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COVID Stories – How a young smart therapy company is coping with market challenges

Today on the News Portal we are re-introducing you to a familiar face: Steffen Preuß, CEO of icho systems GmbH. We first met Steffen when he represented Germany during Ideas from Europe in 2017, and again when he was the German representative in the Secrets of Success brochure 2018-2019 edition.  

We are catching up with Steffen to see how icho systems GmbH has developed and how he and his company have been navigating the challenges and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your company?

I am the co-founder and CEO of icho systems GmbH. Our young company develops smart therapy devices for the healthcare market, especially for people with dementia. The ichó therapy ball is our first product, the therapy ball combines different therapy methods with the advantages of digital products in one device. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensor technology, ichó detects all interactions, no matter whether it is caught, thrown, touched, shaken or just held. ichó reacts to these interactions with a colourful light, vibration, sound and music. On this basis, the ichó apps enable various individual training activities, according to the needs of the user.

What is particularly exciting here is the possibility of data logging. Since ichó can measure continuously during the application, the data obtained can provide useful insight into disease progression and developmental progress.  We have already received several awards for this innovation and have been able to succeed in a wide range of competitions. ichó has therefore already been exhibited in the USA and has also been able to gain recognition in Europe through “Ideas from Europe“.

It inspires us as much as ever to see how dementia patients start singing, laughing and dancing again with ichó. It is amazing what abilities can be brought back through the right encouragement and how vitalising this is for all involved. Not only do the residents benefit from this, but also the nursing staff. Relaxed residents and a less stressful environment simplify the work in many ways and enable a fulfilling and collaborative atmosphere with each other.

What was the first impact of COVID-19 on you and your business?

The ichó therapy ball was launched at the beginning of April 2020, but we experienced the first effects of Covid much earlier. We were just in the final stages of serial production at the end of 2019 when the first suppliers began to experience difficulties with delivery, which is why we transferred all ichó production to our offices at relatively short notice. This turned out to be the right decision, as we went into the first lockdown only two weeks later.

By transferring our production, we were at least able to maintain our serial production, even if only to a limited extent, and to produce the first ichós. This helped us to successively supply all pre-order ichós over the course of the next few months, even if only in stages.

The thing we immediately experienced was, obviously, the access to the market and to the customer. All the fairs and conferences we had planned for 2020 were cancelled, but what was particularly difficult was the closed care facilities and having no access, due to people in need of care naturally being part of a particularly high risk group for infection.

This put us in a difficult and complex situation, as our product and what it offers applies not only to the end recipients but also to all volunteer caregivers or relatives. With the lockdowns the need for social care increased enormously, especially for people suffering from dementia.

These were and are still very difficult times for all those in need of care.

To find out what came next for Steffen and the ichó systems team, and to learn more about the experience make sure to come back to the News Portal for the next part of our interview with Steffen.

Have you read our other COVID Stories featuring Catherine Lorent, a Belgian seamstress who helped out by making masks and hospital gowns, or the e-heath solutions developed in the Netherlands or COVID specific hackathons in Greece and Turkey? Read more right here on the Portal.

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Data 4 Healthy Recovery Hackathon launch

The European Commission is launching the new Data 4 Healthy Recovery Hackathon, which will be dedicated to solving the most pressing smart health challenges.  

This online hackathon will focus on smart health, and encourage participants to develop solutions and ideas in response to the following challenges:

  • Personalised predictive medicine
  • Telemedicine
  • Real-time health monitoring and remote care
  • Improved diagnostics
  • Data-driven insights for health
  • Improvements for medical manufacturing
  • Medicine demand forecasting
  • Improvement of on-site medical services
  • Safe use of medical data
  • Innovative mental health solutions for employees
  • Threat tracing
  • Information filter for public health

The full scale of challenges are still being developed so make sure to follow the hackathon channels, and check the challenge webpage for updates and more detailed challenge information.

