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Meeting the 2022 EEPA Jury – Thomas Cooney

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Every year, during the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA), we introduce you to the members of our jury, who play are responsible for choosing the most innovative and exciting competition entries and selecting the winner of the Grand Jury Prize. We kick off our introductions this year with an EEPA stalwart Professor Thomas Cooney.

Thomas is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Technological University Dublin, and Academic Director of the TU Dublin Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship. He is also a director of four businesses, works in a supportive capacity with a variety of organisations and has published widely on the topic of entrepreneurship. Thomas has been an EEPA jury member for several years now, so we asked him for his advice for participants and what the jury will be looking for in 2022. Read on for his enlightening insights!

EEPA Jury Member Professor Thomas Cooney

What do you think makes this competition unique in Europe?

What is wonderful about EEPA is that it recognizes unsung heroes and celebrates the amazing work being done by people to encourage greater levels of entrepreneurial activity at local and regional levels. These people also support the inclusion of marginalized communities whose needs are not being met by formal government interventions, and this competition enables their incredible work to be acclaimed.

Do you have any advice for EEPA participants on how to make their application stand out from the rest and include the information that you need to evaluate the project?

Successful applications have one common feature – they provide statistics and evidence of the success of their initiative. Hard data showing the number of people who have successfully completed the programme and the measurement of the impact of the programme is much more powerful than any testimonial.

What do you think the jury members will be specifically looking for in the EEPA 2022 competition?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are critically important in terms of addressing the current challenges facing governments and people across Europe. Therefore, I believe that showing how an initiative tackles a specific UN SDG would be helpful, but applicants need to identify which specific target they are addressing (e.g. SDG Target 10.1) rather than being quite broad with their relationship to the UN SDGs.

Which are the top three qualities you will look for in a winning project?

The three qualities that I would like to see are: (1) level of innovation (what is the project doing that nobody else is doing?); (2) the ability for the initiative to be replicated in another country, by other people; and (3) the long-term sustainability of the initiative. Excel in these three qualities and you will be in contention for a prize!

We will introduce you to the other five members of the 2022 EEPA jury soon – so make sure to visit the Promoting Enterprise News Portal regularly and to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest news.

EEPA Compendium now available!

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In 2021, the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) celebrated its 15th edition and continued to award projects that demonstrate the pinnacle of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe. Despite the continued influence of the global pandemic, with COVID-19 still having an impact on the SMEs and the European economy as a whole, EEPA made sure that the latest innovative enterprise concepts were showcased in the European arena. These innovative concepts have now been gathered in one place – the EEPA Compendium.

Every year the EEPA Compendium showcases all of the projects that were shortlisted in the competition, to celebrate their achievements, while at the same time providing some insight into the Awards process. This year is no different, and the Compendium contains a wealth of information on all of 2021’s shortlisted projects.

In total, there were 204 national projects in the 2021 edition of the competition, from which a shortlist of 47 projects was selected, representing the strongest ideas from across the EU and COSME countries. At the SME Assembly, six projects were awarded as winners in the six competition categories:

  1. Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit
  2. Investing in entrepreneurial skills
  3. Improving the business environment and supporting the digital transition
  4. Supporting the internationalisation of business
  5. Supporting the sustainable transition
  6. Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship

In addition, there was also the Grand Jury Prize along with many interesting runners-up and two special mentions: you can find more information about all of these in the Compendium, where you can also learn more about each of our EEPA jury members as well as the EEPA judging process that goes on behind the scenes.

The Compendium also features feedback from last year’s winners about what winning the prize has meant to them and in addition information on the Grand Jury Prize winners from the last four years.

To find out more about the EEPA, visit the EEPA website and look through the previous compendia from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017.

Initiatives support refugees fleeing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine

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Europe has seen millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine following Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against its neighbour. According to the United Nations, more than 12 million people are believed to have fled their homes in Ukraine since the conflict began, with 7.1 million Ukrainians displaced internally and 5.2 million fleeing to neighbouring countries and beyond. Here on the Promoting Enterprise portal, we reached out to SME Week National Coordinators for information on initiatives being implemented across the EU to support Ukrainian refugees and help them integrate. Read on to find out more!

