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EEPA 2019 Testimonial – Grand Jury Prize

It is our last EEPA 2019 winner testimonial! Today on the News Portal we are learning more about the project that took home the top EEPA prize at the 2019 SME Assembly. The Grand Jury Prize is awarded to the project that the jury designates to be truly outstanding regardless of its category. For 2019 the jury decided to award this honour to GreenPAC iLab, a project from the Netherlands competing in the Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency category.

At GreenPAC iLab, new entrepreneurs in the plastics industry are supported to help them start their businesses and achieve sustainable and circular business models. The project functions as a community where entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for a plastic product or service are coached and given access to a network of professionals that help with feasibility studies, research and product development. Through collaboration with plastics professionals and research groups, the GreenPAC iLab is fostering a new generation of plastics entrepreneurs guided by circular and sustainable values. To date, 66 start-ups have received assistance and 84 jobs have been created.

We spoke to Bastian Coes, Manager & Business Developer for GreenPAC iLab to discover the story behind this winning project.

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

We heard about the national competition via a promotion by RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency) that runs the EEPA national competition about three years ago. At the time we decided not to enter because we had just started with a new strategy and method of supporting startup businesses. Before applying we wanted to make sure that we had a lot of examples of successful startup businesses that we had supported because, successful companies are the biggest proof that our concept and strategy works. So not “fake it till you make it”, but rather “make it and then talk about it”.

How did you prepare your application?

We wrote our application for the national competition and really emphasised the link between the results of the startup businesses and the methods we use. It was important to stress that in addition to results such as revenue and employment of the startups, at GreenPAC iLab the emphasis is on the connection between research carried out by applied universities and the knowledge gap of a startup. We then add to that knowledge, for example by facilitating necessary feasibility studies.

Both the startups and the universities benefit: the startups have access to knowledge and equipment which are not available in the market and the universities have access to new economic and technological developments which they otherwise have no access to. 

What was it like to win the award?

It was a great feeling and surprise to win the award. It represents a great acknowledgment for the hard work of the GreenPAC iLab team, the universities Windesheim and NHL Stenden. It was not always easy to get funding for our plans and recognition of the work that the startups and GreenPAC iLab do. Over the last couple of years we have developed a big movement and community which have had an impact on sustainability, circular business models and growth of startups. It is truly a great feeling for all of this to be recognised and valued by the EEPA jury.

How did winning the award impact your work?

Winning the award impacted our  work directly because there is outside endorsement for what we do. Awards like this help develop the GreenPAC iLab further and to sustain the work we do. We have also had a lot of questions about our programme from the international community, and the EEPA has facilitated this by giving us an international podium to share how we support sustainable startups. 

Receiving an EEPA also highlights and recognises the support provided by the regional government. GreenPAC iLab has strong connections with (regional) governments, and the province of Overijssel and the municipality of Zwolle are crucial for stimulating sustainable entrepreneurship in the region. Both provide support for our program and can function as a launching customer for startups. Winning the EEPA Grand Jury Prize has given us additional proof to demonstrate that the regional funding of GreenPAC iLab should be sustained.

Why should others enter EEPA 2020? What advice would you give them?

Entering EEPA 2020 is a great way to reflect on what you have done over the last couple of years and also about the way you want to move forward. EEPA gives a lot of exposure for your initiative but also makes your team and everyone involved proud to be part of a shortlisted initiative. We were already proud of being on the shortlist, so just imagine what it is like if you win the Grand Jury Prize! 

What are your plans for the future?

We want to continue our work of helping startup businesses achieve their sustainable and circular business models. We want to increase and strengthen the community of sustainable and technology based startups, and build a startup entrepreneurship hub in The Netherlands. By doing this we want to support a new generation of entrepreneurs and contribute to a sustainable SME economy.

Keep coming back to Promoting Enterprise for more EEPA 2019 winner testimonials and don’t forget to watch their winning moments on our YouTube channel: