Our current entrepreneur in residence Karen Boers, co-founder & CEO of Startups.be and European Startup Network; has returned with a second blog post. This time she gives us her views on the current European education system and whether it really prepares the youth of today for the challenges they will face.
We’re always talking about the fast moving societal changes and how digitalisation is changing every aspect of our private and professional lives and will continue to do so. This is absolutely true – digital technologies have connected and empowered nearly every citizen on earth. After the industrial revolution, this trend could very well be the paving the way for different societal and economical models, which in their turn could lead to severe power shifts from the happy few, to the well-connected within the next decade.
Some very striking images have been circulating social media recently, showing the differences between what we called a ‘telephone’ a century ago and today, and the huge difference between what we called a ‘vehicle’ (i.e. horse & carriage) and modern cars and transport. There was also a comparison between what a classroom looked like 150 years ago – and its modern equivalent, it is unchanged!
We are preparing today’s youngsters for their future in very much the same way we have been preparing labourers to go into the factories for the past decades. We are training them to be silent, listen carefully and not question orders but rather execute them in the efficient, large-scale way we have grown accustomed to. We are training them to think hierarchically and obey – day after day and year after year. The reason being this is the way our society was structured for many years and how our economies thrived in the mass production age.
But now we are facing different challenges. Mass production is suffering in the western economies. Hierarchical icons are being disrupted by flexible, agile businesses. Collaboration, creativity and the ability to change are becoming ever more dominant in the new business paradigms, and it’s clear that there is no way back. Millennials are already exhibiting signs of not caring too much about steady careers, future-proof choices or life-long guarantees. They think very differently about ownership, citizenship, sharing, learning and professional careers. They are self-organising, always connected and pay it forward much more than previous generations.
There is no way that the education that we are currently providing Generation Z youngsters is preparing them properly for what is ahead, and there is growing consensus that future generations might not put up with the inertia of the current system, eroding it from the inside out. The information overload is growing, and we need to urgently transition into a system that educates youngsters to deal with that, to find their way in an ever-connected and saturated network of information sources, opinions and potential expertise. Self-learning and life-long learning are gaining in importance. Additional skills are often acquired outside of the school system at present, through volunteer programs and alternative schooling. Learning how to learn is therefore growing inherently more important than any kind of knowledge transfer.
I would not argue for a total disruption of our school system, though. Europe has been on the frontlines of (free) quality education, equal opportunities for all and innovation for a long time. Let’s now make sure Europe initiates a power shift in traditional education, slowly steering the heavy tanker towards a coaching environment, with expert inputs from all societal angles, project and applied learning and a wide range of soft skills on top of purely academic knowledge transfer. That way I am sure we will keep nurturing generations of renowned business and academic leaders, as well as a flexible and future-proof workforce.
Read Karen’s last blog post: Failing is not contagious, but success is
In a recent interview, Jan Vanherck, a well-known Belgian entrepreneur and Dean of the United International Business Schools in Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland, took the opportunity to look into the future.
In 1975, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation and Fairchild Semiconductor, forecast the doubling of computer power every two years. Will this continue and how will it affect the world of the future?
His prediction has proven to be accurate over the past 40 years. It has led to an ever-accelerating progression and miniaturisation in all chip-based technologies, and this evolution has huge consequences for the world of tomorrow. Experts have forecast that computer hardware will match the human brain, in terms of creative design and analytical capabilities, in 15 to 20 years. The interaction between brain science and information technology will create artificial intelligence, a research field crucial to future generations.
Already, this increased computing power is delivering better understanding of the human body, and DNA sequencing is a good example. In 1970, Nobel laureate, Jacques Monod, said: “The molecular size of DNA prohibits, without any doubt, modification of the genome. The sequencing of the human genome is impossible, or, anyway, unreachable in three to five centuries”. How wrong he was! Only six years later, the first genetic manipulation took place and in the first years of this century, the first full sequencing of human DNA was achieved. Just ten years later, the consumer genomics company 23andMe began offering genome sequencing for $999 and soon it will be available for as little as $100. This is the gateway to personalised medicine, particularly for the treatment of all hereditary diseases, and cancer.
Do you see other technologies having a similar effect?
Absolutely! For example, nanotechnology. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering. To give you an idea of what a nano size is, the thickness of printer paper is about 100 thousand nanometres. On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometre, then one metre would be the size of the earth.
