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Barriers for SMEs on the Single Market

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25 years after its creation, the Single Market is a vast success. It has improved the living standards for EU citizens and 56 million jobs within the EU depend on trade created by the Single Market. Furthermore, it has increased the competitiveness of the European businesses globally and made the EU the largest exporter of goods and services in the world.

Nevertheless, the Single Market is neither perfect nor complete. In fact, increasing regulatory complexity is challenging European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Each year, the amount of national technical regulation keeps piling up which makes it more difficult for SMEs to expand their activities across Europe. At the European level SME’s also experience confusion from partially overlapping rules. This means that SMEs do not necessarily know which rules apply to them – they simply do not understand which rules to follow.

To further increase the complexity of the regulatory environment, the traditional divide between goods and services is also disappearing. From a business point of view, the division between a Single Market for Goods and a Single Market for services no longer exists. In reality, a good is often sold with an accompanying service. Unfortunately, the legislation has not followed this development which often makes the legislation out of touch with reality.

The Single Market was created to benefit citizens and businesses, but too often the legislation is purely made from a law-makers perspective. This leads to rules and procedures that are difficult for the end user to understand and to comply with. Another problem is the lack of focus on digitisation. More user-friendly digital solutions would make life much easier for SMEs. Looking ahead we need to think digital first, but when we digitize we need to think small first.

To address the above-mentioned challenges and to create a less complex Single Market to the benefit of European SMEs, this report suggests the following three approaches to enhancing the Single Market:

A one-stop shop coordinating replies across contact points

European businesses are met by many different portals, entrances and information websites. Some are national, while other are European. Created with the best intentions, these contact points have not succeeded in giving the SMEs an overview of the rules and procedures which they need to comply with, as there are many different contact points, and they occasionally give answers pointing in different directions. There is a need for the European Commission to ensure a one-stop shop in every Member State that can effectively provide businesses with the necessary overview of which rules they need to comply with, how they comply with the procedures, which documents they need to provide, and which authorities they must contact. The information available through the one-stop shop should cover all business-related aspects. The one-stop shop should therefore provide a coordinated answer across the existing contact points established by EU regulations. The one-stop shop will provide a coordinated answer from all the relevant contact points after having coordinated with the competent authorities behind the contact points, thereby making it easier for businesses to understand and comply with the relevant administrative and legislative procedures.

Future legislation made with the end user in mind

All future legislation must be made with the end user in mind. It must be easy to understand which rules and procedures the SME’s must comply with, and the corresponding administrative steps should be easy to follow. Often the procedure rather than the regulation creates problems for the SME’s. Therefore – in order to make the procedures as easy as possible – the end user’s perspective should be incorporated from the drafting stage of the regulation. A specific way of doing this is through so-called “life events” where an end user’s journey through for example an administrative process is mapped step by step. When such processes are mapped, it is possible to see which steps are more burdensome for businesses and where there is a need for simplification.

Legislation that is digital by default

One of the clear advantages of digitisation is how it can reduce the complexity of the Single Market by helping businesses through digital solutions. However, in order to fully reap the benefits of digitisation, it must be taken into account already when drafting new legislation and used to reduce complexity for SMEs. Furthermore, the development of the digital SME Envoy network economy such as Internet of Things, sharing economy and cloud computing will only create a higher demand for digital infrastructure and the very user-friendly solutions set out by legislation. However, it can be difficult to establish user-friendly digital solutions for cross-border businesses due to various factors. One of them being that EU regulation is often created in regulatory silos.

The Single Market is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union. It solves problems and enables trade, jobs and well-being every day. But the time is ripe to take a user perspective on the rules and update them to the everyday reality of businesses and consumers.

Read the full report from the European SME Envoy Network here.

EEPA National Winners 2018 – Improving the Business Environment

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EEPA – The European Enterprise Promotion Awards, recognises outstanding projects from across Europe that are working to support entrepreneurs and small businesses across six different categories.

