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SME Week Newsletter 2020-2021: Issue #8

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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 >>

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EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Le Portail du Rebond

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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:

EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Greentech.Ruhr

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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:

EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Portugal Bike Value

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We are back with another European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we brought you the story of our ‘Improving the Business Environment’ winner BIND 4.0 from the Basque Country. Check it out, if you haven’t read it yet.

This time we take a bike ride to Portugal to meet with Portugal Bike Value, winner in the ‘Supporting the Internationalisation of Business’ category. Portugal Bike Value is working to support and promote the potential of the Portuguese bicycle industry, establishing it as a player in the European supply chain. It is also promoting Portugal as a destination for foreign investment in the area of soft mobility. The initiative’s efforts saw exports to more than 50 destinations increase from EUR 226 million in 2011 to EUR 402 million in 2019. By investing in cleaner technologies that have a reduced environmental footprint, Portugal Bike Value is also helping to support the European Green Deal.

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

The first information we received was from AICEP, the Portuguese agency for investment and foreign trade. Then we looked for more details on the internet, where we received a lot of helpful information. The Commission website and News Portal were very informative and from the data we collected, we understood that Portugal Bike Value had a good chance of doing well.

How did you prepare your participation?

Preparations for participation were conducted almost completely internally, within the National Association of Two Wheel Industries (ABIMOTA), using two external consultants who have been involved in the Portugal Bike Value project from the very beginning. This means that it was quite easy to prepare for our EEPA participation.

What was it like to win the award?

First, it was a big surprise. Our job is to work on behalf of our associates, promoting the hardware and furniture sectors and, of course, two wheels and smooth mobility. Until that moment, we had no experience of participating in a contest like this. Later it made us think about the real value of Portugal Bike Value. After winning a prize like this, we could better understand the real value of our project.

How did winning the award impact your work?

First of all, as I said, 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.

Why should others join the EEPA? What advice would you give them?

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.

What are your plans for the future?

The Portugal Bike Value project is concluding its cycle and, therefore, we are developing a new project, where we seek to deepen and build on the experience we have gained and, if possible, do even better.

Congratulations to Portugal Bike Value! Re-live their winning moment and make sure to keep up with their work and activities.

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

EEPA 2020 Testimonial – BIND 4.0 – Basque Industry 4.0 Accelerator Program

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We are back with another European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) winner testimonial! Last time we brought you the story of our ‘Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills’ winner – Merkuur Mobile Workshops from Estonia. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure you do!

This week we are in the Basque Country to meet our ‘Improving the Business Environment’ winner BIND 4.0, a public-private acceleration programme specialising in promoting Industry 4.0 projects. BIND 4.0 is targeted at technological start-ups with 4.0 solutions in the fields of advanced manufacturing, energy, health and food. The programme has been set up as an open innovation platform, where start-ups from all over the world and large industrial companies established in the Basque Country interact in an agile way to develop innovative high-impact projects. The start-ups receive intensive support and benefit from activities aimed at accelerating their development and immersion in the Basque industrial ecosystem.

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

The EEPA are well known throughout Europe for recognising initiatives that improve business at the local, regional or national levels. BIND 4.0 offers something valuable to all parties involved in our programme and our main goals are to increase talent, innovation and competition in our region. We decided to apply and see how we compare to the other incredible initiatives focused on start-ups and business development, and we are quite pleased with the results.

How did you prepare your application?

Our main goal is to contribute to improving the society in which we live through innovation and technology, so we felt our objectives were in line with those of the EEPA. We filled out the application by detailing the impact that BIND 4.0 has had on the industrial and entrepreneurial ecosystem. We explained how our programme is symbiotic; there are benefits for technology start-ups, for the local economy and for established companies looking to collaborate on pilot projects.

What was it like to win the award?

It is a great honour for BIND 4.0 to receive this award from among 13 other stellar candidates throughout Europe. The EEPA is an official recognition of our on-going commitment to business development through the acceleration of start-ups, and of the collaboration between public institutions and private companies. We are thrilled to be acknowledged, at the European level, for our efforts over the last five years.

How did winning the award impact your work?

This award is a source of pride, for consistently accomplishing our goal to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. Since our inception, we’ve accelerated over 100 start-ups and facilitated the development of more than 170 Industry 4.0 projects. This award provides additional validity to our international initiative so we can continue to attract talent to the Basque region and promote collaboration between young start-ups and large corporations.

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

If you would like to see how your programme and efforts measure up against the other programmes being implemented throughout Europe, we recommend applying. The EEPA is a great way to stay informed about impactful programmes, ground-breaking initiatives and the benchmark models in the marketplace.