Nanotechnology will allow us not only to develop medicines that act on the level of our cells and tissues, repairing defects on an inconceivably small scale, but also to build micro engines and micro sensors.
The technology will be widely available in a few years time and will extend our life expectancy dramatically. Neuro-genetic scientist, Laurent Alexandre, in a now famous TED-talk entitled, “Le recul de la mort” (“The retreat of death”), summarised this evolution by saying that he believes that the first person who will live to be 1000 years old has already been born.
What about globalisation and entrepreneurs?
Globalisation is a term that has been politicised so let’s talk about global networks instead. They already exist, facilitated via the Internet and, from the point of view of society, it will make us interact with a lot of people, spread over the world, exchanging ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Political power will shift and emerging countries, such as China and India, will take a dominant role. New players and new markets will emerge. We’ll need to cope with different cultures, each with their own set of values.
Internet technologies, another area for innovators and entrepreneurs, are causing rapid changes in the world with the rise of Big Data. The world is becoming dominated by an all-knowing network. The fact that it gathers an enormous amount of data and, more importantly, has the computing power to actively process it and get information out of it, will force us to rethink a lot of things, privacy, for example, and freedom, family, friendship, love, and honesty.
Intellectual property is another issue. Billions of people thinking, generating ideas, writing papers, books, songs… Inventing new applications, offering new commercial services and products. Can individuals or companies claim the knowledge and decide whether they will use it, or simply put it in the fridge? Should we allow organisations to gather and process our individual data? How will we define ownership and plagiarism? These concepts were developed in the last century by a world where communication was done using handwritten letters, then wired phones and facsimile machines. Are these concepts strong enough to overcome the tsunami of the Internet and Big Data?
What is the role of business education in all this?
We need to make sure that future entrepreneurs can handle the big, unknown challenges. Let me quote Gordon Moore again: “The technology at the leading edge changes so rapidly that you have to keep current after you get out of school. I think probably the most important thing is having good fundamentals.”
Learning does not stop. Only a few decades ago, the teaching of students was considered complete when they graduated. In the best case, people took a few refresher courses during their professional life and that was it. Today, with the vast amount of new knowledge in front of us, learning is a continuous activity. It doesn’t stop today, it simply goes on. It is important to realise that every theory and model we teach is only a statement of current knowledge and is only true in certain circumstances and those circumstances are subject to radical change at ever increasing speed. We need to teach our students – the entrepreneurs of the future – how to think because they are going to have to answer questions we’ve not yet even thought of. We need too re-think ourselves and our environment, and challenge everything.
One of the most effective instruments to help create more businesses and jobs is to give students an opportunity to gain practical experiences before leaving school. Educators, business people, entrepreneurs and policy makers are convinced of the impact it has on young people’s self-confidence and their eventual employability and entrepreneurial potential.
The Entrepreneurial School (TES) and the TES guide are part of a large entrepreneurship education initiative in Europe, which now includes participation from 18 countries. The TES guide supports teachers’ professional development in applying entrepreneurial learning in the classroom.
The TES guide includes a database containing more than 125 entrepreneurial tools and methods in nine languages, as well as good practice examples and self-assessment tools. In addition, the guide provides educators with materials to support entrepreneurial learning in any subject area and for any age group.
So far, TES has reached 4,000 teachers in 22 countries.
The TES consortium has also established The Entrepreneurial School Award, a national and European recognition of the best schools in entrepreneurship education.
TES received funding from the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and is supported by Accenture, Clifford Chance, HP, Intel and Virke. The initiative is led by JA-YE Europe in partnership with a consortium of 10 European and national organisations.
By Karen Márquez, CEO and Founder of Infantium
I write these lines from Boston, after a massive snowfall! Since we were featured as a SoS company, lots of good things have happened. Infantium uses brain-inspired computing to personalize learning of children (Neuroscience, machine learning and AI).
2014 was a promising one for Infantium. In summer, we were awarded with a scholarship (global impact competition) to attend the GSP at Singularity University (founded by Google) at NASA headquarters in Mountain View. It’s one of the most selective in the world, and among thousands of applications, 80 leaders and technology entrepreneurs from 35 countries are selected to analyze the major technological advances transforming the world.
In two decades, the people living in big cities will grow by two billion. This shift will put tremendous stress on healthcare, housing, education and other critical resources. The great transformation yet to come cannot be managed by political or economic tools, but with technological innovations. The mission of Singularity is identifying leaders and groundbreaking changing technologies that can impact the life of at least 1 billion of people.
