InCaS: Intellectual Capital Management in European SMEs - its strategic relevance and the importance of its certification
As the Lisbon Agenda declares the aim for the European Union to become the most dynamic and competitive knowledge‑based market in the world by 2010, management instruments are needed to support companies achieving this ambitious goal. Small and medium‑sized companies (SMEs) are especially affected by this plan being the driving force of Europe's economy. To obtain their competitive advantage, it is crucial for SMEs to utilise knowledge efficiently and to enhance their innovation potential. Thus, managing their specific Intellectual Capital (IC) becomes more and more important for future‑oriented organisations. A practical way to tackle the challenge is the methodology developed by the German pilot project 'Wissensbilanz âe"" Made in Germany' and the European pilot project 'InCaS: Intellectual Capital Statement âe"" Made in Europe'. The Intellectual Capital Statement (ICS) is an instrument to assess, develop and report the IC of an organisation and to monitor critical success factors systematically. By applying this method in more than 50 German and 25 European small and medium‑ sized enterprises, it was possible to support the participating companies in identifying, evaluating and developing their strategically relevant knowledge. Resulting from increased interests in managing and reporting of IC, stakeholders such as creditors or investors receive ICS in completely different qualities âe"" from very reliable to implausible. To ensure the quality of ICS in a sustainable way, we have developed an approach of ICS certification based on the methods of quality management system certification, financial audit and the assessment for European Excellence Award. In the end, only the ICS fulfilling the quality requirements will be awarded a certificate. A catalogue with requirements shall serve as the certification basis and has to be in place beforehand. This catalogue evolved as an essence of both above mentioned projects and includes the experiences of ICS implementations. The challenge is to determine the smallest possible amount of requirements that will enable the ICS to meet the acknowledged quality criteria. Furthermore, this paper summarises how the InCaS method supports companies developing a knowledge‑based strategy. We describe research results gained from the German and European project about the strategic relevance of particular IC factors in general and their relevance depending on the business sector.