The hackathon will take place between 18-20 June 2021, and participants will take part in brainstorming and other preparatory sessions in the lead up. During these sessions participants will meet challenge partners, learn more about the presented challenges and submit the solution they will work on during the hackathon.

Applications are now open and must be submitted by 15 April 2021.

Stay up to date with the hackathon developments by following the Facebook event page and stay tuned to the hackathon channels for upcoming information.

For more information visit the hackathon webpage and check out the hackathon FAQ section.

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EU Industry Days 2021

The EU Industry days will be taking place next week from 23-26 February and be an opportunity to listen to and be involved with discussions centring around the challenges facing industry, development opportunities and policy responses.

This year’s programme will feature sessions and speakers talking about green and digital transitions and the opportunities both transitions present for EU businesses and citizens. Top speakers will include European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton.  

The large variety of sessions will also feature the Pact for Skills, circular procurement, lessons learnt from the COVID crisis and several specific masterclasses and parallel sessions.

Alongside the main programme the first fully virtual EU Industry days will feature a virtual exhibition showcasing 43 EU projects. Conference participants will also have opportunities to vote for their favourite projects across categories in the #EUIndustryDays competition.

In addition to the EU Industry days, affiliated events will be taking place across Europe under the EU Industry Week.

Registration for the EU Industry days is still open and the full programme is available on the website.

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SME Week Newsletter 2020-2021: Issue #8

Welcome back to the SME Week Newsletter!

As we go into February, it is time to start thinking about the 2021 edition of the European SME Week. Every year this pan-European campaign celebrates entrepreneurship and SMEs through events, initiatives, competitions and the flagship SME Assembly held towards the end of the year. In this edition we have a look at some of the different ways to get involved this year, so make sure that you don’t miss out!

We also want to hear YOUR stories, how are you navigating these challenging times? Share your news and updates to be featured in an upcoming issue or on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal, just like the IPA4SME project or Uplift Albania.

Read more >>

SUBSCRIBE AND DON´T MISS ANY UPDATES

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IPA4SME – successfully protecting intellectual property at small businesses

Since the first call launched in May 2019, the IPA4SME programme from the European Commission has been successfully accompanying small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) on their path to intellectual property (IP) valorisation, helping them to protect their valuable IP. To date, over 1.000 SMEs from 30 countries have benefited from the programme.

IPA4SME offers SMEs that have been awarded the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Seal of Excellence a unique opportunity to acquire IP valorisation and protection by co-financing a range of IP-related services, worth up to EUR 15 000.

These services include free IP pre-diagnostics, where a verified IP expert provides the companies with a customised report on their IP business strategy and advises on how to exploit their assets efficiently and securely. Beneficiaries can also have their IP protection costs reimbursed, particularly IP attorney and European patent application fees.

Cut-off closing date approaching

The closing date for the eighth cut-off in the current call is 25 February 2021. This is an excellent chance for eligible SMEs to receive up to EUR 15,000 to support their IP strategy or patent registration. Interested SMEs can apply here.

Feedback from beneficiaries in the previous cut-offs has been very positive – they found the action to be an excellent chance to summarise, reflect on and improve their IP strategy. In general, thanks to the programme they are more aware of their IP situation and view the recommendations in the IP Diagnostic Report as critical for their long-term business strategies. You can read some of their Success stories here.

Feedback from beneficiaries shows that:

  • 97% of applicants are interested in additional support;
  • 87% of beneficiary SMEs have a better understanding of their IP and its value than before;
  • 90% consider the IP pre-diagnostic report a useful resource; and
  • 91% would recommend the IP pre-diagnostic to other innovative SMEs.

Information available

IPA4SME also provides detailed information on the different IP valorisation services that are available, in addition to what actions selected beneficiaries should take to access these services. To view the webinars, click here.

For more information on IPA4SME and its services, visit the website. To keep up to date on IPA4SME actions and events, make sure to follow the programme on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Le Portail du Rebond

We are back with our final European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we introduced you to Social Enterprise NL from the Netherlands, 2020 winner in our ‘Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ category. Make sure to read their story if you haven’t yet!

