strategy. On the other hand, company representatives needed to find it useful and inspiring enough to participate. In other words, the inquiry should tap into areas of interest among those whose feedback is appreciated. At this point, the covering letter played an important role. It was to convey the message of true interest in helping companies in the region to success in their businesses.
When preparing the webropol-survey the first question to be answered by ourselves was “How do we make sure that the ambitions of the funding programmes match knowledge, resources and needs amongst businesses?” Thereafter, it would be all about the art of asking right questions, which can be a tricky process. The old truth of “You’ll get what you order” applies also to inquiries. Above all, it is important to bear in mind that the questions are easy to answer. This involves several issues to consider: company language vs. public administration language, questions relevant from the big and smaller company’s point of view, length of the survey, anonymity of the survey, selecting between different types of questions – a choice/multiple choices from a list of given options, scaled and open questions about attitudes and opinions. At this point, it is also noteworthy to define the background information carefully in order to enable survey analysis and report on different levels of interest like the area of smart specialisation strategy, sub-region or company size. Further, while working out the questions it is important to keep in mind that a survey providing qualitative information focuses on perceptions of company representatives and facts, which are often impossible to collect from the official sources.
The companies were identified in accordance with the smart specialisation strategy of South Savo via a company database-service on the grounds of official industry classification. Consequently, companies within the sectors of wood, food, water and related digital services were included according to the value chain thinking. However, as an e-mail address is not a compulsory information when registering a company in Finland, those were missing to some extent in the database. It meant looking for the missing e-mail addresses of companies in different webpages by using the company name or business ID in the search. Most easily, the addresses were found in companies’ own websites, when those existed. Still, in many cases, the company Facebook turned out to be the best source for e-mail addresses.
After careful preparations in cooperation with the strategy owner, the inquiry was sent forward to a wide range of companies in top priority areas of South Savo's smart specialisation strategy –FOREST (New Products for Forest Biomass and production processes), WATER (Clean Water Technologies and Concepts), FOOD (The food chain's cleanness and security) and related DIGITAL services.
Further information of RIS3 in the region of South Savo: https://www.esavo.fi/resources/public//Tietoa-Etela-Savosta/Julkaisut/Julkaisut%202018/Smart%20Specialisation%20Strategy%20of%20South%20Savo%202018_2021.pdf
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