Welcome to the latest edition of the SME Week Newsletter
SME Week 2022 has concluded – and what a week it was! In this issue of the SME
Week newsletter, we keep the spirit of SME Week alive by bringing you all the news
from the event, including highlights from all three days of the SME Assembly 2022,
the results of the European Enterprise Promotion (EEPA) Awards, the European
Small and Mid-Cap Awards and this year’s Youth Essay Competition.
Another big attraction at this year’s SME Assembly was the Schumpeter ‘Innovation
in Enterprise’ Lecture, delivered by Professor Luc Soete, Dean of the Brussels
School of Governance, you can read more about it below.
Also in this issue, we introduce you to some of the entrepreneurs from Secrets of
Success 2022–2023: 33 Under 33 and to some innovative Ukrainian companies that
are managing to make an impact despite the devastation caused by Russian
aggression in their country.
Finally, we would like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to the SME Week community for
your participation and support – it is thanks to you that the event goes from
strength to strength every year.
As always, we look forward to hearing from you too – so please share with us
stories that you believe will be of interest to the wider SME community, along with
your news and updates to be featured in an upcoming newsletter, or on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal.
The third and final day of the SME Assembly 2022 had a full morning of sessions, panel discussions and the awaited Youth Essay competition, which 20-year old Hulgarian Viktória Vass won!
The morning panel “New Ways of Working” explored the best practices that SMEs can adopt to upskill their workforce and equip. One of the 33 under 33 Stories of Succes Kosima Kovar said: “If we want our future to be a masterpiece, we need to give our artists more colors to paint with than just what it takes to create blue suits and brown shoes.”
In the policy workshop “Green Investment”, the investing in green and renewable energies was discussed and how it has never been more critical.
The session “Rise of the Creative Class” heard from Alessandro Rancatci, former Senior Policy Designer, who discussed the challenges around sustainable transition for SMEs.
A highlight of the final day of this year’s SME Assembly was the presentation of the top three essays by the finalists in this year’s Youth Essay Competition, with feedback from the Chair of the Youth Essay Jury and Kristina Dimova, 2021 Youth Essay Competition winner.
After the presentations, the audience voted on the winning essay, with the prize going to Viktoria Vass. Congratulations to Viktoria for her exceptional essay!
You can find out more about her essay and the other two YEC 2022 finalists here.
The final discussion on Day 3 of the SME Assembly focused on SME Economic Performance. Speakers shared and explored recently published data on the performance of SMEs in 2022 with a view to discussing how which priority policy measures need to be better implemented or designed to help SMEs meet the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions.
“SME Definition in Practice” workshop aimed to discuss the implementation of the existing SME Definition, its usefulness and applicability in the current situation. Policy makers focused on problematic areas that Member States face when implementing the SME definition. The main two topics were relations through natural persons and practical impacts and experience with judgement T745/17 Kerkosand.
Policy Conclusions of SME Assembly 2022 took over in Hall C of O2 Universum with most of the participants to finalise the successful event with the debate and exchanges of this year’s Assembly. Speakers and attendees shared concrete ideas that have been put forward for the SME Relief Package; as well as their prescriptions for the longer-term transition to a digital and net zero future.
SME Assembly 2022 is over, but learned so much for the future of SMEs and cannot wait to see the next actions will be.
Meanwhile the torch has been handed over to Spain! We are looking forward to seeing you all again next year in Spain.
Her essay responded to the question: “Our European economies are highly dependent on fossil fuel energies. How can future young entrepreneurs contribute to a more sustainable economy?’’
“It is quite clear that each European state has its own, so far mainly-unexploited energy potential. But what is even more important is co-operation. The aim should be bringing all these individual resources into a large integration, where social equality and a greener future can be achieved under democratic circumstances.”
In her essay, she argued that our continent is full of other energy possibilities, and we should work together to maximise their potential. She emphasised how “we should not think of a Europe powered by green energy as a far-fetched dream any longer.’’
‘’What we youngsters can do is accelerate this transformation by being more enthusiastic and open towards other potential commercial partners, and by being willing to break conventional norms.”
Her victory was decided by an expert jury and a public vote by SME Assembly participants. The two other finalists were Danijel Bačan from Croatia, and Cosmin-Alin Botoroga from Romania.