Our final testimonial tells the story of our 2020 Grand Jury Prize winner, ‘Le Portail du Rebond des Entrepreneurs’ from France. ‘Le Portail du Rebond’ or ‘The Recovery Portal’, is made up of associations that together provide a nationwide service to entrepreneurs to help them through difficult times. The associations have unique specialisations across different areas, allowing them to cover the entire value chain, from entrepreneurial failure and its prevention to entrepreneurial recovery and its promotion. The portal provides a single online point of access so that entrepreneurs can choose the association that corresponds to their entrepreneurial recovery needs. The associations help the entrepreneurs navigate necessary measures and authorities, and remove obstacles to their recovery.

How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?

The ‘Portail du Rebond des Entrepreneurs’ was told about the competition by BPIFRANCE. Our work to help struggling entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who find themselves in hard times bounce back, corresponded exactly to the EEPA competition criteria. After discussing further with BPIFRANCE and working with their teams, we decided to enter, which was the right decision!

How did you prepare your application?

The ‘Portail du Rebond des Entrepreneurs’ is made up of six associations which create a ‘value chain’ that allows us to accompany the entrepreneurs we work with from the beginning when they are in difficulty, all the way through to when they have bounced back. We made this aspects of our work stand out in our application as we thought it was innovative and unique in the European setting.

We also decide to include a testimonial in order to illustrate our work and show how our unique value chain works. We presented one of our entrepreneurs who had successfully made their way through the entire value chain and managed to bounce back with support from one of our associations ‘Second souffle’.

What was it like to win the award?

Wining the Grand Jury prize was amazing! Firstly it was a wonderful recognition of our 10 years of work supporting entrepreneurs in difficulty. We also feel that winning this award and having our services recognised and spoken about during this period of health and economic crisis, will also help us reach additional entrepreneurs that may be in difficult situations.

How did winning the award impact your work?

Winning the award saw all the actors within the ‘Portail du Rebond des Entrepreneurs’ wanting to highlight this great prize and recognition, and this was done by increasing our communication activities and actions with entrepreneurs and public authorities to share the news.

Why should others enter EEPA? What advice would you give them?

Firstly, there is absolutely nothing to lose, but so much to win. Secondly, this competition allows for the work and initiatives we work so hard on to be shared with the public as well as other actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Participating in this competition was an incredible collective adventure for the Portail du Rebond community which helped further solidify the strong bonds that we have between the participation associations!

What are your plans for the future?

We hope to further open and expand the ‘Portail du Rebond des Entrepreneurs’ to new associations that carry out meaningful work in relation to our own. We also hope to develop more events dedicated to entrepreneurs. After that, why not see if we can bring our organisation up to European level, and see if we have the support to succeed with this challenge!

Congratulations to our 2020 Grand Jury Prize Winner ‘Le Portail du Rebond’ from France! Make sure to read all the inspiring EEPA winner testimonials right here on the News Portal and re-live the Grand Jury Prize winning moment right here:

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Uplift Albania Demo Day

Uplift Albania is an early-stage startup accelerator programme focused on growing business and increasing valuation. Founded by ICTSmedia publishing house in cooperation with SOVVA and SlovakAid, Uplift Albania is a golden opportunity for Albanian startups but also a regional innovation ecosystem and attracted startups and young entrepreneurs from nine different industries and six regional countries.

On Friday 29 January 2021, Uplift Albania hosted ‘Demo Day’ during which the latest winners from their programme were announced after 4 months of training and mentoring. The second batch winners were Crossplag, Hermex and Udhë.

Demo Day is the final step in the Uplift Albania acceleration programme and features an Investor Connect session where startups meet a panel of investors, as well as startup pitches to an audience of investors, partners, and experts from Israel, Slovakia, Germany, the US and startup communities in Albania. Within the acceleration programme startups are mentored and trained and learn how to attract investors, to protect their intellectual property, to improve their business models, and to build a better future by transforming themselves to successful businesses.

