Archive for ‘Improving the business environment’
EEPA – The European Enterprise Promotion Awards, recognises outstanding projects from across Europe that are working to support entrepreneurs and small businesses across six different categories.
The next EEPA category is “Improving the Business Environment” which recognises initiatives that support enterprise start-up and growth, and simplify both legislative and administrative procedures for businesses. Have a look through the national winners in this category below and stay tuned until the end of September to see which of these makes it onto the European shortlist!
Iceland: Electronic Company Register
Poland: Entrepreneur Package
Romania: Start up Nation Romania
Slovakia: Better Regulation Center
Spain: Open Innovation 4.0.
*Portugal and the UK have yet to announce their 2018 national winners. The winning projects will be added accordingly.
Come back to Promoting Enterprise every week to find out about the national winners across the other five EEPA categories: Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit, Investing in entrepreneurial skills, Supporting the internationalisation of business, Supporting the development of green markets and resource efficiency and Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship.
Want to know who will be judging the 2018 projects? Meet the EEPA 2018 Jury here on the Portal!
Promoting Enterprise is back with yet another EEPA 2017 winner testimonial for you to be inspired by. Today is the turn of Reempresa, winner of the ‘Improving the business environment’ category with their project for ‘re-entrepreneurs’, represented by director Albert Colomer.
How did you first hear about the national competition?
We have participated in the SME Assembly conference for many years and have always been interested in the EEPA awards ceremony because it is a very important event where interesting initiatives for all Europeans are showcased.
Why did you decide to enter the national competition?
Reempresa was started in 2011 and throughout the years we have worked to implement the market for business transfers in Catalonia. Now that we have finished the development phase with great results, we thought that presenting our candidature to the EEPA awards was an opportunity to share our results with all the participating countries and to raise awareness about the importance of facilitating business transfers to support SMEs and to prevent the loss of jobs.
How did you prepare your application?
Reempresa works with a wide network of collaborators. We involved them and asked them to gather all their results and stories to explain them to the rest of Europe. Once we won the Spanish award, we launched a special website and social media campaign to share the award with all our partners, the team and, of course, with all our users who were able to sell and buy their businesses thanks to Reempresa.
What was it like to win the award?
It got my heart racing! We arrived in Tallinn without knowing at all what would happen and for us it was a big surprise. It is an honour to receive this award and we want to share it with everybody who made it possible!
How did winning the award impact your work?
For Reempresa, this award marks a before and after in the organisation! To appear on the EEPA blog and social networks, and the coverage given to us by EuroNews has been very important because it has allowed us to reach all of Europe and has allowed many people and organisations to get to know us. It has definitely helped us to be very motivated and keep working hard in the future!
Why should others enter EEPA 2018? What advice would you give them?
I would recommend working on the tangible results of your projects. Showing that the submitted project has a positive impact on their territory and that it can help other European countries and citizens!
What are your plans for the future?
We are currently having talks with many countries to implement this initiative that has worked so well in Catalonia. Together, we hope to build a European business transfer market with the aim of helping European SMEs.
Keep coming back to Promoting Enterprise for more EEPA 2017 testimonials and don’t forget to check all the social media channels (Twitter: @EEPA_EU and Facebook: @PromotingEnterprise) for the latest EEPA updates.
Time for the Category 3: ‘Improving the Business Environment’ introductions! The Jury has selected four projects as 2017 finalists all with different innovative ideas. This year the Category 3 projects represent the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Spain.
Innofest works with eight summer festivals in northern Netherlands as living labs for innovation, and provides a safe environment for entrepreneurs to test their prototypes before bringing them onto the market. Innofest sees festivals as temporary mini societies, with their own set of challenges in the areas of water, food, logistics, energy and waste, among others. As contained environments, product testing results are measurable, and can reduce innovation failure rates in an area with many SMEs but that is lagging behind the rest of the Netherlands in innovation. During the festival on-site support is offered along with networking opportunities and follow-up guidance.
‘Innovation to Company’, the project from the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber in Vienna, brings together innovative and flexible start-ups with established enterprises with resources and market positioning. Through active networking and matchmaking, start-ups help with the development of innovation and solving of challenges that an established enterprise may face. In turn the established enterprises offer resources and market placement, making the cooperation mutually beneficial. To date, 16 enterprises (2015-2017) and 150 start-ups (2017 not yet included) have participated, and 2.5 million EUR in potential profit opportunities for start-ups has been generated.