So it is such a honor to be recognized as game-changers that can impact society through cognitive systems.
Reverse engineering the brain and Machine learning used by Infantium can really make the difference in transforming education. Education is the only way of changing human being’s lives; to fight against poverty and reach equality globally. It will be one of the important topics for humanity in the coming years: understanding the principles of human intelligence, understanding how the brain performs essential functions, and emulating those functions can mean a tool to emulate natural learning in people, overcoming the huge challenge of dropouts and frustration.
The second big news is that we made it into phase 2 of the SME instrument (EU’s Horizon2020), being the only educational Project for this phase. Exponential technologies will bring the issue in which large parts of the economy –most of them current students in K-12 -are underemployed, unemployed or unemployable, with machines replacing specific tasks and no marketable skills, acquired mostly through obsolete educational systems. Education is a pillar for the future of Europe, ensuring essential skills in a future where traditional curriculum will be far from enough. With the grant, Infantium will incorporate biometric feedback, computer vision and contextual data in our brain-inspired system to help children develop critical skills adapted to cognitive abilities, not based on curriculum-based demands.
Karen Márquez is the CEO and co-founder of Infantium, a multi-awarded start-up based on cognitive learning for young children using brain science and cognitive technology, selected as one of the 12 best start-ups of the EU by the European Commission (Tech All Stars). Karen has been awarded as MIT Young innovator under 35, with special mention as social innovator of the year, Google’s and NASA’s Singularity university global impact tech, and entrepreneur of the year by the professional Association of Computer Engineers (Catalonia, Spain).
We have built Compedia up (using grants and R&D co-operation including the FP7 and Intel programmes) to be the leader in supplying products for the global market of education, serious games, e-learning and e-health, so that we give our customers advanced, cost effective and differentiated solutions. I’m especially excited by our new product developments that help children with autism and diabetes.
If you ask me what is needed to expand enterprise, I would say more resources for R&D, IP protection and international marketing; plus the creation of an environment (for example, more open markets and better access to finance) that truly supports SMEs like ours.
“Entrepreneurs are important to society because we have drive and energy to motivate, to create ideas and solutions in a way it is difficult to do in larger companies.”
Hero(es): Winston Churchill
Start up capital: Own
Growth rate p.a: 58%
Mentor(s): Advisers rather than mentors
Can you code?: Yes
Education/ Training: IT
Product/ Service: E – learning
A vote by delegates at the recent SME Assembly in Naples found that Europe must do more than provide digital technology for entrepreneurs. 73% of those who voted via the conference app disagreed with the motion ‘Thanks to digital technology, everyone can become a successful entrepreneur’.
Watch the Big Debate yourself and let us know which way you would have voted, in the comments below.
We set up Infantium because we were sure that technology was ready to disrupt the very traditional sector that is education. Infantium uses brain-inspired computing to personalise learning for children and to deliver a tailored syllabus for every learner based on performance, learning style, level, preferences and motivation. This is education adapting to the child and not the other way round. We have had invaluable support from Telefonica at key stages in our journey, with which we hope to build the most valuable repository of the way children learn world wide, and ultimately give all children better learning opportunities, wherever they start from.
Governments in Europe should make it easier for businesses like mine to attract international talent; should create one-stop-shops for start ups (where they can pay their taxes and complete necessary forms); and improve access to EU RTD funding.
“Entrepreneurs are important to society because we bring innovation to the market and improve people’s lives.”
Start up capital: Savings, bank lending and angel capital
Mentor(s): Carles Grau; Bill Magill and Farly Duvall
Can you code? Learning
Education / Training: Marketing
Product / Service: E-learning
A record number of 31 countries entered the 2014 EEPAs. 22 projects from 15 countries – Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and the UK – were shortlisted during the jury meeting held earlier this summer.
Commenting on the shortlist, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, the newly appointed Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, stressed the creativity and imagination used to produce these outstanding results. He said it proves exactly why harnessing and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit is so important to driving the growth of European business. He believes that the 22 shortlisted projects will inspire and encourage young people and women especially, to choose entrepreneurship as a viable career path.
Shortlist for the 2014 European Enterprise Promotion Awards
Category 1: Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Austria: AplusB build! Start-Up Centre’s two main goals are to promote entrepreneurship as a career option and stimulate entrepreneurship by providing coaching, training and financial support for innovative start-up projects in the Carinthia region. Their goal is to support 8-10 new start-up projects each year, and the initiative has already funded more than 95 start-ups, with over 90 per cent of these companies trading successfully.