Read more about the Uplift Albania event here.

Uplift Albania comes as a close cooperation of a broad network of partners and supporters led by ICTSmedia, SOVVA and SlovakAid with the support of Vodafone, Raiffeisen Bank, Huawei, Albvision, EU for Innovation, Municipality of Tirana, Swissep, ICTSlab, PCWorld Albanian, CIO, SCAN TV and Geek Room.

ICTSmedia co-founder founder, Kushtrim Shala was featured in the 2018-2019 European Commission Secrets of Success brochure. Make sure to follow his entrepreneurial journey and learn about the birth of ICTSmedia and his story of success.

Would you like to feature on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal or in the SME Week newsletter? Get in touch at promotingenterprise@gopacom.eu we would love to hear your stories!

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EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Social Enterprise NL

We are back with another European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we introduced you to Germany’s Greentech.Ruhr, the winner in our ‘Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency’ category. If you haven’t read it yet, there is no time like the present!

We now travel to the Netherlands for an introduction to Social Enterprise NL, the ‘Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ winner. Social Enterprise NL is a national network and a key driver in the growing movement towards social entrepreneurship in the Netherlands. The network currently has 405 members, all of whom benefit from various workshops and growth programmes aimed at strengthening their business. Members also receive support from network coaches and experts and gain online visibility and publicity. Social Enterprise NL also aspires towards better regulation and legislation and, with this goal in mind, is active in promoting these objectives at the municipal, regional and national levels.

How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?

We received a call from RVO – the national Dutch Enterprise Agency – in which they informed us that Social Enterprise NL might be a suitable candidate for the EEPA award. The RVO call came at the perfect time; we had just started working on various projects to support social entrepreneurs and the EEPA had the potential to boost our work even more.

How did you prepare your application?

The RVO provided us with all the necessary information and documents, which, despite the short deadline, enabled us to send a complete and comprehensive application. Of course, it was not difficult for us to write about our work, as we feel so passionate about it and deal with it on a daily basis. We also used our past experience and our research carried out with partners, which is of great value for us in terms of the impact we have on the sector.

What was it like to win the award?

Winning the award filled us with optimism, especially during these COVID-19 times. We feel so very grateful! We were already extremely pleased with the national award and the nomination for the EEPA jury shortlist. And then there it was, the European award! It stands as a great recognition of the work we’ve done so far. I immediately called the team after the announcement to share my happiness and excitement. Unfortunately, we were not able to celebrate with each other directly, but we definitely will when we can come together again.

How did winning the award impact your work?

After winning the award, we received many compliments from an astonishing number of people and organisations all over the world! It led to so much engagement online. This is giving a great boost to the social enterprise movement in the Netherlands and to everyone involved with Social Enterprise NL. The prize represents recognition for all the work we have done, and we will keep on doing the best we can to support social entrepreneurs.  

Why should others enter EEPA? What advice would you give them?

EEPA is a great opportunity to showcase your work and its results and to present them at the highest level. It puts a spotlight on your business and on the work that you do, and it helps you to become more visible. We definitely recommend others to apply!

What are your plans for the future?

We will continue our work to improve and further develop the social enterprise sector and to make our network become even bigger. We will always have enough ideas and projects to support social entrepreneurs. We can also give you a scoop – we have a podcast coming up! As the representative of the social enterprise sector in the Netherlands, we want to continue to lobby at the local, national and even international level. The EEPA awards shows us that we have to keep going, hold our heads high and strive for more impact. We want to make Europe a better place: better for the planet and better for our people.

Congratulations to Social Enterprise NL! Keep coming back to the News Portal for more EEPA winner testimonials and re-live their winning moment right here:

You can also catch up with the SME Assembly 2020 highlights:

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European SME Week – Get involved in 2021

It is 2021 and time to start thinking about how to get involved in this year’s edition of the European SME Week. Read on to find out more about how you can get involved and where to find more information.