What are your plans for the future?

The BIND 4.0 Team is currently preparing for the fifth edition of the programme that begins in January 2021. We are also organising a new edition for the post-COVID climate, so we have redesigned the programme to continue supporting start-ups in an online format. The Basque Country is one of the strongest industrial ecosystems in Europe and this award helps enforce the impact BIND 4.0 continues to make toward innovation in entrepreneurship.

We have a positive outlook for the year ahead, as we offer a bridge between flexible, innovative start-ups and proficient, forward-thinking corporates. The COVID pandemic brought numerous significant changes, from establishing remote working conditions to creating new safety measures; we saw innovation in so many new areas. The health and technology innovations this year have been inspiring and are an indication of the direction on which all businesses will need to focus in the year ahead. We feel BIND 4.0 is in the best position to help connect start-ups and corporations and turn innovation into action. 

Congratulations to BIND 4.0! Re-live their winning moment and make sure to keep up with their work and future innovations on their website.

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

EEPA 2020 Testimonial – Open Entrepreneurship

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Here on Promoting Enterprise we are thrilled to bring you the first of our European Enterprise Promotion Award winner testimonials! Throughout this series we will be interviewing the EEPA Class of 2020 to find out more about these outstanding projects, what they do, what winning the awards means to them, their journey to the finals and more.

Let us kick things off with the winner of our first category ‘Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit’. The 2020 winner is “Open Entrepreneurship” from Denmark, who won with their project that connects researchers, investors and entrepreneurs to develop collaborations between them and improve the role of research in startup creation.

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

We were introduced to the EEPA 2020 award via the Danish Chamber of Commerce and decided to enter. They then went on to nominate us for the award at European level.

How did you prepare your application?

The process of preparing the application was an important and sound exercise. We used the application to reflect on our activities, as well as refresh our minds on what the impact and purpose of our project is. These are the elements that we made sure to communicate in our original application.

What was it like to win the award?

It was a great honour to receive this award. We are very proud on behalf of the whole team that includes seven university partners in Denmark.

In the Open Entrepreneurship programme, we work together to help successful entrepreneurs from Denmark and across the globe to come and have a conversation with our researchers – and together we see that this conversation leads to the co-creation and development of some amazing spinouts. We see that this is a great combination as it allows the researchers to focus on what they are good at, namely their research – and at the same time they get resources and the experience from the external entrepreneurs and their network – we see that they inspire each other in both domains.

We are very grateful for the support from our sponsor the Danish Industry Foundation who helped us launch this programme. We also want to thank the Danish Chamber of Commerce for nominating us for this prestigious award.

How did winning the award impact your work and what are your plans for the future?

Open Entrepreneurship winning the award has already gained political attention in Denmark, and we are confident that this alone will support our collaboration across universities and our long-term financial anchoring of the project. Being recognised by EEPA and the European Commission has also strengthened our presence in the Danish innovation ecosystem.

It is of great importance to us, that a project that celebrates the collaboration between seven Danish universities, wins a European level award.

Congratulations to Open Entrepreneurship! Re-live their winning moment below and find out more about their work in the EEPA 2020 Compendium.

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

What is it like to win an EEPA?

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Have you submitted your application for this year’s European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) yet? There is still time to take part! Check your national deadline here.

The EEPA reward those who promote entrepreneurship and small business at the national, regional and local level through a variety of initiatives spanning six individual categories. Winning projects are chosen via a series of rounds including a national competition, a European competition to determine the shortlist and finally an awards ceremony where the prestigious EEPA jury reveal their top choices per category and their selection for the Grand Jury Prize. Find out more about the updates for EEPA 2020 here.

Today on Promoting Enterprise we asked the EEPA Class of 2019 what it was like to win an EEPA and to share their experiences with you right here on the News Portal. Have a read through and re-live their winning moments!

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.

Being awarded with an EEPA prize is a great honour for us. Winning this award shows us that our efforts to successfully establish a target group-oriented offer for refugees who want to become founders have paid off. Special thanks go to our volunteer mentors, who have contributed significantly to this success story. We would also like to thank our founders, who brought this mentoring program alive with their good ideas. Unfortunately, our team could not be present at the SME Assembly so we would also like to thank our EEPA National Coordinator Ms. Kummer from the RKW who represented us and accepted our prize on our behalf. Thank you very much!