Responsible organisation: build! Gründerzentrum Kärn GmbH
Organisation website: www.build.or.at
Hungary: Encouraging Business Start-ups by Mothers with Young Children helps mothers to acquire the entrepreneurial skills and mindset to start a business and make it profitable. The project delivers online resources including a blog, Facebook page, e-learning training programmes and a weekly newsletter, as well as the Entrepreneurial Women’s Roundtable meeting to help mothers navigate the world of business and network with each other. The project also hosts the annual Mother Company of the Year competition and the Business Mums’ Conference.
Responsible organisation: Gazdagmami Kft.
Organisation website: www.gazdagmami.hu
Lithuania: Mobile Apps Laboratories is an initiative to promote entrepreneurship in information and communication technologies. Working in the four biggest Lithuanian education institutions, Mobile Apps Laboratories bring together young people with academics and industry professionals to deliver ‘App Camp’ during their bachelor, master or PhD dissertation works, with the objective of bringing innovative new products and services to the market. It also aims to increase the number of women starting businesses in information technology.
Responsible organisation: App Camp, JSC
Organisation website: http://www.appcamp.lt/
Netherlands: International Business College 20:80 Learning is an entrepreneurial programme for students in secondary education. The young students complete the standard Dutch secondary school course in four days per week (80%) and during the remaining time (20%) they have an International Business College (IBC) day where they set up and run their own business. There are currently 10 active IBC schools and 350 students involved in this education programme.
Responsible organisation: International Business College
Project website: www.20-80learning.nl
Category 2: Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills
Bulgaria: Brandiko educates students on how to build a brand and register the brand as a Community Trade Mark. Students establish training companies and are mentored on how to build and manage their own brand, market the brand and use it to increase sales. Pupils also learn about the importance of intellectual property protection. More than 1,700 students have completed the Brandiko programme.
Responsible organisation: Ministry of Economy & Energy
Organisation website: www.mi.government.bg
Germany: BRENNEREI Next Generation Lab enables master’s students and graduates to learn and develop new entrepreneurial approaches. Together with professionals from the science and creative industries, scholars work full-time in inter-disciplinary teams to solve the real problems of companies or public entities. The activities include analyses and finding novel approaches that are socially relevant in the areas of communication, product design, and use of new media. Approximately 60 applications from all over Europe have been received for the 2014 scholarship.
Responsible organisation: WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH
Organisation website: www.wfb-bremen.de
Project website: www.brennerei-lab.de
Serbia: Western Balkans Business Challenge is a unique competition for high school students from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In mixed teams (4 students from each country), they compete to provide the best business idea for the challenge put before them. The initiative develops entrepreneurial and financial skills and motives the students to think proactively. At least 1,500 students and 200 business community representatives have participated in the competition so far.
Responsible organisation: Junior Achievement Serbia
Organisation website: www.ja-serbia.org
UK: Primary to Professional (P2P) engages primary and secondary school pupils introducing them to important entrepreneurial skills including creativity, innovation and risk taking and leads to a specialist enterprise academy for start-up businesses. This has developed into supporting business start-ups with the first Start up Weekend in Wales and the new Tech Hub for new Tech Entrepreneurs. More than 4,000 secondary school pupils have taken part in Young Business Dragons and enterprise is now embedded in a number of educational institutions across Swansea.
Responsible organisation: Gower College Swansea
Organisation website: www.gowercollegeswansea.ac.uk
Category 3: Improving the Business Environment
Austria: Sources of Strength has five clear objectives to improve the manufacturing economy in the Murtal-Murau region. These include building a sustainable image of the industrial/manufacturing economy, positioning this sector as an attractive employer, strengthening the integration of businesses in the region and developing an industrial tourist product and launching this into the tourism market. Since its inception, 61 leading companies have come together to strengthen the integration of industry and trade services in the region.
Responsible organisation: Industrie- und Wirtschaftsentwicklung Murtal GmbH
Project website: http://kraft.dasmurtal.at
Italy: Grow and Compete with Business Network Contracts promotes and disseminates a business contract culture and to support companies interested in setting up business networks, particularly to facilitate internationalisation processes and increase competitiveness in foreign markets. The project includes a training phase and a customised support phase for businesses expressing an intention to aggregate through network contracts. So far, the project has led to 12 network contracts being finalised, involving 50 businesses.
