Another year, another SME Assembly in the European SME story.
The SME Assembly is over for another year and the 2017 edition, hosted by Estonia, was another exciting chapter in the European SME story. Over 600 delegates attended and speakers from a wide variety of disciplines including, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, digitalisation, e-commerce, public procurement and many more were all present in Estonia to share their knowledge and exchange with the European SME community.
Enjoy reading about everything that happened in Tallinn and be on the lookout for some exciting content and exclusive interviews coming your way very soon!
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has opened the call for applications for the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) 2019 award on 23 November in Tallinn, at the European SME Assembly organised by the European Commission in cooperation with the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The EER 2019 edition was launched by Johanna Mikl-Leitner (AT/EPP), CoR Member and Governor of Lower Austria, one of the three EER winners of the current year. The EER award is open to all EU regions and cities that are ready to implement an ambitious strategy to support their SMEs and entrepreneurs. The deadline to apply for the EER 2019 label is 17 April 2018.
Each year, the EER label is awarded to three EU territories with an outstanding, future-oriented strategy to promote entrepreneurship and support small and medium-sized enterprises in their territories. The forward-looking orientation of the EER initiative means that the EER label is open to all EU territories – not only to those that are already among the top performers, but also to regions and cities that may still be less prosperous, but that have an ambitious entrepreneurial vision to reinvigorate their economy and a credible action plan to transform this vision into reality.
Over the past seven years, the EER winners have demonstrated how cities and regions can successfully strengthen their entrepreneurial ecosystems. During the SME Assembly’s first day, Lower Austria (EER 2017) was awarded the Commission’s European Enterprise Promotion Award (EEPA) in recognition of its outstanding achievements in supporting SME internationalisation.
“SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups are a motor for life quality and sustainable development in our cities and regions. I strongly believe that, as regional and local decision-makers, it is our responsibility to set up the right conditions for the emergence of flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystems. Through the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) label, the European Committee of the Regions contributes to this objective. We identify and reward EU regions and cities that create an environment in which entrepreneurial initiative can unleash its full potential”, stated CoR Member Johanna Mikl-Leitner.
The implementation of the awarded regional and local strategies will be monitored throughout 2019 by the EER jury, which is composed of CoR members, representatives of EU institutions and social partners. At the end of the award year, the jury will visit the awarded territories in order to verify the progress made, provide them with an objective outside appraisal of their policies and gain new insights and inspiration for the further development of the EER scheme. The main results and achievements of the EER 2019 winners will also be shared and discussed among regional and local authorities through the EER network, which since its inception in 2010 has grown to include 24 territories, giving it the critical mass necessary for a fruitful exchange of good practices, peer-learning and successful cooperation among past and present EER winners.
The deadline for the submission of applications is 17 April 2018. The application form and detailed information about the assessment criteria are available on the EER web page: www.cor.europa.eu/eer
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CoCreativeFlow.com, Sabine Soeder and Johanna Ballmann
The 2017 SME Assembly has come and gone, but it certainly has not left us indifferent. It has been clear from this year’s edition that the focus has been much more on action and on the implementation of the SME-related policies developed in previous years. But what results are these policies producing? Here are some of the main conclusions from the event:
- Let’s aim to solve problems rather than buy products in public procurement: different stakeholders worked together to generate innovative ideas responding to a real-life policy challenges at the Policy Hack It is a common practice in the EU that governments tend to buy highly specified products rather than solutions to their problems. This needs to change towards more participatory, solution-oriented approach, adding a new perspective to the public procurement process.
- Public procurement is a key opportunity for SMEs: EUR 2 trillion is spent annually in the EU on public procurement. The EU Public Procurement Package of Measures is a step in the right direction, however, more work needs to be done in certain sectors to improve access to information, guarantee more transparency and use better fitting selection criteria.
- A positive outlook for European SMEs in most countries: both the number of SMEs and their added value above the 2008 levels (pre-crisis) levels, though there is a clear north-south division with southern countries still struggling. Steady growth is expected for 2017 and 2018 according to the SME Performance Review 2016/2017, where a focus on self-employment will become ever-increasingly important.
- Some tangible results of EC actions, but still a way to go: the Small Business Act has already generated tangible results. However, more has to be done in crucial areas for the future of SMEs, such as innovation.
- Greater visibility of European investment opportunities: the EC is carrying out a number of actions to increase the visibility of investment projects with a focus on SMEs. Examples include the European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) and the European Investment Fund. However, whether these initiatives will meet the real finance needs of European SMEs still remains to be seen. Decreasing a minimal ticket to 1 mln EUR is a move in the right direction, however, understanding how venture funds approach deals would be welcomed.