Note to editors:
Each year the SME Week Youth Essay Competition (YEC), gives 18-25-year-olds, who are a citizen of a country that participates in the COSME – EU programme, a platform to share their bright ideas with key figures and stakeholders involved in the enterprise, entrepreneurship and SMEs.
This 7th edition of the competition welcomed over 30 essays.
To learn more the Youth Essay Competition finalists and read all the finalists’ essays, visit the Promoting Enterprise blog.
How export-oriented Ukrainian companies adapt to the war: the experience of the wooden pallet manufacturer
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian business has suffered significant losses. According to the survey conducted by the Ministry of Digital Transformation, about 40% of enterprises have been stopped or are on the verge of closing, and the total direct losses of small and medium-sized businesses since February 24 are estimated at more than one hundred billion dollars.
Among the main problems that prevent the recovery and development of business during the war are a small number of paying customers, the unpredictability of the situation in the country, and the lack of sufficient capital.
Some companies were completely destroyed or damaged due to shelling, some began a long process of relocating production facilities, whilst others faced fuel shortages, reduced demand and broken supply chains.
According to the survey of the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting, as of the summer of 2022, about 40% of the surveyed enterprises stopped exporting goods abroad. Small and medium-sized businesses prevail in these statistics. For them, among other things, in contrast to the big enterprises, it is more difficult to diversify product supply routes.
One of such companies is Eco Energy, manufacturer of wooden pallets. Prior to the full-scale invasion, the company supplied almost one hundred percent of its products to China, South Korea, and European countries.
“In the first months after the start of the war, it was partially possible to export products to Germany. All other contracts, in particular with China, had to be terminated, because now we can’t transport goods from Ukraine by sea due to blocked ports. And doing it through a third country is very expensive and not profitable,” Nataliya Parakhina, the company’s director, says.
Eco Energy is an enterprise in the Vinnytsia region that has been operating since 2004. Initially, they were engaged in the production of wooden-aluminum windows. At that time, they were one of the three Ukrainian manufacturers of such products. However, in 2012, due to a decrease in demand for expensive goods, they started producing wooden pallets.
Such pallets are auxiliary packaging made of boards and bars, intended for automatic loaders and cargo transportation in sea containers.
“Pallets are used, inter alia, by companies that manufacture food products, cardboard factories – absolutely anyone who needs to store and transport products on pallets. Companies that manufacture pallets themselves also buy pallet blanks from us abroad”, Nataliya explains.
Production under non-standard requests
The main advantage of Eco Energy is that they can produce pallets of non-standard sizes according to individual drawings of customers.
“We can make pallets of any size, thickness, and height. Our equipment allows us to do this. There are only a few manufacturers on the market. For example, we had an order for pallets for a brick factory in Germany. There are specific parameters, but this is not a problem for us,” the company’s director says.
The European market is currently key for the company, Nataliya Parakhina explains, because the culture of using pallets for packing and transporting products is not yet so developed in Ukraine. In order to find new partners, the company took part in the project on the search for international partners implemented by the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the “EU4Business: Competitiveness and Internationalisation of SMEs” programme. It is jointly financed by the European Union and the German government and implemented by the German federal company Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. In the framework of the initiative, the company started working with a business consultant.
Effectiveness of business consultations
“We cooperate with the business consultant online, and this work is very efficient. I’m grateful to everyone involved in this programme for the consulting support. We have developed a personalised roadmap for our business to enter the Western markets. It is important that each piece of advice is specifically related to our business,” Nataliya says.
Thanks to the consultations, Eco Energy was registered on various platforms for finding B2B partnerships in order to find new customers and organise its work. Currently, the company has started cooperation with a large cartographic factory in Ukraine. And in the near future, they hope to resume the export of their products, because the enterprise gives jobs to more than fifty employees, some of them being internally displaced persons.
The second day of SME Assembly opened with the European Commissioner for Internal Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Thierry Breton. In his speech, the commissioner emphasized that although we’re facing challenging times, he is hopeful. As we faced earlier crises together, we can also face this & future ones.
Mr. Breton also introduced the SME Relief Package, which was announced by the President of the European Commission, which will focus on three main areas: combatting late payments, better regulations and access to finance.