Source: EU countries preparing to welcome those fleeing Ukraine | European Commission (europa.eu)

English schools across Malta have offered sponsorships for English language courses to Ukrainians arriving in Malta having been forced out of their homes as a result of Russia’s war of aggression. The announcement came after FELTOM, (the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations in Malta) reached out to the Ukrainian Honorary Consulate to offer support to help displaced Ukrainians integrate into Maltese society once they have reached safety in the country.

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Malta can also turn to the country’s Foundation for Social Welfare Services for support. The foundation provides an array of 70 services ranging from domestic violence, human trafficking, child protection, alternative care, substance misuse, psychological services, to mention just a few. Everyone resident in Malta, including migrants, refugees and their children, can avail of the services it offers. In fact, FSWS is in contact with the Ukrainian community in Malta to offer its assistance as the need arises.

Meanwhile in Portugal, Portugal for Ukraine is a platform that acts as a one-stop-shop for information on actions being taken by the Portuguese government related to Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. The platform contains information on international action, humanitarian aid and the integration and hosting of displaced persons in Portugal.

Finally, in the Netherlands, the programme “Docentvluchteling voor de klas”, which roughly translates as “Teacher-refugees back in the classroom”, is being implemented by the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences together with a foundation that works with refugees, schools and other stakeholders. Originally set up to help teachers who fled Turkey for political reasons to get back in front of the classroom in the Netherlands, word is that it will be reshaped to also incorporate Ukrainian refugees. Lessons are aimed at teaching the Dutch language and Dutch teaching methods and systems.

As we receive more information on further initiatives being implemented across Europe to support Ukrainian refugees and integrate them into EU society, we will let you know about them here on the Promoting Enterprise portal, so make sure to check in regularly!

EEPA Category 6: Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship

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We have already introduced you to the first five categories in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). Today, it is the turn of the sixth and final category – Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship. This category aims to reward projects that offer new and innovative solutions and approaches to promote socially and environmentally responsible business. This could include encouraging disadvantaged groups to take part in entrepreneurship initiatives, or promoting corporate social responsibility among small and medium-sized enterprises with a view to creating a more inclusive society.

Let’s take a look at some winners from previous years to get an idea of the type of project that is successful in this category.

The 2021 Category 6 winner was Inkludera from Sweden. Inkludera is supporting social entrepreneurs with unique solutions to scale them and make them financially sustainable. With this in mind, Inkludera supports the entrepreneurs in building partnerships with the public sector. Since 2013, the entrepreneurs Inkludera supports have entered into over 900 partnerships with 108 of Sweden’s municipalities. These partnerships enabled the entrepreneurs to continuously work with 27 200 people in 2020 – addressing various social issues.

The EEPA award is a great testament to the work we have been dedicated to during the past decade and of course a motivation going forward,” the team said, adding: “We believe it’s a great forum for being inspired by other organisations. It’s important to be true to your cause and focused on impact – in your everyday work and in your application.

From Sweden we travel southwest to the Netherlands to introduce you to Social Enterprise NL, the Category 6 winner in 2020. 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 over 400 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.

EEPA participation gave the project a lot of positive attention. “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 team said.

Give the publicity that they received, it is no surprise that the Social Enterprise NL team strongly encourage others to participate. “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!

From the Netherlands, we travel east to Germany to visit the 2019 Category 6 winner Start-Up Your Future. Start-Up Your Future is helping refugees in Berlin-Brandenburg to set up their own businesses by giving them support and offering them the option of self-employment through mentoring partnerships with Gründerpaten. The partnerships invite voluntary mentors to guide refugee entrepreneurs through the start-up process, from brainstorming ideas to writing a business plan.

We regard the nomination for the EEPA Award 2019 as a recognition and appreciation of the work and impact “Start-Up Your Future” has achieved over the last two and a half years in Berlin. Special thanks go to our nearly 200 business mentors, who have contributed so much on a voluntary basis. With their support, SUYF was able to foster entrepreneurial spirits and contribute to the integration of refugees at an economic and social level,” the team said.