Manufacturing Project – The Green Innovation Factory is transforming the historic Rovereto factory into an industrial innovation centre. The centre covers eco-sustainable construction, renewable energy, technologies for environmental management and monitoring, natural resources, and the circular economy. Within the project exists the Pole of Mechatronics, which involves public bodies, private individuals, and trade associations. It is an innovative hub serving a widespread production chain that involves the qualified participation of companies ranging from automotive, robotics, sensors, industrial automation, up to biomedical industries. It houses productive spaces, technological workshops, and school buildings.
Reempresa pioneers the innovative concept of a trading market for SMEs in Catalonia, which helps ‘re-entrepreneurs’ i.e. buyers take ownership of an existing SME. The business transfer scheme preserves existing businesses and jobs, thereby ensuring continuity, and promotes economic growth. It also promotes awareness about public-private collaboration and the benefits of standardising business transfer facilitation procedures. Since 2011, Reempresa has successfully transferred more than 1,230 businesses, preserved more than 3,500 direct jobs and generated more than EUR 56.8 million in investment. This one-stop-shop platform brings retiring business owners, or others who choose to sell their business on, together with young entrepreneurs that wish to acquire a business without having to start from zero. From the first meeting, through negotiation to the conclusion of the transfer, Reempresa provides mentoring and support to ensure a smooth transfer and the future viability of the business. The scheme is also an employment opportunity, providing sustainable careers for the ‘re-entrepreneurs’, 40% of which were previously unemployed. Not only is Reempresa a national success story, but it is also an example of a highly innovative and inspiring project with high replicability potential.
Who will be the Category 3 winner for 2017? Find out this November at the SME Assembly 2017 in Tallinn! Find out about the Category 1: Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit and Category 2: Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills nominees, and stay tuned for Category 4 introductions next week!
Who else will be competing for a place on the European shortlist for EEPA 2017? Time to find out about the European projects competing in Category 3: Improving the business environment! Don’t forget to have a look at the national winners in Category 1 and Category 2.
Category 3 recognises initiatives that support enterprise start-up and growth, simplify legislative and administrative procedures for businesses. In 2016 the prize was won by the Leader SME programme from Portugal for their activities to support national SMEs.
This year there are 8 projects competing for a European title in this category. Congratulations to all the national winners and we look forward to finding out who is on the EEPA 2017 shortlist!
Austria: Innovation to Company
Czech Republic: Třebíč is lively
Ireland: Mayo Ideas Lab
Slovenia: Podjetno v prihodnost
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can be sources of employment and innovation in a national economy, yet conditions are not always favourable when these enterprises compete against larger competitors. The winner of Category 3 (Improving the Business Environment) at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) 2016, strives to create these conditions and an SME supportive environment. The Leader SME programme is a mechanism to qualify enterprises that aims to highlight the merits of the most successful national SMEs by creating conditions to strengthen their market reputation and fast-track access to funding. The goal is to promote growth strategies and consolidate their competitiveness.
How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?
We first heard about the competition through several public and private entities that promote and encourage participation in the competition throughout Portugal, and applied using our public/private partnership. We felt that our project was a good and strong example of what EEPA represents. Our results from previous years were also very successful, so we thought that our project had good replication potential and could serve as a European example.
How did you go about preparing your application?
The preparation of an EEPA application is quite “heavy” in terms of the work involved. We did not prepare something special for EEPA, but instead created a working group for the preparation of the application as soon as the period of application was announced.
What was it like to win the award?
It was a surprise, considering the quality of other applications. However, we felt that we had a very good chance in this competition, since we were strongly convinced of the quality of our application. Just being included in the shortlist gave as a sense of achievement! Winning the competition was very important to us, and it was an extraordinary feeling: a reward for the work done, and concrete proof that we are on the right track.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work and what kind of response did you receive?
Winning the award helped us not only externally, the increased visibility helped with publicity and will also help us in the future, but also internally. Internally the win helped to solidify our relationships with partners and make us a stronger network. It also resulted in overall better general knowledge of the objectives and better understanding of the technicalities of the project. The response was great and made us feel like we have an increased sense of responsibility, now we just have to maintain and increase the impact of the project. Whilst it was fantastic to represent our project, it was also very satisfying to be able to represent Portugal.
Can you already see a long-term impact or do you have any expectations?
Yes. Considering the results of the initiative, and the relevance of the award, we think that the partners will be able to approach companies more easily in order to tighten the network links and increase the impact of the SME Leader initiative.
Why should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?
It is important to evaluate whether a project has the following: quality, results, strong partnership, and replicability. Our advice would be that if your project has all of the above, then you should definitely compete! The preparation for EEPA stimulates evaluation, strengthens partnership, and gives visibility, all of which can only help strengthen your project.
What are your plans for the future?