Commissioner Breton reassured that “SMEs are the beating heart of our Single Market economy”.
The Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, Mr. Jozef Sikela, followed with his speech and highlighted the importance of working together on advancing the strategic resilience of the European economy, especially during challenging times.
The president of SMEUnited Petri Salminen took the stage to share his views on the world of business: “at this brutal time, we must guarantee the preservation of our economy, the backbone of Europe; the SMEs”, he said.
The official opening was followed by a series of simultaneous panel discussions, policy workshops and masterclasses on a range of topics.
Participants in the “Sustainable Enterprise” Panel discussed rewriting the rules with a view to replacing endless growth with regenerative and distributive economies.
The session No Net Zero without SMEs marks the launch of DG ENER’s new pilot initiative, the EU Covenant of Companies for Climate and Energy, which aims to encourage and support companies, particularly SMEs, to step up their contribution to a clean energy transition.
In the SME Assembly 2022 the session for the Digital transformation of SMEs included discussions and recommendations to help SMEs realise the full potential of digitalization.
After a networking coffee break, the Assembly restarted with a participatory session we revisited the Stories of Success: 33 Under 33. Kosima Kovar, Marzio Schena, Evi Oivanen and Marc Rovira shared how Young Entrepreneurs face the challenges of today.
More sessions came for a full day at the SME Assembly, where participants attended: EEPA Session was Supporting the Sustainable Transition and the session “The new normal” about how the SMEs have to be agile & adaptable to face uncertain times and big changes.
At SME Assembly 2022, there is an EXPO which showcases some of the best and most innovative projects from Czech businesses.
Other sessions in the afternoon included a panel on The Supply chain security that session rased questions about the impact of the Russian aggression against Ukrain and geographical crises on SMEs. How have the European supply chains been affected by it? And how can we ensure future stability?
The session for the Innovation procurement (European Innovation Council) and Aerospace Technology & Data: Opportunities for SMEs also took place.
How to engage with and deliver to the supply chains creating new technologies was also discussed on the session Circular Economy: Strengthening the Resilience of the EU Economy, followed by the session regarding Mentoring Momentum: Fostering Female Entrepreneurship and SME Test Project: Key Findings.
This evening, we celebrated the 10th edition of the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards, organised by the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE), EuropeanIssuers and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs during the SME Assembly in Prague (Czechia).
The final event on Day 2 was the European Commission reveals winners of European Enterprise Promotion Awards – EEPA. Congratulations to the winners from: Belgium, Poland, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Greece and France. Please read the full review of the winners clicking here.
What’s in store for Day 3? Follow the live streaming or take a look at the live coverage on Twitter via @EEPA_EU. Remember to use #SMEAssembly2022 to be featured on the feed and check out the all the photos on Flickr! Haven’t registered yet? Last minute registrations are still possible but be quick! You can register here.
Belgium, Poland, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Greece and France are winning countries for EEPA Awards 2022.
Today during the yearly SME Assembly, the most important event for small and medium enterprises in Europe, the European Commission announced the winners of the 2022 European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). The initiative recognises and rewards outstanding initiatives that support entrepreneurship at national, regional and local level.
GRAND JURY PRIZE
The Grand Jury Prize, which recognises the most creative and inspiring initiative promoting entrepreneurship, went to Belgium:
Project: Love to be Free by UNIZO (also a Winner in Category 2 – see below)
The other Winners are as follows:
CATEGORY 1 – PROMOTING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT Recognises initiatives at national, regional or local level that promote an entrepreneurial mindset especially among young people and women.
Project: Entrepreneurial Kids by the Municipality of Lublin
Entrepreneurial Kids is an economic education programme that supports creativity and stimulates entrepreneurial skills among children aged 6-10. The aim of the project is to shape entrepreneurial attitudes and develop among children the skills that will be sought in the labour market which, in turn, contribute to the development of their professional careers. The project is innovative not only in the region but also in Poland.
CATEGORY 2 – INVESTING IN ENTREPRENEURIAL SKILLS
Recognises initiatives at national, regional or local level to improve entrepreneurial, managerial and employee skills.