The next EEPA category is “Improving the Business Environment” which recognises initiatives that support enterprise start-up and growth, and simplify both legislative and administrative procedures for businesses. Have a look through the national winners in this category below and stay tuned until the end of September to see which of these makes it onto the European shortlist!

Austria: Industry-Startup.Net

Finland: Kakola – from a Prison to an Etrepreneurial Base

Iceland: Electronic Company Register

Italy: PLL – Piani Locali per il Lavoro

MaltaSetting of a one-stop-shop customer care service to facilitate simplification for SMEs

Poland: Entrepreneur Package

Romania: Start up Nation Romania

Slovakia: Better Regulation Center

Spain: Open Innovation 4.0.

United Kingdom: Anchoring economic growth in the Tees Valley

Come back to Promoting Enterprise every week to find out about the national winners across the other five EEPA categories: Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit, Investing in entrepreneurial skillsSupporting the internationalisation of businessSupporting the development of green markets and resource efficiency and Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship.

Want to know who will be judging the 2018 projects? Meet the EEPA 2018 Jury here on the Portal!

EEPA 2017 – Business Generator showcases female entrepreneurs

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EEPA 2017 winner Business Generator from Sweden may be on a temporary pause, but they still have many company success stories from the people they helped. Today, project director Anette Rhudin tells us about some of the women involved in Business Generator and their entrepreneurial stories.

A local food application connecting farmers and customers

Kicki is a farmer from Värmland, who had the idea to create an app to make it easier for people to buy food directly from the farmers that produce it. Currently there is no “easy” connection between customers and farmers, and customers are forced to drive to several different farms to get the produce they are looking for. Kicki’s app creates that connection and allows farmers to directly communicate with their audience and promote their goods.

A local hotel benefitting local industry

When Marianne first came to Business Generator she was having a tough time with her hotel business and really needed help. During her time in the generator she learnt a lot and developed great skills surrounding customer questions and marketing. She worked hard and put a lot of money and her time to define her customers and “talk” to them.

As a result of her training with the generator she changed her trademark and developed cooperative relationships with other tourist attractions in this area. Her success has allowed her to expand the number of rooms and bring significant investment to her village. She also makes sure to use décor from the area and offer local food from farmers close to the hotel.

Generational business passes to a female entrepreneur

Anna is now a successful entrepreneur who is the fifth to run the Sahlströmsgården. Anna came to the Business Generator to successfully handle the generational shift and receive assistance with the associated legal changes. She handled all of this whilst still running the company and overseeing daily operations.

At the beginning of Business Generator it was not easy to attract women to take part as they prioritised their businesses and did not see how to make time for generator activities. Eventually some saw the benefits of the generator and joined in to benefit from the support.

Read more about the Business Generator here on Promoting Enterprise and make sure you stay up to date with the EEPA 2018 competition.

Ready to grow with Enterprise Europe Network

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The Enterprise Europe Network is a support network that helps small and medium-sized business (SMEs) grow and innovate internationally. Active in over 60 countries worldwide, the network draws on the skills and services of 3 000 experts from over 600 member organisations to offer business support to SMEs.

Members of the network are varied and include: technology poles, innovation support organisations, universities and research institutes, regional development organisations and chambers of commerce and industry.

Today Promoting Enterprise will be showcasing one specific aspect of the Enterprise Europe Network, their extensive collection of SME Success Stories, which are all available on their website. These Success Stories come from across European Union Member States and COSME countries, and highlight the diversity of innovative businesses in need of financial and business support.

Have look through the Success Stories catalogue and look out for the individual companies across our social media!

Not following us yet? Head on over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to stay up to date on all Promoting Enterprise activities.

Business Generator – Where are they now?

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Today on Promoting Enterprise we are catching up with European Enterprise Promotion Award (EEPA) 2017 winner Business Generator, from Sweden, specifically project coordinator Annette Rhudin. The European Enterprise Promotion Awards reward those who promote entrepreneurship and small business at the national, regional and local level.

