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SME Assembly 2017 – Day 2

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Day 1 was exciting, and Day 2 certainly did not disappoint! The first full day of sessions and masterclasses was opened with keynote speeches from Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, and Urve Palo, Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, followed by insightful questions from the session chair Mari Vavulski, head of Startup Estonia.

The opening was finalised with the highly anticipated results of the Ideas from Europe semi-finals were announced. So many good ideas meant the Jury had a tough decision to make, but the following finalists were selected: Julien Penders of Bloomlife (Belgium), Klaus B. Pederson of Too Good to Go (Denmark), Steffen Preuss of Ichò (Germany), Fiona Edwards Murphy of ApisProtect (Ireland), Aida Nazarikhorram of LuxAI (Luxembourg), Mark Offerhaus of Micreos (The Netherlands), Artur Racicki of SEEDia (Poland), Francisco Duarte of PavNext (Portugal), Mervi Pänkäläinen of Mightifier (Finland). Another project received a special mention from the Jury, Refugee{code} and as such will also be going to the finals in the Hague.

One place has yet to be filled, and is now down to a public vote which opened online during the announcement. Voting will be open until early 2018 and will decide which of the remaining 19 semi-finalists will take the final spot at The Knights Hall in The Hague in the Netherlands!

With an exicting kick-off the day continued with several policy sessions and masterclasses, ranging from a focus on invest and finance, to teaching practical skills like basic coding and the basics of cybersecurity for SMEs. There was also the annual SME Performance Review, presented by Costas Andropoulos from the European Commission. Have a look at the Live Tweet feed for the highlights of each session.

The night kicked off with the European Enterprise Promotion Awards ceremony, where all national winners received a certificate from SME Envoy Viljar Lubi up on stage. The host, Andres Torm, then went on to present the shortlist and invite several distinguished presenters to award each prize. For more details on the EEPA winners have a look at the EEPA winners post, and be sure to read the 2017 compendium to learn more in depth about each of the awarded projects.The night was far from over at the end of the ceremony and continued on as Kultuurikatel transformed for the EEParty where winners, delegates and attendees had a chance to continue networking and enjoy what the DJ had to offer.

Hopefully you are not too tired from yesterday’s sessions, and see you around for Day 3…

Ideas from Europe 2017 – Finalists

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Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden are going to the finals of Ideas from Europe on April 24, 2018 in the Knight’s Hall in The Hague, the Netherlands. The jury found these ideas the most innovative and believe these will have the most impact on our society.

2017 SME Assembly: Ideas from Europe semi-finalists

The winners

This is what the jury, Kaupo Reede, Kristin Schreiber, Ulrike Rabmer Kollen and Cees Vermaas had to say about the ideas:

  1. Julien Penders of Bloomlife (Belgium): “If you are a mother the solution of Bloomlife will give you peace of mind.”
  2. Klaus B. Pederson of Too Good to Go (Denmark): “A practical solution to the second hand market of food.”
  3. Steffen Preuss of Ichò (Germany): “This solution is acknowledging the tremendous problem of dementia and provides a practical device that brings relief.”
  4. Fiona Edwards Murphy of ApisProtect (Ireland): “We need bees to make sure our food supply will last. This solution will help the bee population.”
  5. Aida Nazarikhorram of LuxAI (Luxembourg): “There is a big potential in technology that lets children interact more easily with robots.”
  6. Mark Offerhaus of Micreos (The Netherlands): “This solution is potentially a ground breaking alternative for antibiotics.”
  7. Artur Racicki of SEEDia (Poland): “The combination of something practical and modern that will help both us and the environment.”
  8. Francisco Duarte of PavNext (Portugal): “The combination of safety and energy has great potential.”
  9. Mervi Pänkäläinen of Mightifier (Finland): “This will really stimulate behaviour change and help children fight bullying.”

(Click on the links above to see the individual pitches)

The Jury have decided that due to them sharing a common objective and similar goals, but with slightly different target audiences, that the Speak Up solution from Sweden will share the stage with Mightifier from Finland at the finals in The Hague.