Project: Love to be Free by UNIZO (Organisation for SMEs and Self-Employed in Flanders)
Love to be Free connects and represents freelancers in Belgium, offering events and workshops. To give online events live experience participants receive a lunch at home. One event, Freelance Friday has become a live studio show. With the introduction of an online hourly rate calculator, the uncertainty of freelancers about their hourly rate was addressed. The initiative also represents the interests of freelancers to propose an optimal framework to policymakers.
CATEGORY 3 – IMPROVING THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT & SUPPORTING THE DIGITAL TRANSITION
Recognises innovative policies and initiatives at national, regional or local level, which render Europe the most attractive place to start a business, operate it, make it grow and scale it up in the Single Market, simplify legislative and administrative procedures for businesses and implement the “Think Small First” principle in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises and support the digital transition of enterprises enabling them to develop, market and use digital technologies, products and services of any kind.
Project: LifeSciences@Work Venture Challenge by Health-Holland and Topsector LSH
LifeSciences@Work Venture Challenge helps life researchers translate their research into a solid business case that forms the basis for a biotech or medtech start-up. The Venture Challenge works with highly experienced business coaches with hands-on experience in the industry, life sciences start-ups and venture capital. Since 2008, more than 150 teams have participated and most of them have successfully started a biotech or medtech company.
CATEGORY 4 – SUPPORTING THE INTERNATIONALISATION OF BUSINESS
Recognises policies and initiatives at national, regional or local level that encourage enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, to benefit more from the opportunities offered by markets both inside and outside the European Union.
Project: Diia. Business by the Entrepreneurship and Export Promotion Office
Diia.Business is a large-scale project for the development of entrepreneurship and exports. The project’s main objectives are to increase the level of entrepreneurial skills in conducting business both in Ukraine and in foreign markets through educational programmes and webinars. Another aspect is the innovative “hotline” to help Ukrainian forced migrants in neighbouring EU countries find a job, open a business, or temporarily move their business.
CATEGORY 5 – SUPPORTING THE SUSTAINABLE TRANSITION
Recognises policies and initiatives at national, regional or local level that support the sustainable transition and support environmental aspects such as the circular economy, climate neutrality, clean energy, resource efficiency or biodiversity through, for example, sustainable skills development and matchmaking as well as funding.
Project: Energy Cooperative WEnCoop by the Halkidiki Chamber and the Greek Association of Women Entrepreneurs – SEGE
Energy Cooperative WEnCoop, is the first energy community for women entrepreneurs in Greece. Their purpose is to develop female entrepreneurship whilst addressing energy poverty, promoting sustainability, and investigating how to produce and supply energy efficiently at a local and regional level. The cooperative operates a photovoltaic park; the energy produced is to be used in electromobility actions and free quantities are allocated to vulnerable population groups.
CATEGORY 6 – RESPONSIBLE AND INCLUSIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP Recognises national, regional and local initiatives by authorities or public/private partnerships that promote corporate social responsibility among small and medium sized enterprises. This category also recognises efforts to promote entrepreneurship among disadvantaged groups such as unemployed, especially long term unemployed, legal migrants, disabled or people from ethnic minorities.
Project: La French Tech Tremplin by French Tech
La French Tech Tremplin is a programme that promotes social diversity by supporting aspiring entrepreneurs from tougher backgrounds with funding, training and mentorship. The project provides a gateway to these entrepreneurs otherwise being far from entrepreneurship, to create their start-up anywhere in France. This brings social diversity to the French start-up scene.
A complete overview of the 2022 EEPA Awards cycle, winners, runners-up and special mentions are available here.
The European Enterprise Promotion Awards – EEPA 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 reveals their top choices per category and their selection for the Grand Jury Prize. The geographical scope of the competition spans the 27 Member States of the European Union as well as Associate Countries in the COSME programme: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine and Iceland.
Find out more about the EEPA 2022 and the shortlist here.
This evening, we celebrated the 10th edition of the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards, organised by the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE), EuropeanIssuers and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs during the SME Assembly in Prague (Czechia).
The Awards highlight excellent SMEs from across the EU that have accessed capital markets via an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the preceding two calendar years. They display the diversity of European markets and aim to promote stock listings on EU public markets, in particular targeting SMEs and growth companies.
