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SME Week Newsletter 2017: Issue #4

Welcome to the summer edition of the European SME Week newsletter,

The European deadline for EEPA 2017 has passed and the wait for the shortlist announcement has begun! Be sure to have a look at the Promoting Enterprise News Portal during summer to find out about the national winners that will be competing for places on the 2017 shortlist…

The Youth Essay Competition is open and we are accepting submissions until 8 September 2017. Look here for more information on how to apply and get writing! Not sure how to start? Have a look at last year’s winning essay and the three finalists for some inspiration on the portal.

The Promoting Enterprise News Portal is packed full of other interesting content to read over the summer. Interested in EU investments? Trends in startup culture? Digital innovation? The portal has something for everybody so be sure to go and have a read through the articles! We will continue to bring you information, including the latest on the EEPA 2017 selection and other exciting updates.

We wish you a lovely summer!

Read more >>

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The future of innovation and enterprise – What can we expect?

Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark, is back for a final interview with Promoting Enterprise. Today the subject is the future, what does it hold for innovation and enterprise? What can we expect? What are the trends telling us? Read on to find out…

What trends do you see in innovation?

In Denmark specifically, the public sector is embracing innovation, which I see as a positive thing. Overall, user driven innovation is increasing, as consumers and users begin to play larger roles in development, and there is a shift from only research based innovation. The current trend is disruption of society as there is a need for innovation for us to advance.

What measures/steps are you taking to encourage digital innovation in Region Zealand?

In Region Zealand we currently don’t do enough and as such we are not a front runner in the digital space. In Denmark however there have been some steps towards pushing companies to work digitally and make that digital transformation. The Danish Business Authority (which takes care of company registrations and working in the Danish public sector) took the controversial decision to make it mandatory for all companies to digitally invoice if they wanted to work in the public sector. Initially there was a lot of resistance but overall it helped – and is still helping companies – to transition to the digital sphere. As such, Denmark has no physical paper trails for monetary transactions and the public sector is going fully digital. That is truly innovative.

As director for innovation and growth, what do you see as the future of enterprise?

The same situation can be seen across all the EU countries, the public sector is under enormous strain which has and will continue to be a catalyst and driver for innovation. This in turn will result in increased cooperation and further blurring of public and private divisions. This blurring of divisions also relates to how the idea of employment is changing and evolving, which is not to say it is negative, but simply means that new working models are beginning to emerge. I see the future of enterprise as no longer including the ‘employee’ concept, I think this will be phased out. It is not uncommon now and nor will it be in future to have multiple jobs or hybrid employment models, alongside an overall merging of individuals and companies.

What does the future of enterprise look like in Denmark? Do you think it is different to global trends or where the future of enterprise will go globally?

Denmark has always had a strong focus on creating a business environment conducive to startups and entrepreneurs. So far we have been successful, but we also need to change in order to stay competitive and innovative. The new focus now needs to be on helping startups to scale up. So the big question for us now is how do we scale up in Denmark? Perhaps a larger and certainly important question is, how do we scale up in the EU?

Innovation in large companies: CP Kelco, Region Zealand

If you enjoyed this insightful interview with Tue David Bak, be sure to read his other interviews right here on the Promoting Enterprise Portal.

First interview: Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?

Second interview: Startup Culture – Tue David Bak shares his insights and predictions

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#InvestEU – Find about European funded initiatives

What does the European Union (EU) invest in? What projects do they support? The EU is here to help support great ideas and give everybody a chance to get ahead and to give innovative European ideas a chance. Through different funding schemes the EU is able to invest in projects across the spectrum, from those that are investigating cleaner sources of energy, to those that aim to provide cutting edge healthcare.

In order to invest in such a diverse range of initiatives, the EU has a comprehensive Investment Plan. The investment plan focuses on removing obstacles to investment, providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects and making smarter use of new and existing financial resources. To achieve these goals, the plan is active in three areas:

  •         mobilising investments of at least €315 billion in three years;
  •         supporting investment in the real economy;
  •         creating an investment friendly environment.

The Investment Plan provides background and context, but where does this investment go? On the InvestEU website, there are many different project stories to browse through, which highlight some of the innovative European projects that are being funded. In upcoming posts, Promoting Enterprise will be highlighting some of the projects from across the Member States and from different sectors.

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Startup Culture – Tue David Bak shares his insights and predictions

Promoting Enterprise is proud to welcome back Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark. In his second interview with us, Tue sheds some light on startups, accelerators and incubators in Region Zealand and Denmark, current trends and the regional influences on startup culture.

Do you have many accelerators and incubators in Region Zealand? Are they successful?