2017 SME Assembly: Ideas from Europe semi-finalists

The Jury also wanted to highlight another project and give it a special mention. Stefan Steinberger the semi-finalist presenting Refugee{code}, will also be joining the finalists at the Hague due to his solution being so relevant to the current refugee crisis.

Wildcard

From November 23 onwards, the wildcard vote for the last finalist will be open to the public. They will be able to vote online via http://ideasfrom.eu/vote for one of the other nineteen solutions that were not chosen by the jury.

The innovator with the most votes will then go on to join the other finalists in the Knight’s Hall in The Hague, The Netherlands on April 24, 2018.

To see photos from the Ideas from Europe semi-finale, please visit our Flickr. To see the whole competition, you can watch the video.

SME Assembly 2017 – Day 1

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What an opening! Yesterday on 22 November 2017, the SME Assembly 2017 officially opened and the long awaited programme of events finally got under way.

Three Estonian enterprises opened their doors to delegates to show us all what goes on behind the scenes of some of Estonia’s top innovators. From finding out what goes into the making and running of a digital state with the E-Estonia showroom, learning what goes into Estonian defence with top supplier and manufacturer Milrem, to learning about super capacitors with ‘Estonia’s oldest startup’ Skeleton Technologies, this year’s business tours were certainly diverse and showed us the entrepreneurial, innovative and e-spirit of Estonia.

The day continued with the long anticipated Ideas from Europe semi-finals, during which all 28 candidates made their three minute pitches in front of a live audience and a high level jury. The jury, made up of Kristin Schreiber of the European Commission, Kaupo Reede from the Estonian Presidency, Ulrike Rabmer Koller President of UEAPME, and Cees Vermaas CEO of CME Europe, asked tough questions and challenged the candidates to defend their solutions on stage. Both the Jury and the audience voted on who should go through to the finals in the Hague next year…be sure to follow our live coverage on Twitter to find out who they picked!

Ideas from Europe was swiftly followed by two more high level events to round off the evening, the SME Week Reception at the stunning Seaplane Harbour Museum, and the Schumpeter Lecture given by Jan Fagerberg at the beautiful Kadriorg Art Museum.

The Reception included opening remarks from Costas Andropoulos of the European Commission, some SME insights from Kaupo Reed of the Estonian Presidency, and a showcase of Estonian culture, traditional folk dancing, music and a performance from Veronika’s Portsmuth Academy Concert Choir and Uppsar dance show. The Schumpeter Lecture allowed Professor Jan Fagerberg to share his insights on the evolution of innovation policy and what it means for Europe’s future, which was complemented by speeches from SME Envoy Viljar Lubi, European Commissioner Bienkowska and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Day 1 certainly had a lot to offer, but this was only the beginning of this year’s SME Assembly activities. What is in store for today? Follow us on Twitter for live coverage, and for those of you that are here…see you in Kultuurikatel!

European ideas that will change the world

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On November 22, entrepreneurs from all around Europe will present their ideas to change the world for the better. 28 innovators from across the European member states will compete in the semi-finals of ‘Ideas from Europe’ in Tallinn and share their solutions to global challenges.

From tackling food waste, using innovative technology to diagnose health problems, cures for the common cold and antibiotic resistance, smart uses of renewable energy, diminishing CO2 emissions, programs for children with Autism, anti-bullying initiatives and refugee support systems – and more; these entrepreneurs have come up with innovative solutions to pertinent global challenges. This competition puts a spotlight both on the entrepreneurs and their ideas to help them grow their business and make an even bigger impact.

What is the next step?

The Ideas from Europe journey is ready for its next phase, the semi-finals, which will be held in Tallinn, Estonia during the SME Assembly 2017. Each European member state will be sending an innovative entrepreneur with a ground breaking business idea as their representative. The 28 innovators will deliver a three minute pitch in front of a renowned jury to compete for ten places in the finals. The jury, as well as the audience, will choose nine ideas to be showcased during the finals in The Hague in April 2018.  The choice of the tenth finalist is down to you, all Europeans – you can all vote, online for the tenth solution that you want to see in the Hague.