Nominated companies are assessed by an independent, expert jury via four categories:
- the Star of 2022, awarded to an outstanding corporate citizen that stands out in a broad range of areas (e.g. ESG, financial and economic performances, reputation) as an exceptional leader in its class
- the Star of Innovation, awarded to a newly listed small or mid-cap company that places innovation (i.e. in corporate strategy and/or marketing strategy and/or the use of new technology) at the centre of its strategy for business development
- the International Star, awarded to a newly listed small and mid-cap company that boasts impressive results in terms of international sales, profit and market share growth
- the Rising Star, awarded to an SME with a market capitalisation up to €200m that displays remarkable growth potential
The Jury also assigns a Special Mention, to recognise an initiative, an individual or a company that has had a significant impact on small and mid-cap issuers accessing capital markets.
And the winners are…
Star of 2022
GreenVolt (listed on Euronext Lisbon) is a leading Portuguese renewables company operating across three segments: (1) Biomass; (2) Utility scale wind & solar projects; (3) Distributed generation. In Portugal, GreenVolt operates 5 electricity biomass plants (98 MW installed capacity) using exclusively forestry residues and, in the UK, holds a waste wood plant (42 MW installed capacity). GreenVolt is also a major EU developer of utility scale wind & solar projects.
Star of Innovation
SECO (listed on Borsa Italiana ) is a centre of excellence in the field of innovation and technological integration. It develops and manufactures cutting-edge technological solutions, from miniaturized computers to fully customized integrated hardware-software systems. SECO also offers Clea, a proprietary end-to-end IoT (Internet of Things) AI analytics software suite that allows customers to gather real-time data from their on-field devices.
NACON (listed on Euronext Paris) was founded in October 2019, following the consolidation of all components of Bigben Gaming Division into a new entity. The company specialises in the development and publishing of so-called AA video game software (games with sales of between 0.2 and 3 million copies) in both physical and digital format across the action/adventure, racing, sports, and simulation genres.
EiDF (listed on BME, SIX Group) was founded in 2008 and is based in Galicia. The Spanish company specialised in photovoltaic (PV) solar energy installations. Its main activity is energy self-consumption aimed at small and large companies in order to offer them an efficient and profitable saving alternative with which to reduce energy costs and improve their competitiveness.
Rosinger Group (nominated by Wiener Börse) is an internationally successful financial group, which is operating as both professional investor and independent specialised advisory service, it facilitates access for SMEs to capital, know-how and a network of contacts, focusing on IPOs, listings, financial engineering, corporate finance and strategy.
Merete Clausen, Director Investment, Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, commented: “Access to public capital markets is key for the growth of EU companies and complements the support offered by private sources. The quality of the nominations this year was impressive, and the Jury has done a great job. The awarded SMEs stood out because of their growth performance, the innovativeness of their business models, the products or services they offer, or their successful internationalisation strategy. I hope the awarded companies will inspire other European businesses to take the leap and seek access to the EU capital markets.”
Petr Koblic, President of FESE, added: “Many congratulations to this year’s winners. Even if ultimately we only crowned one winner per category, being listed on capital markets is already a big achievement – one that makes every public company a winner in their own right. These Awards showcase successful IPOs from all over Europe and provide clear examples of the advantages of listing on exchanges for companies seeking to access finance.”
“SMEs are the foundation of the European economy. They are vitally important in creating jobs, supporting growth and boosting innovation. Supporting companies such as those celebrated last night to grow is essential to the green and digital transitions.”
Luc Vansteenkiste, Chairman of EuropeanIssuers, commented: “Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the European economy. They are vitally important in creating jobs, supporting growth and boosting innovation. It is pleasing that the CMU Action Plan includes important actions to help these companies support their journey through their access to finance on capital markets. The challenge for the future is to find the perfect balance between the need of European harmonization and the respect of the local SME’s specificities.”
“Today’s award ceremony showcases example of successful small and mid-cap companies, they are an example of vision and courage to go for stock exchange in order to make their companies grow and prosper. So let me congratulate them and wish them a successful future.”
You can find out more about the European Small & Mid-Cap Awards website.
The SME Assembly 2022, the most significant event for Europe’s SMEs has finally begun. The three-day programme, packed with panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses and award ceremonies, got off to a fantastic start on 28 November in the beautiful Czech capital of Prague.