The “Investing in entrepreneurial skills” category winner shares the future of Business Generator and what winning an EEPA prize and participating in the EEPA process meant to them.

In an ideal world all European issues would be looked at from a European perspective, like those of SMEs being considered by the European Commission. Through initiatives like the EEPA competition, SMEs have been identified and celebrated as the backbone of European economy and key sources of employment.

The EEPA competition also brings out certain issues that several SMEs face, and the support that projects, like Business Generator, are offering to entrepreneurs and enterprises across Europe. One thing that stood out for me, that has certainly been an issue for Business Generator, is disparity between regions and the need to adapt different strategies. Some regions are experiencing growth and have access to funds and resources, whereas others are struggling to grow and have little to no access to the same resources, like my own region of Värmland in Sweden. The EEPA competition is a fantastic opportunity to see what is going on in Europe, to meet others striving to help SMEs and ultimately gain visibility for the work you do.

The future of Business Generator remains uncertain, and despite coming “top of the class” in Europe, will not continue, for now. The Business Generator team had several meetings at both regional and national level, but the budgets have already been defined and there is no surplus to fund the continuation of Business Generator. Municipal budgets have also been defined, and due to how tight they are, unfortunately there is no room for Business Generator. This is not to say that there is no interest in Business Generator, but for the project to continue interest alone is not enough.

The project itself is new and innovative, and challenges old ways of thinking. Whilst this is the way forward for SMEs it is a daunting investment to make, and when budgets are tight means that it is less likely to receive support. This also represents the current situation in Sweden, where SMEs receive almost no government research and development funding, which is largely distributed to universities, large companies and the public sector.

In comments from the Swedish National Audit Office, SMEs and innovation were recognised “as keys to Sweden’s future growth”, yet the body also stated that only “a minor part of total state aid to the business sector is directed at R&D and innovations as well as at small and medium-sized enterprises”. Whilst this is somewhat disheartening I believe that the solution is to take care of SMEs, and show this through concrete actions.

I hope that there is a future for Business Generator and would be interested to know more about the situation in other countries regarding SME funding. Currently in Sweden, SME’s receive 3,7 % of the state aid, but deliver four out of five new jobs. My wish is that the funding statistics will change and that SMEs can continue to deliver jobs and receive the support they need both at national and European level.

Whilst the Business Generator journey may have temporarily come to an end, I would like to thank the European Commission, for helping to highlight the good work that is going on across Europe through the EEPA competition. Finally, my message to potential future applicants, apply for EEPA 2018, this is an important opportunity and you should take it!

Interested in finding out what happened to some of the companies helped by the Business Generator? Come back soon to find out right here on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal.

Watch the ‘winning moment’ for Business Generator from EEPA 2017:

What is it like to win? EEPA 2017 winners share their experiences

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Past winners have shared their tips for how to prepare for an EEPA submission, and their application journeys and lessons. But what does it feel like to be announced the winner of an EEPA category after putting in so much hard work? How did our past winners feel when they were recognised as some of the best projects in Europe? Today our 2017 winners reflect on their winning moments and what it was like to win the award.

 “Of course it was a surprise! Within an impressive group of finalists which included investor programmes, incubators and accelerators with a long track record, we felt like the underdog. We don’t have a long track record yet, although we have enough data to have an evidence-based method to help innovators. But still we were the new kids on the block, with a crazy new kind of entrepreneurial programme, involving festivals. So for us, winning was an encouragement to keep going and support other regions to make festivals part of their innovations ecosystem.”

Innofest – Grand Jury Prize Winner 2017

“It was incredible! It was an amazing recognition and such a great source of motivation for us to continue our work! I later realised that winning and being identified in front of everyone was really important, because afterwards I was approached by several people who wanted to know more about the project. It was really interesting to be able to speak about our work with so many different people.”

ADIE – Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship Winner 2017

“When we take part in awards of this kind we always want to win or, at least, be a nominee. Due to the time it takes to prepare all of the necessary documentation we rarely take part in these kinds of competitions. The last time we participated in something similar was in 2012 when we participated in an EU Award after being nominated by Austria. This time around, with EEPA, it was even better as not only were we nominated but ended up winning in our category!”