In Denmark we have actually worked to avoid having too many regional accelerators and incubators, we prefer to have these bodies on a national level so as to keep them open to all Danish and even global companies. Global companies are not excluded from accessing our incubators and accelerators. As long as they have a Danish license and a physical presence in Denmark they can access all the resources. Through this openness we hope to facilitate a link between the Danish and global markets, thus making Denmark just as attractive as the Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs.

What trends are you seeing on the startup scene?

There is an increasing acknowledgement from startups that they do need help. The old idea of two guys in a garage doing everything on their own and not needing any support is starting to be replaced by the realisation that getting a startup to take off is difficult and that there a multitude of resources to draw from and that they are there for a reason. This links to another trend which is an overall change in mindset regarding partnerships. Similar to the collective realisation that they need help, startup founders are specifically beginning to value the need for partnerships with mentors, larger companies etc.

What trends are you seeing in startup culture? For example, does geography play a role?

Absolutely, just looking at the differences between Northern and Southern Europe is an illustration of the role of geography. I have more experience and expertise in Northern Europe, and overall I have seen that there is a strong entrepreneurial culture in Northern Europe, including acceptance of changes of career as a ‘normal’ part of professional life.

Even within countries geography is a big influence, a startup or company located in a rural area will not behave in the same way as an urban counterpart. Rural startups are more traditional working on the idea of being your own boss and are often less aggressive in their approach to scaling up. They are also more in line with the traditional Danish culture which means not standing out or drawing attention to yourself. In contrast urban areas are experiencing an aggressive growth of entrepreneurs.

Innovation in startups: Synchrotron-based microscopy at laboratory scale (Xnovo)

Tue David Bak will be back next week on Promoting Enterprise for his final interview on the future of innovation and enterprise and what Denmark and the EU need to focus on to stay competitive.

Read his first interview: Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?

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Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?

Today on Promoting Enterprise we are joined by Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark. In the first of a series of interviews, he shares with us his experiences in identifying innovation and creating innovative environments.

How is innovation fostered in your region?

Firstly, we must identify how innovation takes place before talking about how it is fostered. Innovation takes place via two processes:

1. Internal innovation within companies and organisations

2. Public or other innovative institutions creating innovation frameworks

In this context, I am going to focus more on the second process, as this is where the region plays a role. In Region Zealand there are different schemes which establish innovation frameworks to encourage innovative behaviour, for which specific funds are set aside. For example, one of the things that we do at the regional level is to reduce the risk for companies that are willing to invest in innovative ideas. Currently the focus is on innovation in the healthcare system. The region has set aside funds so that investors are taking financial fewer risks, and, hence, willing make much investments that are much greater than expected in innovation.

We also run gap financing schemes through universities, which also aim at reducing the level of risk for potential investors. Our role as the region is to bridge the gap between research and commercial finance, which in many cases could stop a potentially innovative body of research from receiving the necessary support to grow and expand. One example is the company Xnovo, which began as a research idea developed at the Technical University of Denmark. Through the support provided with the gap financing scheme it has now developed into a commercial company with its own private employees.

What are the key aspects of an environment that encourages innovation?

There are three main elements required for an innovative environment:

1. Private and public risk capital

You need free money to finance risk taking

2. The ability for public institutions to purchase innovative ideas

Region Zealand has recently changed its internal procurement laws to stimulate innovation by incentivising public institutions to purchase novel ideas and technology.

3. Excellent advising systems

Companies and individuals require guidance when it comes to innovation, therefore it is necessary to have easy to use support systems in place.

Innovation in startups: 4D X-ray videos showing microstructure evolution (Xnovo)

In the case of Region Zealand, I believe that we have all of the elements above but simply not enough of each. We can strengthen the advisory and support systems that currently exist. We can increase our in-house purchase of innovative ideas. In the United States the small business administration had special programmes to acquire public contracts, which is something we can learn from and build upon. In Denmark certain requirements for companies, e.g. a three year track record, have been taken away in order to make it easier for new startups which would not fulfil this criterion. Taking away this type of requirement could make certain steps in the process of scaling up and establishment easier, for example access to funds and schemes. Removing barriers is absolutely key, you have to make it easy, to provide incentives and minimise the risk of purchasing innovative ideas.

Stay tuned for more from Tue David Bak on global innovation, where it will lead us, the future of enterprise and trends in startup culture.

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European Innovation Scoreboard

Ever wondered how innovative your country is? What about in comparison to its neighbours or overall in the region? The European Innovation Scoreboard is a European Commission initiative that provides a comparative analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries, and regional neighbours. It assesses relative strengths and weaknesses of national innovation systems and helps countries identify areas they need to address.

