Projects are an essential part of DIHs and there can be a range of different projects that involve different types of stakeholders and financing. DIHs can support SMEs, larger companies and public entities with services through having joint projects. Some projects are internal to a DIH (e.g., with SMEs and competence centres within the DIH) while others also involve entities outside the DIH (e.g., with other regions).
Project development encompass how to establish new projects. Different kinds of projects require different approaches to project developments. Activities such as those within community building, ecosystem learning, and strategy development may be important initial activities for initiating project development. A key to project development is to understand the needs of the stakeholders involved and how the ecosystem around the different stakeholders’ work. To this end, a DIH can benefit from close relations between the different organizations and companies within its DIH, as well as collaborations with other DIHs through DIH networks such as RIMA. Based on their understanding of the stakeholders needs and possibilities, DIHs should actively push to establish new research, development and innovation projects in such a way that it benefits the companies and/or public entities involved in the projects. This is an important function of a DIH as companies and public entities may in some cases be too busy with day-to-day operations to focus properly on the innovation efforts needed to keep their businesses competitive and efficient in the future.
DIHs are organized in different manners – also in terms of project development. In some DIHs there are business development groups responsible for project development, other DIHs have business developers employed within the different research groups in the organizations. There can be benefits to establishing a team for each specific business development case and having close collaboration between business developers, technical experts, legal and project managers in such a team. Also, in some cases, personnel at DIHs can have many of these roles at once (e.g., a senior research scientist may also have expertise in business development). Business developers can formally leave a project initiative when/if it materializes into a project, but there can be benefits to keeping some involvement in a project to maintain relationships with the clients involved.
Project development is usually paid for as in-kind by the entities involved. However, for larger initiatives where, e.g., a region or a large-scale end-user has a strong motivation for starting a project, then there can be funds available (e.g., regional funds) to support the organizations involved in the project development.