The O2 Universum was the first stop for the SME Envoy network, which brought together envoys from across the EU to promote SME-friendly regulation and policy-making in all EU countries. The delegates discussed how SME cooperatives could thrive during these challenging times.
At SME Assembly 2022, there is an expo which showcases some of the best and most innovative projects from Czech businesses.
The SME Assembly delegates enjoyed an exciting visit to the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). Market and user intelligence, support, officer creation and innovation are just a few of the reasons why SMEs should be innovating with EUSPA, which supports startups to develop solutions, connect with investors, get advice and find customers.
In case you haven’t heard about the EU’s activities in space, it includes (among others) Galileo, the global satellite navigation positioning system (GNSS) & EGNOS, which makes navigation signals more accurate and trustable for safety critical application.
The highlight of Day 1 was the Schumpeter’ Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture. Professor Luc Soete took the stage at the Municipal house of Prague to give his presentation, which debated the role that small and medium enterprises play as essential drivers of innovation and growth.
Dr Soete’s speech focused on the importance which innovative SMEs play in being engines of transformation for the European economy. The Dean of the Brussels School of Governance asked whether there is today a shortage of new ideas/knowledge on how to achieve sustainable development, or is there rather a shortage of innovative entrepreneurs willing to take risks, and who are prepared, in periods of great uncertainty, to challenge incumbents who are often locked into fossil-fuel modes of production playing for time to write off their capital.
“We do not need political activists gluing themselves to old paintings, but need Schumpeterian entrepreneurs gluing themselves to new ideas,” said Prof. Soete
Professor Soete believes that SMEs and entrepreneurs have a key role in bringing new ideas and innovative ways of thinking to sustainability challenges, which threaten our environment.
You can find all about Professor Soete here.
Speaking at this year’s annual Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture which took place in Prague, Professor Luc Soete, Dean of the Brussels School of Governance, emphasised the critical importance which innovative SMEs play in being engines of transformation for the European economy, but asked whether there is today a shortage of new ideas/knowledge on how to achieve sustainable development or is there rather a shortage of innovative entrepreneurs willing to take risks, and who are prepared, in periods of great uncertainty, to challenge incumbents often locked into fossil-fuel modes of production playing for time to write off their capital.
“We do not need political activists gluing themselves to old paintings, but need Schumpeterian entrepreneurs gluing themselves to new ideas,” said Prof. Soete.
Professor Soete believes that SMEs and entrepreneurs have a key role in bringing new ideas and innovative ways of thinking to those sustainability challenges which threaten our environment.
His inspiring Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture set the mood for this year’s SME Assembly which debated the role that small and medium enterprises play as essential drivers of innovation and growth.
At each SME Assembly, a leading economist delivers the Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ lecture to inspire the opening day of this ‘must attend’ event for Europe’s SMEs & entrepreneurs, and those that support them.
Previous lecturers have included Nobel Prize winners such as Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor of the Columbia University, and Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj of the University of Ljubljana.
To discover more about the SME Assembly and the European SME week check the link here.
Dr Soete’s research focuses on innovation and technology and policy and measurement-related issues surrounding both.
In addition to his work in academia, Dr Soete is a member of the European Commission’s Economic and Social Impact of Research (ESIR) expert group and a co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).
An internationally acclaimed economist, Dr Soete has written numerous book chapters, and articles. He has also received numerous awards, including a Maastricht School of Management Honorary Fellow Award (2002); Commandeur in de Kroonorde (2007); and a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Ghent (2010).
Read more about Dr Soete and follow up on the online event by downloading the Promoting Enterprise app, where you can view his lecture, as well as other presentations from the SME Assembly. And if you want to have a look at Dr Soete’s full presentation, click here.
Do you remember the feeling when you get to the airport? You seem to find yourself inside a large complex living mechanism of various organisations and service companies with thousands of employees. Technical support, emergency and rescue services, loaders, crews, warehouse facility and dozens of others. All of them are tightly intertwined, the comfort and safety of the transportation of passengers, luggage, and cargo depend on their well-coordinated work. Fast and high-quality communication between all chains of this mechanism plays a huge role.