Program

The semi-finals of Ideas from Europe in Tallinn will start on November 22 at 16.00 UTC (GMT+2). The whole program will be broadcasted via a live stream. On November 23, at 09.00 UTC, the nine best ideas will be announced and the online public voting will open! The live stream can be viewed via ideasfrom.eu. 

Speakers

Do you want to know more about the entrepreneurs and their ideas? Have a look at the list of all 28 semi-finalists below, or visit www.ideasfrom.eu, to get familiar with their pitches and know for whom you wish to vote.  Public voting for the tenth finalist will be open from November 23 until mid-January 2018, on www.ideasfrom.eu.

Press release

Please download the Press Release Ideas from Europe 2017.

Ideas from Europe: Semi-finals at the SME Assembly 2017

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© Ideas from Europe, 2016 finalists

Ideas from Europe are coming back to the SME Assembly, but this time with their semi-finals. During the SME Assembly on November 22, innovative entrepreneurs from across EU Member States will pitch their ideas for solutions to Global Challenges, with the aim of putting visionary entrepreneurs and their ideas under a European spotlight. After pitching the international jury will select the nine best innovators to compete in the finals in April 2018 in The Netherlands. The tenth finalist will be chosen via public vote, so be sure to attend the session at the Assembly or join us via the livestream to ensure your vote counts!

How does Ideas from Europe work?

Ideas from Europe is an independent foundation that believes in finding already existing solutions for current global challenges. How are these solutions found? Ideas from Europe looks across all the European Member States and organises national events and competitions to help select one representative per Member State. Once chosen these national winners go on to compete at the semi-finals, which will be held at the SME Assembly in Tallinn this year.

Who will be competing at the semi-finals in Tallinn?

So what kind of ideas can we expect to see? Have a look through the current list of semi-finalists below to get familiar with the pitches that will be seen and that you can vote on next month at the SME Assembly.

Finland: Mightifier Austria: RefugeesCode Slovenia: AgiliCity
Croatia: Balmaris Estonia: Hepta Slovakia: Virtual Medicine
Cyprus: SyndeSeas Sweden: Speak Up! Denmark: ‘Too Good To Go’
Belgium: Bloomlife Germany: Ichò-system Czech Republic: Sensbar
Malta: EasyPeasyCoding The Netherlands: Micreos

Be sure to check the Ideas from Europe website for more updates to this list.

Interested in what a national final looks like? Watch the Dutch finals:

Read more about Ideas from Europe right here on the Promoting Enterprise Portal.

Ideas from Europe 2017 – Joint Development. Shared Purpose.

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Ideas from Europe 2017 is about to begin! What can you expect and what are the key dates that you need to remember?

Ideas from Europe was launched in 2015 as a joint initiative of the SME Envoy network and the Dutch government, and will soon become a formal not-for-profit foundation based in the Netherlands in order to continue its activities at European level.

The primary aim of Ideas from Europe, was to shine light on European visionary entrepreneurs – we believe that most of the solutions to our global challenges are already out there, in the hands of visionary entrepreneurs.

The 2017-2018 edition of Ideas from Europe will kick off on 6 April 2017 in Malta, and marks the start of a new search for potential solutions to global challenges. All 27 EU Member States are involved in searching for innovative ideas and the entrepreneurs behind them, and together with Ideas from Europe will give them the opportunity to present their ideas on a European stage. The 2017-2018 programme will continue with a scaling up of ideas from 2016, which will run in parallel with the new search from May to November 2017.

The semi-finals will be held during the SME Assembly 2017 in late November 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia, which will be complemented by a public vote across the EU to help find the top ideas in Europe.

For more information on Ideas from Europe be sure to keep checking their website for updates.