- Access to finance is still one of the highlighted issues for SMEs in Europe: a fragmented legal and tax system in Europe are the main barriers to access finance. The development of regional co-investment funds, harmonisation of the regional cooperative framework and mutual recognition of existing fiscal incentives for business angels are some of the potential solutions to overcome these barriers.
- Preparation for the future: SMEs have to prepare themselves for the market conditions of the future. 21st century enterprises should be experience-focused, outcome-based, agile & lean, service-oriented and ecosystem-driven.
- Evidence of successful on the ground initiatives: such as the eResidency Programme in Estonia allowed entrepreneurs outside of the EU to start a business no matter where they reside.
The event may be over, but the online discussion continues here.
Written by Jon Switters and Katarzyna Jakimowicz
What a difference an investment platform makes – What to expect of the EIPP session during the SME Assembly 2017
Nowadays, apps and digital platforms are everywhere and have become a part of everyone’s lives: from ordering one’s takeaway dinner, to monitoring one’s fitness progress and well-being, to make romantic relationships and the entire process of going out and meeting new people much easier. Digital tools are also increasingly being used for business and work situations, and that is no exception when talking about SMEs and venture capital investments. Enter EIPP.
Sometimes referred to as “the Tinder for investments”, as European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen once put it, the European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) is an online matchmaking platform hosted by the European Commission (EC) – namely, DG ECFIN. As part of the Investment Plan for Europe initiative – which seeks to mobilise investment, promote economic growth and create jobs across the EU – EIPP is a database of viable projects with investment opportunities across the EU in virtually all industry areas. As with most platforms under EC tutelage, EIPP has a free-of-charge registration and bridges the gap between users: entrepreneurs can find potential investment partners with just a few “clicks”.
In 2017, EIPP will be one of the key initiatives during the SME Assembly in Tallinn (22-24 November 2017) and of Invest Week, a series of stimulating events that will examine the impact of investment on sustainable growth.
More specifically, a policy and matchmaking session dedicated to EIPP and its added-value in fostering venture capital investments for small and medium companies will take place on 24 November at the Kultuurikatel. After a panel discussion with experts on how to make a perfect venture capital pitch, participating SMEs will have the opportunity to put their pitching skills to the test by presenting their business ideas to a selected group of high-level investors in a small matchmaking session.
Each investor will be able to meet up to eight projects: three “preferred” ones – to be picked from a list of proposals – and five random others who will be given the benefit of their advice. In order to maximise the opportunities for the attending SMEs, each participant will have the opportunity to meet at least three investors.
Participation in this EIPP policy and matchmaking session has been restricted to SMEs with projects which, after a careful screening process, have proven to be interesting to potential investors for their potential to tackle global challenges. This selected list of participants includes EIPP-listed projects; SME Assembly attendees; finalists from the Start-up Nations summit and the Ideas from Europe competition; and finalists from other EC awards schemes such as the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) and the European Business Awards for the Environment (EBAE).
The first edition of the WATIFY Solution Award will take place this year on 15-16 November in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of the Global Finals of the Creative Business Cup 2017. The Award is looking to recognise the next innovative SME that has technological transformation at the core of its successful business. This SME should be an inspiring example for other European SMEs and encourage them to adopt digital and/or key enabling technologies.
All entries will be screened against a set of pre-defined criteria by WATIFY experts in the fields of innovation and technology. This screening will result in a shortlist of 5 finalists.
The finalists will then pitch their cases in Copenhagen before a live audience and a Jury composed of business executives and senior representatives from the European Commission (DG GROW), its Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME), the Creative Business Cup and WATIFY, will decide on the overall WATIFY Solution Award winner 2017.
The winner will:
- Receive a 1000 euro prize
- Have the opportunity to showcase their technological transformation in a promotional video
- Be awarded a CBC/WATIFY Diploma certificate
- Have opportunities to network with entrepreneurs and investors from across the globe
Who can apply?
European SMEs and entrepreneurs that have gone, or are going through, a high-impact and innovative technological transformation.
In particular, the Jury will be looking for a creative transformation that:
- Innovates in terms of technology, product or service
- Brings about change in the value chains of industry and inside the company itself and/or can inspire new business models
- Shows unique value propositions
- Has scalability potential.
The application deadline is 24 October 2017. More information on the WATIFY Solution Award can be found here.
This week Promoting Enterprise is starting a series of interviews with a group of Estonian entrepreneurs to find out about what they do! From motorised scooters to furniture, these entrepreneurs are diverse, creative and not afraid to think outside of the box. Read on to meet our first two entrepreneurs, Kenneth and Sander and learn about where their entrepreneurial path has led them…
Meet Kenneth – he is 24 and the founder of his brand Kenneth Pert Natural Furniture. Kenneth is a designer and furniture craftsman. At the moment, his company is a ‘one man show’, Kenneth has to fill different roles – from managing the business side to cleaning his workshop. At this point, he has been in the field for 5 interesting and challenging years.
