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COVID Stories – Smart therapy company icho systems looks forward

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We are back with part two of the icho systems story with CEO Steffen! If you missed part one make sure to go and read that right here on the News Portal. In our last instalment, Steffen introduced icho systems and the first impacts that him and his team felt on the business, including how their decision to re-locate their production at very short notice enabled them to continue even during the first lockdown.  

Today the story continues and we find out what 2020 was like for Icho systems, how they diversified their activities and their plans for the future.

How did you diversify your business in response to COVID-19?

In 2020, ichó was introduced in the professional elderly care sector in Germany. Here, ichó makes an important contribution in supporting the social care of nursing home residents and enhances their quality of life.

As we are still very much in the early stages with our product and ichó is in its roll-out stage, diversifying quickly was a big challenge for us. We have used the time to expand our product range for the many requests from the field of disability care and support for children. We had already identified this potential for diversification a while ago, and saw this as a good opportunity to expand the product range with new apps.

We are currently in various pilot testing stages with ichó in new settings. This includes the rehabilitation of stroke patients as well as speech therapy. The first feedback from the pilot phases looks very promising, but Covid also affects these specific use cases quite significantly and all processes run much slower than usual.

At the same time, we have noticed that our online formats for courses and product demonstrations are much more in demand and much better accepted. We are very happy that we had already gained initial experience in this area in 2019 and were thus able to build on it and continue to improve in 2020.

How do you see the future of your company?

I think we are have not seen the last of, nor are we over the Corona peaks, but overall these times have built up our confidence and resilience. We are very excited about the pilot stages of ichó and the upcoming results with people with disabilities and especially with children. We cannot wait to get going again, and for us that just means working with people directly.

I think that the pandemic has made one thing extremely clear: social care for people in need of assistance is not a luxury, but an essential part of life. I think many people have become aware of this through the periods of forced isolation. As humans we function in communities, we need them, for the social exchange and social environment. If we lack this, we fall apart and develop psychological health problems.

At ichó we all feel that we are on the right track to being able to make a big impact and to create an offering to improve the way we serve this demand. Things are slowly getting better thanks to vaccinations, but we are still far from getting back into a reliable planning mode. This modus may be a strength with young start-ups, but we are still very much looking forward to the first trade fairs and conventions being safely open again.

Thank you to Steffen to sharing the icho story with us! To find out more about icho and what they do, be sure to visit their website.  

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know of inspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs that have pivoted and adapted? Get in touch and help us tell their stories right here on the News Portal.

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

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

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

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your company?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

EntreComp – The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework

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The original article can be found on the EASME website.

The European Union and its citizens are constantly facing new challenges, digitalisation, the environment and equality to name a few. New challenges require new ways of thinking and different perspectives, things that the European Union wants to encourage amongst its citizens. But how can these different perspectives and new ways of thinking be encouraged?

The European Commission has developed “EntreComp”, the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework. It aims to shape an entrepreneurial mindset by identifying its components and creating conversations across different sectors.

The EntreComp Framework includes 15 skills that encompass what is needed to be entrepreneurial. These skills are also further described and mapped, from the most simple to most advanced applications.

New actions funded under the framework

EntreComp Food aims to build a European Collaborative Communities of practice (CoCos) to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship among students and young entrepreneurs in the agrifood sector. 

EntreComp Europe will focus on increasing the quality and uptake of entrepreneurship as a key competence across Europe, in particular on youth work and formal education. 

The projects have received €1 million in funding and will implement their activities over the next three years. Belgium, Slovenia, France, Spain, Italy, Moldova and Turkey are taking part.

Do you want to know more about COSME actions? Then check out the COSME data hub and get insightful information, figures, participant countries, budget and much more! 

The future of physiotherapy – Virgílio Bento

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Today on Promoting Enterprise we meet entrepreneur Virgílio Bento. Virgílio is from Portugal and is the founder of  SWORD Health, a company working to change the future of physiotherapy. Today he shares with us a snapshot of his entrepreneurial story and his “secret of success”.

I became an entrepreneur in 2012 when I finished my PhD. It was clear to me that becoming an entrepreneur would be a more impactful use of my knowledge as opposed to staying in academia. It was then that I began my journey with SWORD Health. The company is building the future of physical therapy by combining AI with high-precision motion tracking sensors. This allows our patients to have access to high-quality physiotherapy without having to leave their homes.

The inspiration for the idea was personal and came from my family’s struggle to get high-quality physical therapy in a very difficult moment of our lives. Both my own personal experience as well as those of the SWORD Health patients and their families is what drives me to do better and achieve more. The company mission has remained the same from the beginning, to democratise the access to high quality physical therapy services with our digital therapists, regardless of the economic or social status of any patient.

Setting up my own business has taught me that talent, resilience and luck are key and you need all three to be successful. My overall ‘secret of success’ is to work smart and work hard, although I do not think it is a ‘secret recipe’; it is an attitude to life. Personally I don’t consider myself successful, and probably never will; there’s always a bigger mountain to climb. You also need to be prepared to make mistakes. I have not failed yet; but the time will come. Failure is not about when, but how one deals with it.