The Regional Innovation Scoreboard is a regional extension of the European Innovation Scoreboard, assessing the innovation performance of European regions based on a limited number of indicators.

European Innovation Scoreboard 2017

The 2017 edition of the Scoreboard presents a refined analytical framework. Rankings are therefore not directly comparable with previous editions, but time series using the new analytical framework allow performance to be tracked over time. New indicators capture investments in skills, digital readiness, entrepreneurship, and public-private innovation partnerships. In addition, a new toolbox with contextual data can be used to analyse and compare structural differences between countries.

The new scoreboard reveals that EU innovation performance continues to increase, especially due to improvements in human resources, the innovation-friendly environment, own-resource investments, and attractive research systems. Sweden remains the EU innovation leader, followed by Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK, and Germany. Lithuania, Malta, the UK, the Netherlands, and Austria are the fastest growing innovators.

In a global comparison, the EU is catching up with Canada and the US, but South Korea and Japan are pulling ahead. China shows the fastest progress among international competitors.

Interested in finding out more? Have a look at country profiles, an interactive online score board and find out who is leading innovation in Europe.

https://ec.europa.eu

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Coworking spaces – the new workplace norm?

As the concept of employee and place of work begins to change and become more fluid, there has been a global rise of ‘coworking spaces’, which serve as transient spaces where individuals and companies can work alongside a variety of professionals. Whilst these spaces provide flexible physical locations without traditional constraints, do they actually work? Do they really promote cross-sectorial cooperation and innovation? Are they conducive to entrepreneurship?

Different studies and interviews of those that use coworking spaces and founders of these spaces have revealed key messages that point to what makes these innovative spaces different to traditional office environments. With reported higher levels of satisfaction and productivity, ongoing research has highlighted the following reasons for their attractiveness:

  • People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful.
  • They have more job control.
  • They feel part of a community.

In an environment where collaboration and assistance are the norm, work takes on new meaning, stands out and can even be a valuable asset to another space user. The spirit of collaboration can exist in traditional office spaces, yet can also be accompanied by office politics and internal competition. By working with ‘strangers’ from a range of professions, this can help strengthen each individual work identity, add value to each unique contribution and ultimately eliminate the sometimes counterproductive aspect of internal competition.

When it comes to job control there is no denying that the world of work is changing and the once accepted 9-5 schedule with rigid policies, pushy bosses and no room to manoeuvre is being replaced by the need for autonomy and ultimately flexibility for workers. Coworking spaces allow for necessary but minimal routine and structure without traditional constraints. These spaces are normally available at all hours, meaning that working days can vary depending on when long hours and days are needed, to when a few hours are sufficient. This allows for healthy balance between professional responsibilities, family obligations and other social needs, through the flexible schedule a coworking space promotes.

Finally, the sense of community these spaces create is another strong factor in their attractiveness. Autonomy and flexibility are aspects that can be achieved from a home office, yet this can be isolating and result in decreased productivity. In contrast, the coworking spaces offer both interactive and individual work stations, giving users different working style options as well as the chance to socialise and expand their personal and professional networks.

With the ever changing workforce and working styles, . Taking into account the figures, the studies, the interviews and the ongoing research, there are definitely some benefits to coworking spaces, but can these benefits be translated into entrepreneurial success? Entrepreneurs often think outside of the box, so perhaps working spaces that fall outside of the ‘traditional box’ of structured and rigid office spaces are what these pioneering and innovative minds need to build their networks, launch their ideas and ultimately bring innovation into our daily lives.

For more information:

https://hbr.org and www.dynamicbusiness.com.au

Interested in coworking spaces and what it is like to run one? Read through the Promoting Enterprise interview with ‘The Library Group’ CEO and founder Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld on Instagram! Find out about her entrepreneurial journey and what led her to set up and run her network of coworking spaces in Brussels.

Facebook: The Library Brussels           Website: www.thelibrarygroup.be

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E-Estonia: The European digital success story

As the SME Assembly 2017 approaches, along with the beginning of the Estonian presidency, Promoting Enterprise has decided to briefly explore how this Member State rose to be the digital pioneer of Europe.

After gaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Estonia was a small state with a small population and few resources. It was at this moment that the country’s leaders decided to build on the global launch of the internet and integrate it into the construction of the post-Soviet Estonian infrastructure. Preparations for the modern e-Estonia began with the passing of the Information Policy in 1994, followed by the Personal Data Protection Act and the launching of the Tiger Leap project in 1996.