What motivates you?
I am inspired by people who have overcome challenges, their own personal struggles and added some extra value to the world. People play an important part in my life. That is why my closest friends and family are also my biggest driving force. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The opportunity to use my time as I wish. I have been able to focus on my own interests and to grow at my own pace. This gives me enough room to devote time to the people I hold most dear. At the same time, it is important to stay disciplined and remember that I have a lot of responsibilities.
What skills do tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need?
The skills of today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs largely overlap, for example, adaptability, consistency, discipline and curiosity. There has been a rising demand for people to have emotional intelligence regardless of their role or position in an organisation. It is quite essential to identify the right people to hire, because without help, it’s almost impossible to create a successful business.
When developing a product or service a lot of research, testing and feedback analysis goes into it. In this phase being good with numbers and having analytical skills is definitely another essential entrepreneurial skill.
Sander Sebastian Agur
Sander Sebastian is the 26 year-old co-founder of Inventory.com, the first online B2B marketplace to offer a comprehensive inventory management service by comparing suppliers and transactions up to the final delivery of products. Sander is also a Senior Vice President of ERPLY Retail Platform, which is a web-based on Enterprise resource planning application with support for accounting, inventory, invoicing, e-commerce, Point Of Sale (POS) and more, offering retailers a complete IT solution that can be adapted to meet unique requirements. The company includes well known clients such as Sony, Walt Disney, Amazon, Elizabeth Arden, Garmin and many others.
At the young age of 22, Sander was chosen as the successor to the head of Estonian Air, the former national airline of Estonia, but decided to work in private enterprise instead.
What motivates you?
Learning new skills and applying them usefully. I’ve definitely failed more than I’ve succeeded. As most long-term goals require skills that we don’t have when we set the goals, this motivates me to grow together with the challenges.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur?
In my sector there are almost no limits to what can be built. Once you realise that everything around you has been created by people that are no smarter than you, it all becomes doable.
What skills do tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need?
I think skills are important, but they can also be acquired on the way. What is more important is your mindset for what’s coming and your openness to learn and make stuff happen. Everything changes so fast so you must be able to work in constant chaos. I think that’s what a startup is, nonstop chaos you need to navigate.
Anything else you want to share?
For Inventory.com, we got a small grant at the beginning of 2017 of 50, 000 EUR from the European Commission to kickstart the development, which we are super grateful for. Unfortunately we were rejected for the second phase of the Horizon2020 program, but we are continuing to invest our own resources to help Europe have a multinational sales channel for product exchange and we hope that our next application in November will be successful!
The project “Inventory.com” increases the visibility and competitiveness of manufacturing SMEs on the EU market by creating conditions for an open and efficient market. Currently manufacturing SMEs lack access to suppliers and clients. They are reliant on a small number of business partners and are invisible to any other potential partners. Many SMEs, due to their niche products, find it hard to expand their client network, find suppliers and create international contacts. Product availability, specifications, price and delivery information is not available to market participants and the required information is not presented, standardised and/or not available in different languages. Therefore, companies cannot compare and decide on the best choice. This is a problem our European customers face daily and we would like to change that.
The 2017 SME Assembly will take place in Tallinn, Estonia from 22 – 24 November 2017.
The conference will be the flagship event of European SME Week.
The 2017 edition of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) is in full swing, and a lot of national deadlines are approaching…so get those applications in!
How have you been promoting EEPA 2017 so far?
The promotion for EEPA 2017 has been focused on providing relevant information and getting it to the right people. Part of this is including the relevant information about EEPA 2017 on the web page of the Ministry for Industry and SMEs and disseminating it via social media and email.
For our email dissemination we have directed our communications to specific entities such as:
- Members of the State Council for SMEs: an advisory board for SME affairs which is made up of representatives of the general state administration as well as representatives from the autonomous communities and local entities
- Chambers of commerce
- Business schools
- Points of care for entrepreneurs (a network of unique one stop shops which exist in Spain, for information and electronic administration services for entrepreneurs and companies)
- 2016 prize winners
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for reaching out to potential applicants?
- Motivate them to participate by showing them that they are running an initiative with good results
- Prepare a good application that reflects why the project is good
- Give them relevant information about previous editions
What are the main aspects of your EEPA 2017 campaign?
To increase the dissemination of information amongst interested actors in the SME environment, with the goal of getting them to present success stories which take place in local environments which normally would not have as much publicity. We have also been taking a direct contact approach, providing information via email or telephone, so as to resolve any doubts that projects may have before presenting themselves as candidates.
What is the most important thing you have learnt during your experience as National Coordinator?