Being an entrepreneur is exciting and unpredictable, so if I could go back to the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I would tell myself to buckle up for one hell of a ride. I believe that the process of innovation is like going into a dark forest and coming out alive on the other side. Despite the inevitable difficulties and challenges of being an entrepreneur, I would advise all potential entrepreneurs to simply persist. It is not going to be easy, but it is well worth it.

Want to learn more about Virgílio’s work? Have a look at the SWORD Health website.

Do you want to be featured on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal? Want to share your entrepreneurial story? Get in touch with us at: promotingenterprise@gopacom.eu 

SME Week Newsletter 2018: Issue #4

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Youth of Europe – Voices of the future

The Youth of Europe have a voice, plenty of ideas and innovative visions of the future, but how can they make their voices heard? The European Commission values the voices of the future and is proud to announce that the SME Week Youth Essay Competition is back, with a fresh question ready to be answered. Keep reading and visit the News Portal for more information on how to enter.

Have a look through this latest edition for all the EEPA updates as well as upcoming entrepreneurial events and remember that we want YOUR stories, so update us for future editions.

Read more >>

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EEPA 2017 Testimonial: “Reempresa” – ‘Improving the business environment’ Winner 2017

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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.

To find out more about Reempresa, read about them right here in the 2017 compendium, and be sure to watch their winning moment from the EEPA 2017 ceremony in Tallinn here.

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.

EEPA 2016 and beyond – The Rotterdam Business Case

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The European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA), provide a chance for many projects to gain recognition on a European stage across a variety of categories. During the selection process and the awards themselves, we get to meet all of these interesting projects and witness their winning moments, but what happens after the awards ceremony? What comes next for EEPA winners? Today on Promoting Enterprise we bring you the story of EEPA 2016 winner ‘The Rotterdam Business Case’, winner of theResponsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurshipcategory. Two years on and the Rotterdam Business Case is scaling up and looking to become a European Business Case, but how have they been working to scale up a successful project to support struggling entrepreneurs? Read on to find out…

Every country needs entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are ambitious, they take risks a  nd create most of the wealth, jobs, and prosperity in a nation. Who helps them however, when they are in difficulty? Who gives them a second chance or the advice they need to be successful? Who makes sure they have options like the customers they serve?

Economic Sustainability

The Rotterdam Business Case, founded in The Netherlands, provides help to struggling entrepreneurs. The project began with the initiation of a pilot in Rotterdam in 2012 to support entrepreneurs operating below the poverty line. The goal was simple; help entrepreneurs to help the economy! Or, in other words: “To increase income and economic sustainability by improving entrepreneurial skills and vision.” The pilot soon became a project – The Rotterdam Business Case – which since then has supported more than 800 entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam region  to get their enterprises back on track. In November 2016 The Rotterdam Business Case was awarded a European Enterprise Promotion Award in the category ‘Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship’. Since being awarded the project has been scaling up, in both the Netherlands and in Finland, where pilots are starting.

‘Young and Old is Gold’

The concept is based on a tripartite cooperation between the University of Applied Sciences, the City of Rotterdam and a foundation made up of successful retired entrepreneurs (OKB). The retired entrepreneurs act as senior coaches for the struggling entrepreneurs by providing  advice and mentoring to overcome obstacles and challenges. Their role is to encourage the struggling entrepreneur to regain control, (re-)captain their entrepreneurial ship and help draw up a re-start plan. The students from the University of Applied Sciences act as junior coaches, and provide practical assistance for the re-start (streamlining/sorting out the administration, drawing up a cost-calculation), drafting of reports to plan out the various aspects of the re-start (business plan or acquisition plan). This successful cooperative approach is described with the slogan ‘Young and Old is Gold’.

Triple Helix for win-win-win

The triple helix cooperation with education, entrepreneurship and government results in a win-win-win-situation on all sides. The university offers internships to students who can practically apply their theoretical knowledge (Win 1), the city/region support entrepreneurs to strengthen the regional/city economy (Win 2) and finally former entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to use and re-use their knowledge and experience to help entrepreneurs in need (Win 3). But the biggest Win of all is of course for the struggling entrepreneur who gets a fair chance to overcome problems and become successful again.

Scaling up in the Netherlands & beyond

Due to the project attracting interest of other cities and regions the founders of The Rotterdam Business Case decided to set up a new foundation: The Dutch Business Case for Entrepreneurs, with funding from a Dutch National Foundation (GAK). The newly formed foundation works with a ‘reversed franchise concept’. New Business Cases in other cities/regions receive methods, systems, support and a 25% subsidy on the condition that they work within the concept of The Rotterdam Business Case. So far six new projects and pilots have started in the cities of Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Eindhoven and the provinces of Friesland, Friesland and Drenthe, with discussions underway for additional cities and regions to start in 2018.