Our project has the potential to increase the level and scope of impact on the companies, through a tightening of the network. We hope to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the companies considered to be SME Leaders, and disseminate their best practices to help others achieve the same leader status. Our whole project is about helping SMEs get access to finance, whether it be through creating the right conditions or helping them comply with requisites, in terms of the future we want to keep doing just that and increase the number of enterprises that we help and who can benefit.
Have you had a chance to read the Annual report on European SMEs 2015/2016 yet? We recommend that you do!
Have a read of our quick report summary below:
The main themes of the report can be summarised as follows: employment and growth, performance and population and the second chance principle.
Employment and Growth
SMEs are a vital part of the EU28 economy, in 2015 they employed 90 million people (an employment increase of 1.5%), accounting for two thirds of EU28 employment. Many of these SMEs are micro enterprises, with less than 10 employees, which form around 93% of all enterprises in the non–financial business sector. SMEs have also continued to grow, showing steady growth in value added both in 2014 (3.8%) and 2015 (5.7%). Growth varied across Member States but was generally positive.
Figure 1: SME employment and value added growth in 2014 and 2015, EU28
Performance and Population
Overall EU28 SMEs have performed better than previously, indicating better macro-economic conditions in 2015. However there are differing trends across small (e.g. legal and accounting services, advertising and marketing research) and large sectors (e.g. retail trade, construction). Smaller sectors experienced over 5% growth in employment, contrasting with only 2% growth or less in the larger sectors.
Figure 2: EU SME value added annual growth by Member State, 2015
The second chance principle
The SME population is in constant fluctuation, as many new businesses are born and others cease to operate every year. New firm creation in the EU has caught up with USA rates, however the strengthening of second chance public policies to encourage startup dynamism after failure, would certainly counteract the barriers faced by those starting afresh for the second time. This would also ensure that potential entrepreneurs are not deterred by the prospects of bankruptcy or that existing entrepreneurs are not disheartened from trying again. This is where the SBA second chance principle could be every effective, not only for improving the environment and procedure for those businesses that do fail, but also by putting in place mechanisms to avoid businesses falling into such situations.
However, the latest SBA reviews highlight some areas for improvement:
- in only slightly more than half of Member States can the discharge from bankruptcy be achieved in 3 years or less;
- half of EU Member States treat re-starters on an equal footing with new start-ups; and,
- all the other SBA second chance policy measures are implemented in less than half of Member States. Moreover, the SBA second chance principle is the one showing the least progress since 2008.
Progress has been made but more can be done, especially on the SBA second chance principle, so that SMEs can continue to recover and thrive, in turn strengthening the EU28 economy.
Figure 3: Forecast growth of SME value added and employment from 2015 to 2017 in Member States
The SME Assembly 2016 may be over, but the conversation continues! Today is an opportunity for us to present to you the European Enterprise Promotion Awards winners from the 2016 edition. You met them here on the blog when they were shortlisted, but here is an overview of the projects that came out on top…
The Category 1- Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit, the winner was Lyon Ville de l’Entrepreneuriat (Lyon City of Entrepreneurship) from France. This initiative is a network of 46 organisations and 200 experts from across the region, working to promote the entrepreneurial spirit more widely, increase the number of businesses created and improve the robustness of new businesses. Each year, the network provides support to between 10,000 and 12,000 businesses and entrepreneurs, with 17 “access points” providing assistance, information and guidance. Experts provide support on the creation, takeover and handover of businesses and on aspects including how to grow or fund a business, start up and training.
In Category 2 – Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills, the prize went to Enterprise Educators Academe from the United Kingdom. This project has created the world’s first internal, accredited, enterprise educator training programme. The training and support of over 600 staff of all disciplines to embed enterprise skills across the university curriculum has been at the heart of the programme. In the first two years alone 21 000 students were reached and over 2 000 freelance businesses created. Business and public sector projects projects benefited from student support resulting in an economic impact valued at over EUR 4.4 million (GBP £4 million).
In Category 3 – Improving the Business Environment, the category winner was Portuguese project Leader SME programme. This entry annually rewards SMEs with the best financial performance and risk levels, as viewed by IAPMEI and Turismo de Portugal. The award offers public recognition of their successful growth strategies and competitive leadership, and winners benefit from more favourable conditions for accessing finance and other specialised business management support. In just eight years, the number of companies recognised has more than doubled from around 3 000 in 2008 to approximately 7 300 in 2015!
In Category 4 – Supporting the Internationalisation of Business, it was Human Security Finland that came away the winner. This entry is a national international development and crisis management business network. It assists with the building of partnerships between Finnish companies and experts aimed at assisting developing countries and crisis-hit regions with solutions to support sustainable development. The network combines business, education and research for human security. 100 organisations are now involved in the concept known as ‘crisis business’, which is based on commercialising human security expertise.