Internationalisation 2015 – 2020 – Supporting the Internationalisation of Business Winner 2017

“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!”

Reempresa – Improving the business environment Winner 2017

“We really wanted to win the European prize, but just because we thought we were the best project didn’t mean that the jury would think the same thing. When Business Generator was announced as the winner, I had a pulse of 1000! Friends who have seen the video of us winning say that I look unmoved, but really I was shocked. Just hearing Sweden mentioned with our project was incredible, I was representing our country!”

Business Generator – Investing in entrepreneurial skills Winner 2017

“When you find out that you are shortlisted of course you start to think “what if…”, but we didn’t expect to win. We were really excited when we did win because it was a complete surprise!”

Enterprise Village – Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit Winner 2017

Would you like the chance to have a ‘winning moment’? Apply for EEPA 2018 before it is too late! Check your national deadlines and read more about past winners.

Watch all of the EEPA ‘winning moments’ and highlights from the SME Assembly 2017 here:

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 2017 Testimonial: Business Generator – Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills Winner 2017

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The 2018 edition of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) is under way and the search for innovative European projects in the fields of enterprise and entrepreneurship has begun. Continuing the series of testimonials from EEPA 2017, Promoting Enterprise presents the 2017 winner in the category ‘Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills’ – Business Generator from Sweden, represented by Anette Rhudin.

How did you first hear about the national competition?

It was the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth that called and asked us to apply.

Why did you decide to enter the national competition?

Our main motivation for entering was that we wanted more people at the national level to know how we could make difference, and we wanted the national media to write about it. We decided to enter because Business Generator identified a gap in the strategic management process for SME companies, as well as a way to reach SMEs and provide them with useful skills for their daily lives as entrepreneurs. Our intention was to communicate this “gap”, not just in our region, but throughout Sweden. We thought that being National Winners could be a “shortcut” for us, meaning that the Swedish media would address the issue of SMEs and the potential they have in Sweden.

How did you prepare your application?

We spent a lot of time compiling and identifying the reasons behind our project. We wanted to make it easy to understand the complexity of what we do and, of course, to find out what exactly makes us successful.

One of our goals with this project was to actively communicate our results, so preparing the EEPA application was actually very useful and a good way to combine both our communication goal and competition preparation. We interviewed the participating companies and gathered their comments and thoughts about their experience in the project, which was of great help.

What was it like to win the award?

When we found out that we were the national winners we hosted a midsummer party, to inform everyone about the prize that we were competing for and to celebrate our national win. It´s in Swedish, but you can see how emotional everyone was, both laughing and crying. It was a great party! 

We really wanted to win the European prize, but just because we thought we were the best project didn’t mean that the jury would think the same thing. When Business Generator was announced as the winner, I had a pulse of 1000! Friends who have seen the video of us winning say that I look unmoved, but really I was shocked. Just hearing Sweden mentioned with our project was incredible, I was representing our country!

My own experience of the SME Assembly was overwhelming. There were so many people with the same interests, which gave us a lot of input and a chance to see the differences between countries. This experience gave me a lot to think about and made me realise that Sweden still has a lot of work to do. One evening we talked to representatives from Britain who told us about their own situation and how young entrepreneurs are leaving the UK. This conversation in particular really helped us to understand what the work being done by the EU can mean for all the people in Europe.

How did winning the award impact your work?

When we became National Winners there were big articles in our local newspapers, but the national papers wrote nothing. After speaking to national radio I learnt that EU issues are rarely covered in Swedish media due to their complexity. This is a shame because our region of Värmland is classified as one of the poorer growth regions in Sweden, meaning it needs some praise and attention in the Swedish media.

