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Steering the heavy education tanker away from a head-on collision with the future

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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.

portrait_karen_boersWe’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 

15 countries have projects in European Enterprise Promotion Awards shortlist

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The 2014 EEPAs will be presented in Naples, Italy

The 2014 EEPAs will be presented in Naples, Italy

Hundreds of projects competed in the 2014 national competitions for a chance to represent their country in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, due to be presented in October.

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.aspxhttp://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

Take a look at past European Enterprise Promotion Awards winners: 2012; 2013; Grand Jury Prize 2006-2012.

Interview: Greece’s European SME Week Coordinator

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Olga Nikolopoulou, European SME Week National Coordinator for Greece

Olga Nikolopoulou, European SME Week National Coordinator for Greece

Each country participates in European SME Week in a way relevant to its own small and medium-sized enterprise community, so we interviewed Olga Nikolopoulou, National Coordinator for Greece, to find out more.

How does the Week work in Greece?

It seems to be working quite well, as we tend to get a serious number of applications to hold events every year. Entrepreneurs, young people, students and various stakeholders are always interested in being informed about the available European Union financial instruments for the support of small and medium-sized enterprises. They also seek training and networking opportunities.

Which organisations are involved?

The General Secretariat for Industry of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness and the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

How do you promote European SME Week?

As soon as the SME Week platform gets activated, we begin our SME Week promotional campaign through various channels, such as: e-mail campaigns to targeted stakeholders, via social media, the Ministry of Development & Competitiveness’s interactive digital platform startupgreece.gov.gr which numbers over 5,600 members, relevant articles published in several Ministries’ newsletters, as well as direct communication with potentially interested parties.

What did you learn from last year’s events?

In 2013, we successfully co-organized “Europe 2020 Strategy for Growth: Promoting Business Partnerships in Greece” with the European Commission. The two-day event promoted business partnerships between Greek and European businesses in six developing sectors. 300 Greek enterprises, 110 foreign enterprises from 25 countries participated and over 1,300 business meetings were held between attending businesses. We learned that entrepreneurs are eager for any kind of networking opportunities, especially for entering new international markets.

And finally, what impact does European SME Week have in Greece?

Taking into account the fact that SMEs in Greece represent 99.6% of total enterprises, it is obvious that economic development in the country relies on successful SMEs. European SME Week events are therefore very popular.

Business focus for EU social media

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Via #EU4Business on Twitter

Via #EU4Business on Twitter

 

Many different branches of the European Commission now use the hashtag #EU4Business to promote relevant business and SME content on social media.

The Commission welcomes others’ use of #EU4Business in their posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr other social media websites and apps that allow their users to tag content with hashtags. Use of #EU4Business will make your news and events visible to a wider audience.

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