Do you have an idea that could compete on European level? Do you think you have a potential solution to a global challenge? Why not get in touch with Ideas from Europe and enter your idea for consideration? Contact them for information at info@ideasfrom.eu.

Look here for more information on previous speakers.

Ideas from Malta – Will we see you there?

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ideas-from-malta

Calling all innovators! Do you know what is going to be happening in Malta on the 7th of March 2017?

The Ideas from Malta event is a collection of Ideas From Europe and Malta’s entries for business solutions to global challenges. If you are working on an idea that solves a global challenge, this is your opportunity to get recognised and gain the support you need to maximise impact. You can also nominate others.

From power, water & housing to education, healthcare & finance, if you are a Maltese / Dual citizen or resident of Malta building a solution to societal and environmental issues, we want you! Whilst the official deadline has passed you can still submit your ideas for consideration, feedback and guidance here.

Shortlisted innovators will be invited to present their idea at an event to be held in Malta on 7th March 2017. The winner will be Malta’s representative for Ideas from Europe. All innovators who submit an idea will be reviewed and provided with opportunities to further their development, including access to mentors, internships, partners and investors.

This is a unique opportunity to gain access to the partners and funding you need to reach your goals. Let’s help you get there and maybe even further: to the Ideas from Europe finals taking place at the SME Assembly 2017 in Tallinn.

For more information: www.ideasfrommalta.com

Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur?

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Cécile Real is the president and founder of Endodiag, a company she set up in 2011 to develop new diagnostic tools for endometriosis, a disease that affects approximately 10% of all women of childbearing age. In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, Cécile will tell us about her experience in setting up her business.

I was lucky to start my first company at the age of 25. I use the word ‘lucky’ because, despite the fact that it is very challenging, being an entrepreneur is a very exciting and fulfilling occupation or, should I say, way of life. You think about it 24/7, but it gives you the opportunity to meet incredible people along the way and achieve things you never imagined you would.

cecile-realWhen I told my father that I wanted to start my own company, he had an unexpected reaction, saying: “fine, fine, but don’t stop looking for a real job”. Hopefully when I called him back few weeks later to tell him that I had decided to launch my first company, he realised I was serious about doing it and he became my N°1 supporter. Without knowing it, that was probably the first key lesson I learnt.

Trust your instinct! You have to have the confidence to go ahead and do it! There is more than one way to be successful and you have to make your own way. Just because some people do things differently to you, it doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong. I do feel that sometimes women have a lack of confidence in themselves. Some people will agree with you and some won’t, but that’s not a good enough reason for you not to do it. Be smart, listen to others, and then make your own decision and strategy.

As a biomedical engineer I have always wanted to work on projects that address health issues. So my first company was developing new biomaterials for patients suffering from arthritis. After eight years of successful development, we were bought by a large orthopaedics company. I learnt a lot but I wanted to see other ideas, projects, and organisations, so I decided to help others to start or develop their companies. However, after two years of this, I was definitively missing being an entrepreneur and I wanted to find a new project that could have a strong social impact. That opportunity presented itself when I learnt about endometriosis.

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Endometriosis is a chronic and disabling gynaecological disease affecting 180 million women worldwide, as many as suffer from diabetes. It involves tissue that normally grows inside the uterus growing outside it and invading other organs (ovary, bladder, colon…). It is associated with a variety of symptoms, particularly severe and unbearable pelvic pain and infertility (50%).

The only reliable diagnosis of endometriosis is through invasive surgery. On average, this surgery is performed nine years after the onset of the disease. Nine years of not knowing the cause of your pain and the associated emotional distress has a tremendous impact on a person’s social, personal and professional life. Even after surgical intervention the recurrence rate is very high (approximately 50% after two years) and endometriosis patients will have an average of five surgeries during their lifetime. A lot of people think pain during menstruation is normal… but endometriosis actually affects one in ten women.