Communication at a sky-high level
INPUT SOFT is a Ukrainian startup developing a SaaS platform for optimisation of human and technical resources and data analysis in airports.
The company was founded by Anastasia and Andriy Smyk and Valentyn Zavadskyy in February 2021. All of them had worked in aviation for many years before starting the business, so they learned the needs of the industry from the inside out. For seven years, Anastasia had been involved in the development of instructions for servicing various types of aircraft and personnel at Ukrainian airports. Valentyn had worked in aviation for eleven years. At Boryspil, the Kyiv airport Boryspil, Valentyn had started his career from planning human resources, and later he created staff management programmes. Andriy worked in the State Aviation Service and is experienced in the Ukrainian and European regulatory framework in this field.
“I personally observed how work is organised both in Ukrainian and large European airports, inlcuding Italy, Lithuania, and Georgia. They use paper forms and Excel spreadsheets for resource planning, instead of collecting data automatically. The coronavirus epidemic exacerbated the problem as massive layoffs began,” Anastasiya Smyk says.
It was then decided to create the software for airports and their service companies. In early autumn 2021, the startup received $25,000 from the Ukrainian Startup Fund as seed capital for development.
How the software from INPUT SOFT works
The platform works like a large electronic planner, in which all departments servicing the flights can enter the data. Thus, all interconnected structures have access to the necessary information and can interact with each other. For example, operators responsible for numerous equipment and servicing vehicles for refueling planes, transporting passengers and luggage can see in the programme the technical condition of the vehicles, the schedule of drivers, etc.
“Our client uploads personnel qualifications and certain requirements to the programme. For example, the client wants the employees’ lunch to last one hour instead of two. Internal regulatory bodies in different countries, including the State Aviation Service, may also have certain rules. We collect all this as a puzzle, add the flight schedule, and get an algorithm that automatically gives all the information,” Anastasia explains.
For passengers, software at airports should reduce and minimise flight delays.
Perspectives the war has altered
To bring the idea to life, the project founders actively attracted investments in their startup and looked for customers. They developed a prototype SaaS platform and gave it to several airports for testing and getting feedback about the programme. At the beginning of 2022, INPUT SOFT became a member of Techstars, one of the most famous acceleration programmes for startups. The project managed to get a $120,000 investment there. The founders spent the whole January in Turin, Italy, where the accelerator took place, and in February they returned to Ukraine to conclude the first contracts with Ukrainian airports. However, the war broke out.
“We had important meetings with potential clients in Kyiv and Odesa. We were also negotiating with the management of airports that were just about to be built in Ukraine. I recall a joyful feeling I had that Ukrainian aviation is ready for changes and innovations. And on 24th February, we were supposed to return to Italy again to complete the acceleration programme,” Anastasia Smyk recalls.
When the war broke out, it immediately became clear that the only way for a startup to survive was to enter the European market as soon as possible. Two of the three founders of the business stayed in Ukraine due to the martial law. Some time after the war started, Anastasia went abroad to complete the acceleration programme and look for new partners and clients. The EU-funded project EEN (Enterprise Europe Network), which is implemented within the framework of the EU Programme for Enhancing the Competitiveness of Small and Medium Enterprises under the EU4Business umbrella, helped a lot. As part of the initiative, INPUT SOFT was invited to the Startup summit in Germany. There the co-founder of the company had the opportunity to study the German startup ecosystem for a month, visit businesses in different cities of the country, and participate in conferences.
“It was an incredible opportunity to study the German business environment. The German market is quite conservative and has many peculiarities, but we’re still planning to enter it. Therefore, it was very important for us to learn all the nuances and establish contacts with representatives of the aviation industry,” Anastasia says.
INPUT SOFT has now started cooperation with two companies in Italy and Poland. Negotiations with other airports and ground handling firms around the world are underway. However, the Ukrainian market is the main and most desirable one for a Ukrainian startup now.
After the full-scale Russia’s war against Ukraine, all airports stopped serving civil aviation. At most airfields, runways and other infrastructure are damaged by missiles, some airports are completely destroyed. However, Ukraine will definitely rebuild everything after its victory. And the INPUT SOFT company will provide its software free of charge to ensure efficient organisation of passenger transportation at the initial stages.