In Category 5 – Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency, the Lime Trees & Honey Bees for Sustainable Development of the Danube Microregion project from Serbia took the category prize. It strengthens the competitiveness of beekeeping in the Fruška Gora region and motivates young people to start beekeeping businesses. The project aims to increase the market share of Fruška Gora lime honey by investing in human resources and skills development, improved knowledge through scientific research, education and the introduction of new technologies. In addition, it ran a high-profile promotional campaign to raise public interest and created a marketing plan that changed the ad hoc approach of 8 beekeeper associations to a value-added, branded product, with export potential.
In Category 6 – Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Dutch project The Rotterdam Business Case (De Rotterdamse Zaak), a work training company where students in higher vocational education and experienced business coaches help support entrepreneurs to improve their business practices and entrepreneurial skills, was the Jury’s winning choice. The project focuses on entrepreneurs who operate below the poverty line and are not financially able to find a solution to their problems. More than 600 entrepreneurs have already been helped through the combined efforts of experienced senior coaches, who act as a sounding board for entrepreneurs, and junior coaches who offer more practical support.
Finally, the Grand Jury Prize, which commends the entry that the Jury considers to be ‘the most creative and inspiring entrepreneurship initiative in Europe’, was awarded to Entrepreneurial West Hisingen from Sweden! Originally a competitor in Category 6 – Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, this project supports the city district’s reputation as a hub of opportunities and entrepreneurship. It covers three projects: Entrepreneurship in education, Start your business, and Develop your business, which provide different styles of support to various groups ranging from schoolchildren, all the way to seasoned business people.
We continue our showcase of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) shortlist with an introduction to the national winners competing in Category-3 – Improving the Business Environment. These three projects, each with their own specific focus, have in common the fact that they improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem in their respective countries – Denmark, Portugal and Slovenia. Two of the projects are based on a competition/award scheme, while the third is a co-working space that motivates young entrepreneurs.
So, in no particular order, the first in our list this week is Denmark’s Next Step Challenge (NSC). NSC is an ambitious European startup competition focusing on Smart Energy & Digitalisation and Sound & Home Integration. Ambitious startups are offered the chance to access a one-of-a-kind business development programme in direct collaboration with big corporations, SydEnergi and Bang & Olufsen. Along with EUR 250 000 in prize money, the winners are also supported by SydEnergi and Bang & Olufsen, who open up their organisations, share knowledge and strategy, and assist with product and/or business development. Check out their video!
The next project takes us to Portugal and the Leader SME programme, which annually rewards SMEs with the best financial performance and risk levels, as viewed by IAPMEI and Turismo de Portugal. The award offers public recognition of their successful growth strategies and competitive leadership, and winners benefit from more favourable conditions for accessing finance and other specialised business management support. In just eight years, the number of companies recognised has more than doubled from around 3 000 in 2008 to approximately 7 300 in 2015! Have a look at their video!
KIKštarter was established to encourage young people in Slovenia to develop their entrepreneurial ideas. A co-working space in the deprived area of Kamnik, it provides entrepreneurs with a supportive environment and is home to 27 startups. The startups receive assistance and guidance in developing their ideas, have access to workspace, and participate in a series of motivational events. The project is contributing to the promotion of entrepreneurship to all residents in the area, which is undergoing regeneration, and helping to unlock the potential of the area and its people. The initiative has directly resulted in seven new businesses and at least as many new jobs with minimal financial investment.
Only one of these projects can be declared the ultimate winner in the category and, given the high standard of all three, the EEPA Jury is faced with a difficult choice. But choose they must, and their eventual choice will be revealed at the EEPA Awards Ceremony during the SME Assembly on 24 November in Bratislava, Slovakia, when the Grand Jury prize-winner will also be announced.
2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). In this new feature, we catch up with former EEPA honourees who’ve gone on to do great things since winning the award.
This week, Ria Dossche from the award-winning Belgium Starters’ Agreement reflects on the impact of winning an EEPA three years on…
Ria Dossche, The Belgium Starters’ Agreement
|Organisation||The Belgium Starters’ Agreement, City of Ghent|
|Award won||Improving the Business Environment|
What was it like to win the award?
As the project was nominated, we hoped that we would end up high in the rankings. Winning was a nice surprise, and confirmation of the whole team’s hard work on the project.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work?
It drew remarkable media attention, both online and offline. We had internal coverage on our intranet and in the internal City of Ghent magazine, and we also referred to winning the award in several publications after the event.
What response did you receive from your colleagues and peers?