We take great pride in winning this award, which stands as another recognition for the accomplishments of our island in the clean energy and environment protection sector. Tilos and its people remain faithful to the vision of sustainable development for the island, welcoming innovation and producing inspiring results for small enterprises and for addressing the problems of the most vulnerable island regions in Europe.

  • TILOS, EEPA 2019 Winner, Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency

Amazing! It was really nerve-wracking sitting in the audience and listen 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!

As I was standing on the podium giving my Thank You speech I just blacked out and completely forgot the name of my project colleague standing next to me. We have worked together for almost 2 years and her name was totally gone. I almost panicked there and then, on stage, so I just admitted that I had forgotten her name! Looking back at the recording I realise that the ‘eternity’ when I blacked out was really just a second or two. After the ceremony so many people came up to me and thanked me for being me on stage, displaying happiness, surprise and passion and for giving them a reason to laugh at this otherwise very formal event. Overall it was an amazing evening and experience.

It was tremendously exciting, as we did not expect it! It was already a huge achievement for us to have passed the national phase and be nominated for the EEPA jury shortlist. We knew that our project was different from past category winners, which tended to be specifically aimed at the creation or development of new companies as opposed to our project which involves indirect support to existing companies. But luckily for us the Jury recognised the impact of our public procurement system on companies and how it allows them to develop their potential as a public supplier, be more competitive and innovative, and receive fair and fast payment for their work.

Winning an EEPA showed us that our path is the right one and implements one of the objectives of public procurement in Europe, as stated by the Commission and the European Parliament in the three Contracting Directives of 2014.  We hope that our win can also serve as an example to others with similar projects to keep going and inspire contracting authorities in particular to undertake similar SME-friendly measures.

The award made the whole of Cyprus proud! It proved that it is not the size of the country that matters, but the ambition, vision and extent of collaboration that count. Through our win we inspired confidence and showed the rest of Cyprus that we can achieve great things in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. We proved that by applying the values of sharing, giving-back and creating opportunities, the benefit comes back to all of us involved. Winning this Award is a noble endorsement from our European Family.  

Being in Helsinki and experiencing the moment was amazing, and even though not all of our team could make it to Helsinki we were all there together in spirit. This illustrates another beautiful side of Europe: In the same way that it brings businesses together, it brings people together, and we are grateful for this.

It was amazing and completely unexpected! We really did not expect to win, and were there because we were nominated by the Belgian delegation. We are super thankful for winning this award, and especially for giving us the chance to meet so many great people from across Europe.

  • Haven, EEPA 2019 Winner, Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit

If you haven’t completed your EEPA application yet, don’t forget that you can ask your national coordinator for support!

Make sure to submit before your national deadline. Note that some of the 2020 national deadlines have been extended, so keep checking your national pages and the News Portal for updates.

EEPA 2019 Testimonial – Improving the Business Environment

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Onto the next category! Today we are meeting the 2019 European Enterprise Promotion Award winner of the “Improving the Business Environment” category, Fomento de la Contratacion Publica con Pymes from Spain. The project was recognised for its work in the Spanish city of Valladolid focusing on giving SMEs opportunities in public procurement.

Since 2015, the City of Valladolid has adopted specific measures to promote and facilitate the participation of SMEs in public sector contracts. The city adapted contracts to the capacity of SMEs, allowing them to acquire valuable experience and credibility that could be re-used when competing in other tenders from other awarding authorities. According to municipal data, the awarding of contracts to SMEs is twice the national and European average, reaching 75% of contracts awarded in 2016 and 2017, and even 81% in 2018, with 51% of the total amount of the municipal expense managed through contracts awarded to SMEs.

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

Our desire to facilitate SME participation in public procurement led us to carry out several activities with the General Subdirectory of SMEs of the Ministry of Industry of the Government of Spain. As such, they informed us about the EEPA competition and encouraged us to participate.

How did you prepare your application?

Since 2016 our work surrounding the improvement of social efficiency in municipal public sector contracts has been under evaluation, and in response to that we put into place procedures to ensure that all awarded SMEs were up to the highest standard. This particular work helped us to prepare our EEPA application and finding the level of detail required. We also drew on past experience and collaborative work with local companies which allowed us to get the support of different local business associations for our EEPA candidacy.

What was it like to win the award?

It was tremendously exciting, as we did not expect it! It was already a huge achievement for us to have passed the national phase and be nominated for the EEPA jury shortlist. We knew that our project was different from past category winners, which tended to be specifically aimed at the creation or development of new companies as opposed to our project which involves indirect support to existing companies. But luckily for us the Jury recognised the impact of our public procurement system on companies and how it allows them to develop their potential as a public supplier, be more competitive and innovative, and receive fair and fast payment for their work.