What is the European SME Week?

The European SME week is a pan-European campaign that aims to promote entrepreneurship in Europe. The main objectives of the campaign are to:

  • Help and support existing entrepreneurs
  • Encourage potential entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses

The campaign is coordinated by the European Commission and has events running throughout the year across all participating countries. The flagship event of the European SME Week is the SME Assembly, which takes places every autumn and is organised in collaboration with the Presidency country.

You can find information on past SME Assemblies here on the News Portal.

Where can I find out about SME Week events?

All SME Week events are submitted to the SME Week Event Calendar, and once approved are displayed publicly. You can browse events by country, dates, event types, organisers and more, to find exactly what you are looking for.

How can I get involved in SME Week in 2021?

In addition to attending existing SME Week events, you can also decide to organise your own! Events can be submitted to the calendar and national coordinators will help with selection, organisation and overall support.

If you are between the ages of 18-25, you can also get involved by participating in the annual European SME Week Youth Essay Competition.

Where can I find more information?

If you need more information on the European SME Week you can visit the European SME Week webpage or contact the SME Week Secretariat if you have specific questions.

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EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Greentech.Ruhr

We are back with another European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we brought you the story of our ‘Supporting the Internationalisation of Business’ winner Portugal Bike Value from Portugal. Check it out, if you haven’t read it yet.

This week we travel to Germany to meet with Greentech.Ruhr, winner in the ‘Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency’ category. Greentech.Ruhr is an environmental management network in the Ruhr region that aims to strengthen the region’s environmental economy, thereby supporting its transition from a mining region to a diversified economy with a high degree of specialisation in tackling ecological challenges. Increased cooperation between all players in the Ruhr environmental economy is needed to deal with growing environmental protection challenges. Greentech.Ruhr facilitates this by bringing together local companies, educational and research institutions, and public bodies to promote the Ruhr’s innovative potential in the field of environmental economics.

How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?

We were contacted directly by RKW (Rationalisierungs- und Innovationszentrum der Deutschen Wirtschaft – Rationalisation and Innovation Centre of the German Economy), the coordinator of the national competition in Germany. They explained that our project would fit perfectly into the category ‘Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency’. Public awareness is essential for our Project, so we were glad to get this opportunity.

How did you prepare your application?

The application process was less effort than we thought. Presenting our project to new partners and reporting on our work to our current partners is part of our day-to-day business. Therefore, it was easy to put this down in the application. Greentech.Ruhr has been operational for four years already, so we already had enough results and testimonials to show what we do and explain about our work. We remained in close contact with RKW and were able to clarify all questions very quickly.

What was it like to win the award?

It was very exciting going through the whole process. First the recognition of being the national winner, then the good news of being shortlisted and then finally the big moment when Bastian Coes opened the envelope and announced the winner. It is a great honour for us, and very motivating for everybody involved in the project. Sure, we were a bit disappointed that, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the SME Assembly 2020 had to be a virtual event and our award-celebration was a home-office party but it was still an incredible honour to be named an EEPA 2020 winner.

How did winning the award impact your work?

The award gave our project a lot of positive public attention. We received many congratulations from our community. As a network for the environmental economy, it is very important for us to be known. Not only in our region but also all over the world. The EEPA will help us to enlarge our European network significantly. By winning the EEPA, we have provided further proof that the idea of a greentech network is worth sustaining and this will help us to acquire financial support later on.

Why should others enter EEPA? What advice would you give them?

Taking part in the competition and writing the application helps you to reflect on your project and your work. So, even if you don’t win, the time invested is not wasted. The positive effect when winning the award may differ from project to project, but it certainly brings a lot of attention and contacts. We definitely recommend taking part in EEPA 2021.

What are your plans for the future?