It is really motivating to have your work recognised at European level. The award is very important for both national and international visibility for the project and represents an opportunity to disseminate the project and increase its replication potential,” they said, adding, “We would definitely recommend participating in EEPA as it is a good opportunity to exchange experiences and views with other European organisations.”

Judging by the experience of the EEPA alumni, the benefits of participating in the competition are clear. So why not try it yourself? This year it could be your turn to join the EEPA family! If you are interested in participating, check out your national EEPA factsheet with all the information you need here.

For more information, visit the the European Commission website and get the latest updates on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal, and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

EEPA Category 4: Supporting the internationalisation of business

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We have already introduced you to the first three categories in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). Today it is the turn of Category 4 – Supporting the internationalisation of business.

Access to international markets can play a critical role in the success of a start-up. With this in mind, Category 4 in the EEPA recognises projects that make it easier for enterprises, and particularly small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups, to get a foothold on international markets, both inside the EU and around the world, and to benefit from the internationalisation of their business.

Let’s take a look at the type of projects that have succeeded in this category in previous years. The Category 4 winner in 2021 was the Iberian Centre for Research and Forest Firefighting (CILIFO) in Spain. To expand Spain’s and Europe’s firefighting capacity, the Firefighting Open Innovation Lab-CILIFO (FOIL-CILIFO) accelerator is supporting entrepreneurs, technologies, companies and start-ups involved in forest management and forest fire prevention and fighting. The project offers companies the opportunity to test innovative technologies in a real environment, helps them find international partners to replicate their results, and provides legal advice and support in accessing European funding with the help of specialised mentors.

To visit the Supporting the Internationalisation of Business winners in 2020, we need to get on our bikes and head to Portugal, to meet with Portugal Bike Value, which is working to support and promote the potential of the Portuguese bicycle industry, establishing it as a player in the European supply chain. Portugal Bike Value is also promoting Portugal as a destination for foreign investment in the area of soft mobility. By investing in cleaner technologies that have a reduced environmental footprint, the project is also helping to support the European Green Deal.

Participation in the EEPA had a major impact on Portugal Bike Value. “First of all, it gave us a real perspective on the value of the project. Then, this victory gave us a major boost in terms of communication, both in Portugal and abroad. The EEPA awards are highly visible and boost the image of the participants.

So, what advice do the Portugal Bike Value team have for projects that might be considering taking part in this year’s competition? “In our experience, the best advice is – participate. As long as you have a solid, well-developed project, you can only win. The gains that you will receive in terms of experience and contacts with other projects are overwhelming. If you can reach the final, you will gain additional visibility and in the event of victory, then the return is massive.

From Portugal, we head northwards to meet with the Category 4 winners from 2019. HealthTech Nordic is a community of over 230 Nordic start-ups offering digital healthcare solutions designed to empower patients and revolutionise healthcare services. The HealthTech community creates connections between innovative solutions, healthcare and the global market by advancing ideas and pooling resources.

Asked about their EEPA experience, HealthTech were enthusiastic. “Amazing! It was really nerve-wracking sitting in the audience and listening to the presentations of the three category finalists. Both we and the project from the Netherlands were convinced that the Romanian project would win, their film was so good! When we heard our project announced as the winner we couldn’t believe it! Overall it was an amazing evening and experience.”

SME_Assembly_2019_Kanizaj-6271

Winning the EEPA award had a major impact on the project. “I posted about the win on LinkedIn and Facebook and have never before gotten so many comments and congratulations! The project’s lead partner organization Innovation Skåne also published several very engaging posts in social media as well as sent out a widely read press release. We also watched as HealthTech Nordic got increased social media attention after the awards, so that growth has been quite exciting to watch.

Your project could also benefit from EEPA publicity. If you are interested in participating, check out your national EEPA factsheet with all the information you need here.

In our next blog, we will look at previous winners in EEPA Category 5 – Supporting the sustainable transition. In the meantime, if you would like some more information, visit the European Commission website and get the latest updates on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal, and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

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