 

First European Step

In 2016 the concept received the EEPA prize, which provided a European ‘stamp of approval’ for the foundation. Since receiving the award, professionals, decision makers and politicians who are enthusiastic about the concept make reference to the EEPA recognition of the Rotterdam Case. This has also helped other cities and regions come forward with their own proposals for applying the concept in their individual contexts.

One of the first results from scaling up is the start of a Finnish project in the City of Tampere. The City, the University of Applied Sciences and a Foundation of Former Entrepreneurs started a partnership to assist first time entrepreneurs using the Rotterdam Concept. The experiences of tweaking a successful Dutch project into a successful Finnish project will be shared later this year so that other cities and regions in other countries can also profit from the concept of ‘Young and Old is Gold’.

For more information on the Rotterdam Business Case and project scale up activities, please contact r.gringhuis@rotterdam.nl

What happens at an EEPA national ceremony? – Let’s look at Germany!

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We have seen the shortlist, and started introducing all the candidates, but what happens before that? What does a national ceremony look like? Today on Promoting Enterprise German National Coordinator Juliane Kummer shares with us what happened at the 2017 German EEPA national ceremony.

The German national awards ceremony 2017 took place on 13 October 2017 in Berlin, as part of the deGUT-fair, one of the most important German entrepreneurship fairs. The ceremony was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and was presented during the fair forum. The two winners “BIRTH – Business Innovation Responsibility and Technology @ Hansenberg” and “Import Promotion Desk” were announced to the visiting public and they received congratulations and a winner’s certificate handed out by the Ministry. Following the award presentation, each winner was invited to present their innovative and inspiring initiatives by giving a short interview on the stage. These two winners had been selected by a national expert jury who evaluated a total of 29 entries in May 2017.

“BIRTH – Business Innovation Responsibility and Technology @ Hansenberg” project, takes a different approach to education and aims to educate secondary school students in the areas of business, natural sciences and ultimately entrepreneurship. The project is divided into different phases and includes business competitions, immersive internships abroad, science clubs and business weeks. Through these activities students are pushed to think like entrepreneurs, work in teams, and work in collaboration with local and national stakeholders. As they advance through school activities become more complex and introduce different skills, allowing the students to develop into competent candidates for the modern labour market.

The “Import Promotion Desk” supports German imports, thus opening the door for SMEs from selected developing and emerging countries to access the European market and develop trade capacities. The aim is to maintain the sustained import of particular products from partner countries, whilst maintaining high quality, social and environmental standards. The IPD brings together European importers, who can optimise procurement and increase product diversity, and exporters as trade partners. Consequently partner country export capacities are strengthened through job creation and income increase. IPD is currently active in the following counties: Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Columbia, Nepal, Peru and Tunisia.

Both projects will be present at the SME Assembly, so if you are interested in finding out more visit their websites and see if you can spot them at the event next month!

 

Where are they now? Business College 20-80 Learning, EEPA 2015 finalist

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What happens to EEPA winners after the ceremony? What do they get up to next? Today Promoting Enterprise is proud to introduce Leny van der Ham, the founder of International Business College 20-80 Learning, a 2015 EEPA finalist. Today she shares with us what her project is about and her exciting updates since being a part of EEPA back in 2015.

20-80 Learning promotes the entrepreneurial spirit of young people, helps them complete their regular education in 80% of the time leaving the other 20% of their time for creative collaboration and personal development. 20-80 Learning focuses on self-development, entre- and intrapreneurship, follow-up study, real life, metacognition and languages. In more than 30 Dutch secondary schools the students complete the standard secondary school course in 4 days a week using 80% of the class time. The remaining 20% is the 20-80 Learning day when students develop metacognition, entrepreneurship and skills for their further education and careers. The 20-80 learning philosophy is now being applied in the fields of business, science, sport and arts, and is receiving widespread positive recognition by the Dutch Ministries of Education, Culture and Science and Economic Affairs.

But what is the goal of 20-80 Learning? Why is it important to reserve 20% of young people’s time for other skills and activities? For founder Lenny van der Ham, the answer is simple and manifold:

To me, every day is so valuable that boredom is unacceptable. An entrepreneur has to be alert to market processes: a teacher is an intrapreneur and must always be aware of his customer and his product, thus there should always be room for innovation in education!”

Through this program she aims to make education not only well-rounded and useful, but to put the fun back into education and provide a space for both students and teachers to experiment and develop. Via this approach the goal is to minimise potential negative effects such as poor performance, negative attitudes to work, negative interaction with teachers, and dropouts from further education.

After such success in the Netherlands, Leny is looking at how to expand her transferable concept on a global scale, and explore the possibilities of setting up accredited campuses across the world.

Interested in the concept? Want to help implement Leny’s global vision and bring this system to teenagers worldwide? Find out more from the website www.20-80learning.nl, and contact nfo@20-80leaening.nl for more information.

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