Winning an EEPA showed us that our path is the right one and implements one of the objectives of public procurement in Europe, as stated by the Commission and the European Parliament in the three Contracting Directives of 2014.  We hope that our win can also serve as an example to others with similar projects to keep going and inspire contracting authorities in particular to undertake similar SME-friendly measures.

How did winning the award impact your work?

Winning the award has put a spotlight on our work and the change that we are trying to bring about for SME involvement in public procurement. The prize not only represents recognition of the teamwork and effort that went into the project, but also that this work has a positive effect on sustainable business development and thus on employment generation.

We have received congratulations and encouragement from fellow colleagues, family and friends, and have also been mentioned in the local media which is quite exciting. It is also nice to see the City Council being recognised as an organisation and being praised for some of the valuable work it does.

It is a shame that the national media has hardly mentioned the award, which has limited its effect in bringing the issue of SME involvement in public procurement to the authorities that need to be made aware.

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

Getting European-level recognition for your work is hugely satisfying, both professionally and personally. But above all it allows the organization in which you work to become more visible in the business and social sphere, with an image of commitment to innovation and sustainable development.

The SME Assembly experience is another great part of EEPA, and allows you to meets other projects and people from across the European Union. It opens your mind to new opportunities and ideas, all within a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

What are your plans for the future?

Internally, we will continue to improve the system based on experience and evaluation, as well as on the ideas and experiences of other entities. Externally, we will try to spread our work and methodology throughout the European Union. We have prepared guides to help other contracting authorities easily incorporate SME involvement in public procurement and to spread awareness about how important it is for SMEs to have opportunities to work with the public sector through contracts. This will allow SMEs to become more competitive and innovative, without incurring more public spending, which highlights our slogan for SMEs: “Don’t subsidise me, buy me”.

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:

French entrepreneurship stronghold wins at EEPA 2016

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15 years of supporting entrepreneurship, the European Enterprise Promotion Award (EEPA) for ‘Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit’, local press coverage and an appearance on Euronews, are just some of the things that the Lyon Ville de l’Entrepreneuriat project has on their list of successes. The winner of the EEPA 2016 Category 1 award has no plans to slow down and today shares with us their EEPA journey, what to expect from them in the future and their advice for being a European level award winning entry.

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

We first heard about the competition through word of mouth and through the website. We have been involved in supporting entrepreneurship for 15 years and through several European programmes we have had the opportunity to share our experiences and enrich our own knowledge with that of our European counterparts. It just seemed like a natural progression for us to present ourselves as candidates for the EEPA prize.

We also saw EEPA as an opportunity to firstly, reward the 50 organisations that engage with and are united by the Lyon Ville de l’Entrepreneuriat network (including 200 experts in entrepreneurship), and secondly, to go further with our sharing of experience with our European counterparts and perhaps even implement some actions together. Once we decided to enter we created a specific internal project team that was in charge of preparing the application.

What was it like to win the award?

We were obviously very happy to receive the prize and really considered it as an acknowledgement of 15 years of engagement and the culmination of a journey. The awarding of this prize came at a moment when we were carrying out a big overhaul of our project model in order to improve on what we have done until now. Winning this prize galvanised us and offered us great opportunities to undertake some meaningful collaborations with our European counterparts and really go beyond just sharing experience with one another.

How did winning the award immediately impact your work and what kind of response did you receive?

It was both internal and external acknowledgement. EEPA allowed us to increase our visibility, in addition to articles in the local press, our initiative was the subject of a Euronews report which was broadcasted in several languages across different countries. It was recognition of both the motivation and engagement of our numerous partners. This prize also gave us the opportunity to begin exchanges with other national and European winners during our time in Bratislava.

Why should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?

It is important to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship beyond our borders, and to share our experiences so that our entrepreneurs can grow. One piece of advice: apply and share as much as possible!

Participating in a competition is a real opportunity to meet and share with initiatives and people, learning from their experiences is very enriching. Of course, if winning the prize is at the end of your competition journey; then it just makes it even better.

What are your plans for the future?

Before winning the EEPA prize, we were working on an ambitious project focused on supporting entrepreneurs, specifically for the development of an innovative numeric platform. We plan to include and work with other European initiatives, with the support of the European Union. At the SME Assembly, Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska mentioned that she wanted to see the emergence of a European ecosystem, and we believe that our project fits in completely with that vision.

Positive discrimination for national SMEs – Portuguese EEPA winner supports national enterprise

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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.

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