Responsible organisation: Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna
Organisation website: www.ucer.camcom.it
Spain: Start-up in 3 is a technology platform that streamlines and simplifies business creation and business start-up procedures, linking existing platforms through a single point of access and connecting all the Local Authorities in Spain. The aim of the project is to reduce the time between the establishment of the company and the time it takes for the enterprise to become operational to just three days which is achieved by registering the enterprise through a cloud-based system.
Responsible organisation: Ministry of Finance and Public Administration (MINHAP)
Organisation website: www.minhap.es
UK: The Sharp Project has converted a redundant distribution centre into a media hub for over 60 companies, including those specialising in digital content production, digital media and TV and film production. It is where space, power, connectivity and people converge in the inspiring surroundings to develop careers and compete on a global stage. The aim of the project is to reduce barriers that prevent creative and digital businesses from growing, creating work and generating wealth.
Responsible organisation: Manchester City Council
Project website: http://www.thesharpproject.co.uk/
Category 4: Supporting the Internationalisation of Business
France: The French Label Living Heritage Company focuses on quality assessment and is awarded by the French Government to distinguish companies with excellent craft and industrial skills. Recognised businesses are characterised by a long trading history, innovation capabilities and rare know-how that has helped establish their reputation. Since 2005, the label has been awarded to 1,157 companies, who account for 53,000 jobs and more than €11 billion in cumulative turnover.
Responsible organisation: French Government
Organisation website: http://www.dgcis.gouv.fr/
Italy: Mirabilia: European Network of UNESCO Sites links together areas of common historical, cultural and environmental significance for the first time. The project is aimed at creating a network of places recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, but which are lesser known to Italian and international tourism, with the aim of promoting them in a co-ordinated and organised way to Italian and foreign tourists.
Responsible organisation: Matera Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Crafts and Agriculture
Organisation website: www.mt.camcom.it
Project website: www.mirabilianetwork.eu
Netherlands: Get in the Ring is a worldwide platform for start-ups to raise capital. It brings together the most promising entrepreneurs from around the world and gives them a chance to secure an investment of up to €1,000,000 by pitching in front of prominent international investors. There have been 1326 participating start-ups attracting over €6million in investments.
Responsible organisation: Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship
Project website: www.getinthering.nl
Category 5: Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency
Malta: EU LIFE+ Investing in Water is aimed at identifying water saving measures amongst best practice enterprises, disseminating this information to others and supporting their implementation. The project is focussed on sharing information through face to face meetings, printed materials and an interactive CD, workshops and via the website. The project has identified 26 best practice enterprises and saved an estimated 141 million litres of water per annum.
Responsible organisation: Malta Business Bureau
Organisation website: http://www.mbb.org.mt/
Project website: http://www.investinginwater.org/
Portugal: AMS – Thinking Ahead set itself the challenge of becoming ‘the most efficient supplier of tissue on the Iberian Peninsula’, achieving this through innovation and differentiation. It has revolutionized traditional industrial processes by installing a pipeline connection to its pulp supplier; a unique alliance that has reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 tonnes per year and generated significant competitiveness in external markets.
Responsible organisation: Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal, Public Enterprise (“AICEP”) in partnership with AMS Gomà-Camps, S.A. (“AMS”)
Organisation website: http://www.portugalglobal.pt/PT/Paginas/Index.aspx, http://www.amspt.eu/
Turkey: Developing a Widely Applicable, Low-Cost Model for Clean Production in the Textile Finishing Industry is a pioneering project which develops models to reduce the quantity of raw materials used in the textile industries and promote sustainable production. The project has resulted in solid methodologies and processes that can be widely adopted and used by a multitude of manufacturing businesses at almost no cost.
Responsible organisation: Uludağ Textile Exporters Association (UTEA)
Organisation website: www.uib.org.tr
Category 6: Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship
France: The Entrepreneurs Team helps young and unskilled people, including those excluded from school, to succeed in employment and autonomy. Offering teaching and coaching based on entrepreneurship, the project involves two main phases; a University Diploma in Business Creation which is accessible to the unqualified, followed by socio-professional support in conjunction with an entrepreneurship advisory body and a University. The project has supported 167 individuals; 23% have successfully created their own business.