We are definitely striving to expand the network. We will further expand Greentech.Ruhr and will constantly improve our offers for our partners. With this in mind, we will intensify our collaboration in the environmental economy in our region to be independent from funding, with the support of our strong partners.

Congratulations to Greentech.Ruhr on your win! Don’t forget to watch and share their winning moment and keep up with their work and their greentech network on their website.

Don’t forget you can also catch up with SME Assembly 2020 highlights:

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    • COVID Stories – How a young smart therapy company is coping with market challenges March 2, 2021
      Today on the News Portal we are re-introducing you to a familiar face: Steffen Preuß, CEO of icho systems GmbH. We first met Steffen when he represented Germany during Ideas from Europe in 2017, and again when he was the German representative in the Secrets of Success brochure 2018-2019 edition.   We are catching up […]
      promotingenterprise
    • Data 4 Healthy Recovery Hackathon launch February 25, 2021
      The European Commission is launching the new ‘Data 4 Healthy Recovery Hackathon’, which will be dedicated to solving the most pressing smart health challenges.   This online hackathon will focus on smart health, and encourage participants to develop solutions and ideas in response to the following challenges: Personalised predictive medicine Telemedicine Real-time health monitoring and […]
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    • EU Industry Days 2021 February 18, 2021
      The EU Industry days will be taking place next week from 23-26 February and be an opportunity to listen to and be involved with discussions centring around the challenges facing industry, development opportunities and policy responses. This year’s programme will feature sessions and speakers talking about green and digital transitions and the opportunities both transitions […]
      promotingenterprise
    • SME Week Newsletter 2020-2021: Issue #8 February 16, 2021
      Welcome back to the SME Week Newsletter! As we go into February, it is time to start thinking about the 2021 edition of the European SME Week. Every year this pan-European campaign celebrates entrepreneurship and SMEs through events, initiatives, competitions and the flagship SME Assembly held towards the end of the year. In this edition […]
      promotingenterprise
    • IPA4SME – successfully protecting intellectual property at small businesses February 9, 2021
      Since the first call launched in May 2019, the IPA4SME programme from the European Commission has been successfully accompanying small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) on their path to intellectual property (IP) valorisation, helping them to protect their valuable IP. To date, over 1.000 SMEs from 30 countries have benefited from the programme. IPA4SME offers SMEs […]
      promotingenterprise
    • EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Le Portail du Rebond February 4, 2021
      We are back with our final European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we introduced you to Social Enterprise NL from the Netherlands, 2020 winner in our ‘Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ category. Make sure to read their story if you haven’t yet! Our final testimonial tells the story of our 2020 Grand Jury […]
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    • Uplift Albania Demo Day February 2, 2021
      Uplift Albania is an early-stage startup accelerator programme focused on growing business and increasing valuation. Founded by ICTSmedia publishing house in cooperation with SOVVA and SlovakAid, Uplift Albania is a golden opportunity for Albanian startups but also a regional innovation ecosystem and attracted startups and young entrepreneurs from nine different industries and six regional countries. […]
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    • EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Social Enterprise NL January 28, 2021
      We are back with another European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we introduced you to Germany’s Greentech.Ruhr, the winner in our ‘Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency’ category. If you haven’t read it yet, there is no time like the present! We now travel to the Netherlands for an […]
      promotingenterprise
    • European SME Week – Get involved in 2021 January 26, 2021
      It is 2021 and time to start thinking about how to get involved in this year’s edition of the European SME Week. Read on to find out more about how you can get involved and where to find more information. What is the European SME Week? The European SME week is a pan-European campaign that […]
      promotingenterprise
    • EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Greentech.Ruhr January 21, 2021
      We are back with another European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we brought you the story of our ‘Supporting the Internationalisation of Business’ winner Portugal Bike Value from Portugal. Check it out, if you haven’t read it yet. This week we travel to Germany to meet with Greentech.Ruhr, winner in the ‘Supporting […]
      promotingenterprise