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Driven by a desire to provide healthcare professionals and patients with a better understanding of the illness and better diagnosis tools, we set up Endodiag in 2011…

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Cécile REAL and Helene BENY, 1st employee of the company @Endodiag Lab

 

Everyone dreams of doing something that will stand the test of time

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In his previous posts, Gerhard Dust talked about what motivated him to set up his business and discussed the personal challenges he has encountered and the issues his company has had to deal with as his business developed. In this, his final blog post, Gerhard talks about the human desire to leave a lasting legacy, and gives us his six golden rules of entrepreneurship.

This is my last blog for the time being and, frankly, I would have liked to talk more about PolyCare. How environmentally friendly our invention is; how we are able to finish houses in a few days; how it can be made using only desert sand; and how inexpensive this solution is.  Of course you can still find all of this information on our website or on YouTube.

But today I want to talk about entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneur actually is. You see, I have often been asked a very direct question that goes something like this….

“Gerhard, at your age and time of life, why did you start this business?”

Some might find this quite rude, but actually it lies at the heart of what inventors and entrepreneurs are about.  The simple answer is that every person dreams of doing and creating something that will stand the test of time – something great that will outlast them and benefit mankind.

Doesn’t every person with even a gram of compassion carry a dual responsibility: on the one hand towards his fellow human beings and, on the other, towards the generations to come?  My partners and I founded PolyCare because we recognised that affordable housing world-wide is no longer achievable for more than a billion people through the use of traditional building technologies. We might be of retirement age, but that doesn’t mean we have lost the ability to dream and to wish for a better world.  A world where an ordinary person can build their own home; where the money needed to do this doesn’t leak away into the coffers of the multinationals; and where a home is more than a shabby tent made of plastic.

Gerhard Dust - Google Drive.clipular

Sometimes we joke and say that we are like the elderly people in the blockbuster RED. Our definition of RED is slightly different: Retired, Experienced and Dedicated.  I admit that we are proud that our solution has been described as one of the most important inventions of recent times and that it could provide millions of people with quick and inexpensive housing worth living in. So far, for us this has meant endless work, many sleepless nights and often-severe worries about money, technical solutions and bureaucratic hurdles.

But we do not regret any of it.  Many believe that we have transformed a good idea into reality and we have gained many supporters and friends in the process.  So we are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still much to do.

You see, being an entrepreneur can often be its own reward and this is especially true when it is also economically successful. But an entrepreneur does not have to become rich to be happy. If we provide the means to make the world just a little bit better, then that will be reward enough.  These old REDs will be able to approach the ultimate finishing line knowing that they have made a difference.  What could be more motivational than that?

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The last six years with PolyCare has certainly taught me some golden rules. These are my golden rules for entrepreneurship:

  1. Fairness – always treat employees and business partners how you would like to be treated. Friends are more valuable than enemies.
  2. Dreams – everyone has the right to change the world. Be brave and set yourself goals that are as big as your confidence will allow, but make sure that you are practical about what is achievable.
  3. Planning – don’t leave things to chance. Plan your steps carefully, review them constantly and always have a plan B.
  4. Develop the team and yourself – look beyond your horizons and learn from others. Invest time in networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the best people you can find.
  5. Commercialise – the best invention is useless unless you can sell it. Everything revolves around the benefits to your customers. Make sure it provides benefits for them.
  6. Team – if you need staff, get the best people, share your vision with them and continually motivate them.

I wish you all success on your entrepreneurial path. Follow your dreams with courage and confidence and don´t be put off by small setbacks.

And finally…..believe in yourself.

Gerhard DustI am grateful that you have read my blog and I am grateful for the interest that you have shown in our solution. Now this technology must reach the people in need. I ask you with all my heart for your support… please spread the word about this invention to the world. Tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail.  Let UNHCR and others know that there is a cheaper more practical and ethical alternative to the use of containers in the desert for refugees and for worldwide affordable housing.

Your words might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right time, and that could change the lives of millions.

Best of luck to you all.