Responsible organisation: Association Nationale des Groupements de Créateurs (ANGC)
Organisation website: www.groupement-de-createurs.fr
Germany: Wiesbaden Engaged – the corporate citizenship strategy of the city of Wiesbaden – promotes the social sense of responsibility of businesses and entrepreneurs in Wiesbaden. They have developed four key activities within the project; an annual day promoting social engagement, two long term projects promoting integration and employability, an award for engaged businesses to establish a local reputation and participation in a national corporate social responsibility networking and consultation project.
Responsible organisation: Municipality of the City of Wiesbaden – Agency for Social Work
Project website: www.wiesbaden.de
Poland: The Construction and Equipping of the Intramunicipal Vocational Rehabilitation Centre aims to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, enabling them to participate equally in society and in a professional capacity. The Rehabilitation Centre offers employment within eight departments including catering, laundry, garden maintenance, cleaning and hygiene, assembly/disassembly and recycling. Employees not only earn an income, but also receive training in vocational and social skills to encourage independent living.
Responsible organisation: Polish Association for Persons with Mental Handicap, Szczecin Branch
Organisation website: www.psouuszczecin.org.pl
Portugal: DO IT – The idea behind Portuguese Origin is a competition to use the experience, talent and dynamism of Portuguese emigrants to benefit their country of origin. Under the slogan ‘They think of it there, they do it here”, the project aims to select and promote ideas and support the realisation of social entrepreneurship projects which contribute to transforming emigration trends in an effective way for Portuguese society and the country as a whole.
Responsible organisation: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Organisation website: www.gulbenkian.pt
Active from January 2014 to December 2015, the programme, aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 40 years old, seeks to add both social and economic value to society. It hopes to transform innovative ideas in a range of fields, from education to social inclusion.
FaciliTO is a model that the Municipality of Turin adopted to tackle the difficulties that small enterprises encounter in struggling urban areas. It won the Improving the Business Environment category of the 2012 European Enterprise Promotion Awards.
One enterprise that has benefited from FaciliTO is NISO Biomed, founded within the I3P incubator of the Polytechnic University of Turin in 2009. It develops and distributes diagnostic devices in gastroenterology and cancer prevention. Distinguished gastroenterologists around the world have tested its technology.
On the “Day of Italian Quality”, a day dedicated to celebrating the best of “Italian grown” business, NISO Biomed won the “Leonardo Start-up prize”. It was also named start-up of the year by the PNICube association of university incubators.
Turin Social Innovation’s start-up programme was also recognised as the best initiative in the sector by a group of experts appointed by six business associations: The Italian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AIFI), Italian Association of Science and Technology Parks (APSTI), Italian Business Angels Network (IBAN), Italy Startup Network for the Promotion of University Research (NETVAL), and the Association of Incubators and Business Plan Competitions Academic Italian (PNICube). The Ministry of Economic Development, the Leonardo Committee and the ICE – Agency of Promotion and Internationalisation of Italian Enterprise, coordinated the award.
Category | Grand Jury Prize
A special prize awarded to the entrepreneurial initiative considered the most creative and inspiring in Europe.
Think Small First – Introduction to Micro Companies in Latvia
The Latvian Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) developed Think Small First to help bring Latvia out of the economic crisis.
The initiative has helped micro-enterprises by promoting the creation of a special tax rate and simplified tax accounting system. It has also introduced a micro-credit programme and has made information about launching a business available in one place.
The LCCI has played one of the leading roles in discussions held in the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima. This included initiating amendments of laws to enable implementation of the concept of micro-enterprises. Through support from the Ministry of Economy, the Saeima supported the Micro-Enterprise Tax Law, which came into effect on 1st September 2010. In addition, improvement of the regulatory framework is ongoing, thus providing support to the smallest enterprises.
As a result of this initiative, a total of 28,000 enterprises have utilised the simplified tax accounting system and the number of micro-enterprises in Latvia is continuing to grow.
Overall, the introduction of the concept of micro-enterprises in Latvia has helped to further the country’s rapid economic growth within the European Union and provide a favourable climate for small businesses to operate.
Lita Kokale, Head of Public Relations
Krišjāņa Valdemāra Iela 35
Category | Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Recognising actions that promote an entrepreneurial culture and mindset. Raising awareness about entrepreneurship in society.
MyCity, The Finnish Economic Information Office, Finland
The MyCity learning entity is a miniature city, built from mobile wall elements, and includes at least 15 different local and regional enterprises and public services. Students work within his or her own trade in the city and receive wages. They also act as consumers and citizens of the society. Approximately 70 pupils work at the same time at the MyCity site. MyCity, sponsored by the Finish Ministry of Education and Culture, operates in eight different municipalities and 24,000 sixth graders and 1,000 teachers have visited the sites.