When we won EEPA, social media exploded. It was shared and there was so much gratitude and so many congratulatory messages that we were unable to follow all the threads! In addition, all co-financing municipalities and banks wrote about the win on their websites and social media. Wherever we were, there was always someone telling us how proud they were of our achievement. Even though the Swedish media did not pick up on it as much as we would have hoped, at least people in our sphere seem to really like it and appreciate our efforts.

Why should others enter EEPA 2018? What advice would you give them?

The prize itself is valuable, but so is the opportunity to see how projects in other countries deal with the same issues and questions. You can see differences in financial solutions, project launches and how each country has their own solutions and plans, all of which are the best across Europe.

Another thing to think about is communication. I was so impressed with the communication throughout the SME Assembly! It was really professional and each country was provided with perfect PR. However, there must be media in the home country that receives it, and that is where you need to plan before you go the SME Assembly. We experienced something very extraordinary and I am so grateful. All the people we met, all the information we got, all the big ideas we heard about were so interesting. But if I could do it again, I would have planned more beforehand and talked more to those people that could be useful in the future.

If you like to see how it is possible to change things in a society, then EEPA is a perfect event! I can´t see any better way to be exposed to these kinds of solutions and questions than the EEPA competition.

What are your plans for the future?

The project Business Generator ended in December 2017 and unfortunately the owner of the project, Inova, ended at the same time. Business Generator was completed as a project, but was far from ready to “fly” on its own. There is still a lot of work to be done in packing, launching and finding public funds in combination with the participating company’s own financing, in order to create a viable Business Generator. We have other programmes in our region, like mentor programmes which are based on people giving their time for free. Our project charged a very low fee for those involved in the Business Generator, meaning that we became a threat rather than an opportunity.

We were hoping that another organisation would take the concept further, but this has not happened yet. In Värmland there are around 7,540 SMEs, all of which need more support and resources, so even though the future of Business Generator is uncertain I hope there will be a way for our project to come back.

To find out more about Business Generator, 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.

Invest Week 2017

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Inspiring the future with today’s success stories

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What does it take to be an entrepreneur? What comes after the Junior Entrepreneur experience? Where can we learn more about the inspirational entrepreneurs of the future? Today Promoting Enterprise has the honour to present the success stories booklet from JADE, the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises.

The booklet aims to inspire the next generation of leaders, by showcasing successful alumni from the Junior Enterprise network. In the booklet the alumni share the lessons learned as Junior Entrepreneurs and their impact on today’s businesses. They all had the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills and mindset through the Junior Enterprise concept and this helped them to advance their careers as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs.

Entrepreneurship is not only a set of skills but a spirit that enables you to turn ideas into actions. It is with those skills and this spirit that the JADE junior entrepreneurs can truly have an impact on society and co-create the future.

The following success stories are designed to inspire and provide life lessons, and are a gift to the network from the alumni.

For the last 25 years JADE has been contributing to the development of entrepreneurship among Europe’s youth by spreading a unique concept: the Junior Enterprise, a non-profit organisation, formed and managed exclusively by undergraduate and postgraduate students of higher education. They provide services for companies, institutions and society, under the guidance of teachers and professionals with the goal of consolidating and enhancing the learning of their members. Junior Enterprises are similar to real companies, with components such as corporate governance (e.g. management council and executive board), and self-regulation.

By connecting a network of 300 Junior Enterprises in 14 European countries and supporting the growth of its 22 000 members, JADE is one of the most powerful European youth organisations that fights skills mismatch and creates great potential for a more entrepreneurial society and active citizenship. After 25 years, JADE is actively working to spread the concept of Junior Enterprise to more countries, to give this unique opportunity to more students. Outside Europe, Junior Enterprises are present in around 40 countries, with over 40 000 Junior Entrepreneurs across the world.

Interested in what JADE does? Interested in knowing more about the Junior Enterprise Concept? Dive in, and meet former Junior Entrepreneurs that turned what they learnt during their Junior Enterprise experience into a successful career!

For more information visit the JADE website: www.jadenet.org

Still got questions? Contact JADE to find out more: communication@jadenet.org

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