The Tiger Leap project marked the beginning of the prioritisation of the creation of Information Technology structure, by allowing educational institutes to access computers and the internet. This ensured the training of tech-savvy Estonians from a young age, which continues to allow the healthy growth of the national IT industry and development of innovative e-services such as the ID Card project and the X-Road. The project continues to run today and fosters the development of entrepreneurs and their innovations.

Fast forward to the present day and Estonia continues to pioneer digital solutions and is the training ground for other countries wanting to implement online voting and e-Health systems, to name a few. Not only a European but a global pioneer, Estonia is the seat of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre after demonstrating the ability to defend itself against a cyber-attack on national level in 2007.  

E-Estonia is by no means finished and new systems and innovations are constantly being developed and added. What will Estonia develop next? We will have to wait and see…

For more information about E-Estonia: https://e-estonia.com/

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The Digital Assembly 2017

The Digital Assembly 2017 will take place on 15 and 16 June in Valletta, Malta. It is an event co-organised by the European Commission and the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Digital Assembly 2017, is an opportunity for stakeholders to debate, take stock and look ahead at how Europe and how its partners around the world are preparing for this digital transformation. It will also be an opportunity to have dialogue on the benefits of the Digital Union for citizens with a special focus on younger generations.

The Assembly will kick off on 15 June with a networking lunch, followed by a high-level opening ceremony and international panel discussions.

On Friday 16 June, four thematic working sessions will focus on the key priorities:

The Digital Assembly 2017 will end with a panel of young people discussing expectations and ideas for the digital economy and society, before a closing ceremony.

Read the programme here.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag: #da17eu and live web streaming of the event!

For more information: https://ec.europa.eu

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Two more EEPA finalists have been announced! Who will represent Germany at EEPA 2017?

The national competitions for the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) 2017 have been taking place across Europe and some of the national winners have already been announced! Here on Promoting Enterprise we have announced and presented the Dutch national winners and today national coordinator Juliane Kummer tells us about the German campaign and the two German national winners who will go on to compete at European level.

How many applications did you receive in total for EEPA 2017? Is this number higher than in 2016?

Juliane Kummer, German EEPA Coordiantor

We received 31 applications, but two of them were not eligible for the competition yet, so overall we had 29 projects. This number is higher than in 2016 when we received 30 applications of which 27 were eligible and competed at the national level.

What categories were the projects competing in?

We received applications in each category for 2017. 19 of them were competing in “Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit”, 5 in “Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills” and 3 in “Improving the Business Environment”. One project applied for the category “Supporting the Internationalisation of Business” and another for “Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship”.

How did you reach out to potential EEPA applicants? What was your strategy for encouraging applications?

Our strategy had various elements. Firstly we spread the news about EEPA widely to make it popular, which was also complemented by individually contacting interesting projects and trying to encourage them via personal appeals to participate. To spread the news and cultivate public relations, we contacted more than 1.000 multipliers and informed them about the German campaign. We used our social media channels and communicated via the official German EEPA-Website, we issued a press release for our launch and we contacted PR Managers at relevant institutions and asked them to spread our news concerning the competition via their website and/or other communication instruments such as newsletters. For the second part of our strategy, we researched EEPA-suitable projects and programmes and contacted them directly to invite them to participate in the competition.

In addition, we developed a simplified application form for the German competition before the 2017 campaign started which we also provided on our website as an online-application-form.

How were your winners selected? Can you tell us about your jury and your selection process?

The German winners were selected by a jury of national experts. We sent all the application documents to the jury members before meeting to select the German winners. At first, the jury discussed all the entries and then voted for the top 10. These top 10 were then discussed again and a second vote was held to select the two German winners.    

German EEPA 2017 Jury

Who are the national winners?

One of our winners is “BIRTH – Business Innovation Responsibility and Technology @ Hansenberg”, competing in the category “Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit”. The BIRTH-Concept at the Hansenberg boarding school connects the topics of “MINT“ (“STEM”) and economic issues with enthusiasm for technology, delight in experimentation and responsible team work. Pupils from 14-18 years old receive entrepreneurship education in combination with knowledge about natural sciences and economics, business games, interdisciplinary competitions and cooperation between businesses and universities. It is an integrated project that aims to increase young people’s motivation, cooperative skills and their innovative and technological mind-set, helping them to become responsible adults.

The other German winner is the “Import Promotion Desk”, competing in category “Supporting the Internationalisation of Business”.  The Import Promotion Desk (IPD) serves an important hinge function between European importers and SMEs in selected developing and emerging countries. The aim is sustainable and structured import promotion of certain products from partner countries – in compliance with high quality, social and ecological standards. For this purpose, the IPD matches European importers and exporters from emerging markets as trade partners.

Follow updates on the German competition via the official German EEPA-Website and here on Promoting Enterprise!

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