Tomi Alakoski, Executive Director
Category | Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills
Recognises regional or local initiatives to improve entrepreneurial, vocational, technical and managerial skills.
Senior Enterprise, The Mid East Regional Authority, Ireland
Senior Enterprise is specifically designed to encourage a greater involvement with enterprise by those aged 50 and over and to raise awareness of their potential to start a business, acquire or invest in a business started by someone else, or to become a volunteer mentor. To date almost 1,000 individuals over 50 years of age, who have received support from Senior Enterprise in Ireland, the UK and France, have set up new businesses.
John Byrne, Director
Category | Improving the Business Environment
Recognising measures to simplify administrative procedures for businesses, particularly for start-ups.
Starters’ Agreement for Entrepreneurs
The Belgium Starters’ Agreement helps aspiring and existing entrepreneurs to succeed. Entrepreneurs enter into a starters’ agreement with the City of Ghent, Belgium, to draft a business plan, appeal for professional advice and specialist guidance, follow training and development courses and to continue the independent business activity for at least three years in Ghent. With this contract, entrepreneurs can receive support of a maximum of €5,000 for education, professional guidance and investment. All start-ups that have been established as independent enterprises in Ghent for less than two years can apply for a starter’s agreement. One of the most important objectives of the agreement is to increase the success rate of starting companies during their first years and to prevent failures. To date, a total of 171 starters’ agreements have received a positive recommendation by the evaluation committee, with 166 of these approved by the Council of the Mayor and aldermen.
Ria Dossche, Advisor
Category | Supporting the Internationalisation of Business
Recognises policies to encourage enterprises and particularly small and medium-sized businesses to benefit more from the opportunities offered by markets both inside and outside the European Union.
Portuguese Shoes: The Sexiest Industry in Europe, Portuguese Association of Footwear Industries, Components, Leather Goods and their Substitutes, Portugal
The Portuguese footwear industry exports more than 95% of its production to the most demanding international markets. In order to allow the sector to continue to take firm steps in a competitive international environment, the APICCAPS, a national business association, with the support of the Compete Programme, has taken various measures to promote Portuguese footwear. The current campaign has helped to promote around 120 SMEs at professional events all around the world. A campaign symbol for Portuguese shoes was developed using the slogan ‘Portuguese Shoes: Designed by the Future’. The image promotes a mark of quality and seeks to establish Portuguese Shoes as a sophisticated innovation. As a result of this strategy, footwear exports have grown more than 20% in the past two years.
Paulo Gonçalves, Director of Communication
Category | Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency
Recognises policies and initiatives at national, regional or local level that support SME access to green markets and help to improve their resource efficiency through, for example, green skills development and matchmaking as well as funding.
The Town of Gürsu Developing with Unlimited Clean Energy, Municipality of Gürsu, Turkey
Key aims of the Town of Gürsu project are to increase the use of green energy in Gürsu to prevent environmental pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels, to save energy used for municipal services and to help socio-economic development of the town. Since the initiative began, four innovative applications have been configured, tested and applied. A photovoltaic solar energy plant was developed and Gürsu is now well-known for using clean solar energy in all of its service areas. The project aims to enable Turkey to take a leading role in renewable energy investments at both regional and national levels. Since the project began, Gürsu has obtained 40% of its electricity needs from the sun in the 5 months of winter and 100% in the 7 summer months.
Hüseyun Özmen, Strategic Planning Division Manager
Category | Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship
Recognises regional or local actions promoting corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices.
Integration of Disadvantaged People , AV Mobilita s.r.o., Slovakia
AV Mobilita s.r.o. is a sheltered workshop specialising in integrating disabled people into all areas of life. As a pilot organisation, it focused on car repairs and it now co-ordinates other sheltered workshops forming part of the Škoda Handy Disabled Persons Project in Bratislava, Prešov, Banská Bystrica and Žilina. It participates in the cultural, social and sporting activities of Associations of Registered Disabled Persons throughout Slovakia. The scheme has facilitated the smooth integration of disabled people into society through mediation of special-priced vehicle sales and through comprehensive theoretical and practical training of applicants seeking a licence to drive a car. In 2009, the workshop received an award from the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic for the integration of disabled persons into the workplace.
Klaudia Valušková, Owner of Auto Valušek