In my brief experience as a National Coordinator, I have only been in this role from September 2016, I have learnt that knowing, sharing and disseminating examples of successful initiatives in different EU countries is very important. It allows us to learn from each other, avoid previously made mistakes and put into practice initiatives that would otherwise have been difficult to implement. Overall, I believe that EEPA is extremely useful for promoting entrepreneurship in our countries.
Digital innovation has led to several technological advances, born in the minds of innovative entrepreneurs who go on to bring their ideas to life. With an increasing number of us online, both socially and professionally, cybersecurity is an issue that affects us all, consumers and entrepreneurs alike. How can you protect yourself? What information do you need to safely reap the benefits of our digitally innovative world? Today, Promoting Enterprise looks into the development of fraud detection systems, accessible cybersecurity and remote incident response platforms.
The tendency for people to be creatures of habit is being put to good use in the cybersecurity industry, thanks to new identification software that uses typical login times and locations, keystroke dynamics and in-app behaviour to verify if someone is who they say they are. It’s one of a series of innovations being developed by European businesses keen to claim their share of a growing cybersecurity market. Analysts predict that global spending in cybersecurity will be well over EUR 100 billion a year by 2021, yet according to a 2016 report despite being the most trusted area globally when it comes to data security and privacy, the European industry is only growing 6% annually, compared to growth of 8 % for the market as a whole.
One of the aims of the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) – the association implementing a cybersecurity public-private partnership set up by the EU in 2016 – is to create connections between industry players, national public authorities and users of cybersecurity solutions to identify priorities and increase collaboration in research and innovation. That connection – particularly between providers and end-users – is crucial if Europe is to grow the industry and take its place in the market. European businesses such as Czech-based cybersecurity firm ThreatMark (advanced fraud-detection systems developer) and German cybersecurity company Applied Security (apsec), could benefit from this connection which could manifest as business-to-business platforms and direct interactions between SMEs and potential clients.
With the development of the cybersecurity industry, there are still three areas to be addressed:
- Cybersecurity tools need to be considered as integral parts of computer systems. EU funded projects like CyberWiz, where users set up a model IT network and carry out various kinds of simulated attacks, allow for system development whilst exposing weak points and giving an overview of the network security.
- Skilled technical experts are important for the overall success of the industry, but especially in the small- and medium-sized sector. According to chief executive of Secon Cyber Security UK Robert Gupta, ‘In general, there is a lack of the right skills and when you are recruiting, technical experts in cybersecurity are very hard to come by’.
- The costs of implementing cybersecurity. Between the costly search for experts, their employment and the implementation and upkeep of a security system, many smaller businesses simply cannot afford this integral part of their online presence. However, EU funded project ConnectProtect could be the answer; a remote incident-response platform helping small- and medium-sized businesses to combat attacks and security threats – at a more reasonable cost. Through such a system and economies of scale for cybersecurity software licences, the total cost of security could come down dramatically for small businesses – perhaps by as much as 75 % per member of staff.
For more information: https://horizon-magazine.eu
Digital innovation is a key theme for this year’s SME Assembly 2017 taking place in Estonia, so stay tuned for more digital innovation content right here on Promoting Enterprise.
If you liked this have a read of: 2017 and beyond: How digital innovation will impact the world
What makes an entrepreneur successful? How do entrepreneurs define their success? What are the secrets behind their inspiring journeys? Promoting Enterprise presents the ‘Secrets of Success 2016-2017’ brochure, which answers all of these questions and more. So what is inside? This year the brochure features interviews with 33 successful business owners from across Europe, under the themes of: Concept/Idea, Drive, Leadership/Team, Success and finally Europe.
From Albania to the United Kingdom, tourism to medical innovation, the entrepreneurs and businesses featured in this brochure offer something for everyone. Each entrepreneur provides details of their personal success, as well as encouraging and inspiring words for other entrepreneurs to learn from and reflect upon. Each profile is also available in the native language of the entrepreneurs, so why not browse through and discover the some of the inspiring minds of Europe in the field of SMEs, startups and scaleups.
Read the brochure here.
Welcome and join us to celebrate the EEPA launch!
Nominations for the European Enterprise Promotion Awards open today (Thursday 23rd February 2017). The prestigious awards ceremony will take place this November in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, as part of the SME Assembly. Public bodies and public-private partnerships from across the EU Member States and COSME participating countries, will be competing for the coveted awards which go to the most imaginative and successful initiatives that support entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This year there will be one minor modification to the award categories: the ‘Supporting the development of green markets and resource efficiency’ category will be suspended for one year, as the number of entries was consistently very low; we are using the time of the suspension to review the categories.
Therefore the five active categories for 2017 will be as follows:
Find about more about the EEPA launch and other exciting things to come in the first issue of 2017! Read more >>