To read more about Polycare :

A mature entrepreneur talks about a life-changing event…

Gerhard Dust discusses the challenges he faces in his new business venture…

PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust responds to questions about his technology

 

PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust responds to questions about his technology

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In his previous posts [1] [2], Gerhard Dust outlined the events that led him to his current career path and described some of the challenges he has encountered as his new business develops. In this third blog post, Gerhard deals with some of the main questions that his new technology has raised and explains some of the concepts involved.

In my previous blogs I have tried to convey the huge advantages that the PolyCare system offers when building structures of up to three or four stories. However, some of the responses I have received recently have led me to understand that some of you are still struggling to accept that much of this is actually possible.  How can you have a building with no real foundations, and how is it possible to build with blocks that are not cemented together?  What’s more, doesn’t capillary attraction mean you still get rising damp, and can completely unskilled people really do all the building work?

These and many more questions have been continually raised and, if you think about it, with good reason.  For over 2000 years there has been a standard way of building and we all understand it fairly well.  The problem is that when something totally new arrives our immediate reaction is to compare it to what we know and the standards we are familiar with.  Unfortunately this doesn’t always give us a clear picture.

Below I explain the building process with pictures taken on-site when my colleague Ramon Gray constructed a small Quality Control building for TATA in New Delhi, India.

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The start of a PolyCare build requires a flat, level base of wet sand.  This is usually accomplished by making a small 150-200mm channel in the ground, filling it with sand and then levelling it carefully.  In this first picture (left) this wasn’t possible as the construction was being carried out on an uneven concrete base. However, the building system is simple and it can be adapted to practically any situation.  Here, instead of making a channel, our team used some waste materials (the granite strip on the left and the steel box section on the right) to form a flat and level frame for the wet sand base.

The picture on the right shows the start of the build itself.  On the right you can see that base lates have been simply laid on the sand base and bolted together with small steel plates.  These continue around the building and form the base level.
Steel connecting rods are then screwed into the bases and these run right through the blocks, once they are laid on top, and connect to a similar set of plates at the top of the building. Once the connecting rods are in place work can start on laying the blocks.

The laying of the blocks continues with the blocks being placed over the rods and with the rods themselves being extended using simple screw thread connectors.  Gaps are left for windows, doors etc.  When the blocks reach the top of the building the top plates are added and the rods are bolted to them, giving the whole structure immense strength.

There is no sticking, gluing or anything else involved; the blocks are simply laid on top of each other.  This is why our system has often been called “big boys’ LEGO” – for obvious reasons. But I’m not sure that this is an accurate description… the LEGO most ten year olds do is much more complicated!

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So let me explain some of the concepts.

In this system no foundation is generally used (see note) as the structure itself is many times stronger and more resistant to bending forces than a brick or cement concrete wall.  This is due to a combination of the huge strength of the polymer concrete as well as the way that the blocks lock together.  This strength is further enhanced by the tie bar system that produces a very strong box-like structure.  But there are further considerations.  This structure is completely resistant to water, so foundation frost and capillary attraction occurs without any consequence.  The wet sand technique is a copy of the system the Egyptians used to build the pyramids.  While it may seem somewhat crude and primitive, no one can say that it hasn’t stood the test of time.

So, lastly, let me provide some assurances for anyone looking at this system for the first time.  The Bauhaus University is one of the most respected institutions worldwide for architecture, design and materials testing.  They have been working with PolyCare now for over four years, testing and officially certifying practically every aspect of what we do.  They are so confident in our system of building that one of their professors recently assisted PolyCare in presenting and discussing its merits at an international exhibition.  The efficacy of the system is therefore not in doubt and it is currently undergoing full building type approval in Germany.

[Note:  PolyCare fully understands that, in some circumstances, extremely weak or unstable soils will need some level of foundation, whether strip or corner piles, etc.  Site testing will determine where this is necessary.]

Polycare

Learn more about Polycare

Previous EEPA blog post on Polycare: 

A mature entrepreneur talks about a life-changing event…

Gerhard Dust discusses the challenges he faces in his new business venture…

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