We received only positive reactions from colleagues, management, and partners, and there was also interest from other city administrations.
What has been the long-term impact?
Externally, it boosted the number of applications for the Starters’ Agreement. Its internal effect was that it supported the conservation of the budget dedicated to Starters’ Agreements in the following legislatures.
Why did you decide to enter the national competition?
We wanted to share this successful project. Feedback from former applicants told us that the Starters’ Agreement was something very positive. From the applicants‘ survival rates, we knew that we’d reached our goal; some even became international businesses and big players. Moreover, we saw over the years that entrepreneurs who had a Starters’ Agreement stayed attached to the city. They felt at ease contacting the city administration with requests for help (e.g. how to find personnel and even how to relocate) and they stayed here to do business.
How did you go about preparing your application and making it award winning?
As we do a bi-yearly evaluation of the Starters’ Agreements, we had most of the information ready. It was a challenge to gather the requested data, but it was a manageable effort.
What advice would you give to others thinking of entering?
Entering EEPA implies an extra, external evaluation of your project. When you get nominated, it boosts your communication and you get confirmation that your team is doing a good job.
You’re not on your own: Business Incubators and Accelerators are there to help you develop a sustainable model that will help your business not only survive, but thrive.
Castles built on sand have the tendency to find their foundations washed away and the same applies to companies.
A quick look at the stats shows that 46% of business failures in the first three years are due to incompetence, and a further 30% are a result of unbalanced or lack of managerial experience. This suggests that obtaining management training and good advice should be at the top of an entrepreneur’s ‘to do’ list. There are many who have a great idea and then rush into production, start hiring lots of people, pay themselves a large salary and then find themselves with a failed company. But this decline and fall is entirely avoidable if the business is built on strong foundations.
Business incubators could be the answer. Incubators and accelerators are organisations established to provide space, training and business services to startups to ensure that they’re properly run, adhere to relevant regulations and have access to experienced management advice. So successful have these incubators been that just about every country in the EU has them, often associated with universities or funded by local authorities. The incubator success rate is impressive: around 87% of businesses that have been incubated survive the difficult first three years and go on to scale-up successfully.
A recent University Business Incubator conference revealed the top ranking European incubators and reported that “Europe’s business incubators have attracted a total of $2,4b in investment, meaning each of the 117 incubators has received an average of $20m each. With regard to deal flow, Europe as a whole receives 15.3k applications per year, equating to an average of 131 per incubator. In the last five years Europe’s business incubators have created 40,500 jobs (346 jobs per incubator) and over the same time period generated $5.6b in sales, equating to an average of $47m in sales per incubator.”
The vast majority of startups that survive the first three or four years then scale up, often still with the help of an Incubator or Accelerator, while others set their sights on becoming a publicly owned company trading on a stock exchange.
However, as Eric Forest, Chairman and CEO of EnterNext, a subsidiary of the EuroNext markets dedicated to SMEs, says:
“An IPO is a very important step for any company, large or small, and has to be meticulously prepared. The listing process brings the opportunity for the management to step back and formalise the company’s perspectives. It requires a re-examination and a clarification of the company’s business and strategy. Communication and reporting obligations also imply structuring efforts that are extremely valuable for the company’s management. It is, moreover, key to unify the internal teams around the project and to sharpen the equity story to convince investors about the company potential.
At EnterNext, we decided to provide the means to help companies entering the market in the best possible ways. For instance, in 2015, we designed the programme TechShare, which is a unique one-year pan-European course to familiarise non-listed innovative businesses with capital markets and gives them the information they need to take their companies to market. Although the listing obligations are often considered as “constraints”, they actually help entrepreneurs to build their castles on the rock.”
Going public is definitely not a step to be taken lightly since one of the first things that happens is the entrepreneur has to give way to the professional business manager, which effectively means losing control of the company, or at least, the spirit of the company. If the scale-up has been successful, then this may not be a problem but recognising when to hand over the reins is always difficult. Again, this is where Incubators and Accelerators have a major role to play: they are not just for start-ups but generally have expertise in scaling up businesses and can guide the entrepreneur towards making the right decision before putting them in touch with the appropriate professionals.
Tips for finding the right incubator
- Ask around. Talk to your startup and industry peers and ask for recommendations of incubators and accelerators.
- Do your research – especially on the internet. Try these
- Top Start-up Incubators in Europe
- Five ways to Vet and Incubator
- Start-Up Accelerators
- University Business Incubators
- Read widely, and well. Keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground for the latest tech news on websites and magazines dedicated to entrepreneurship. Look out for incubator and accelerator programmes and news of companies that have recently been incubated and/or invested in.