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COSME helps modular building business go big

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CUBESPACE, an SME from the Czech Republic, has been building schools, family houses, sport halls and hotels using the modular building system. In 2017, the company decided to expand and produce rental fleet containers. As CUBESPACE Managing Director Martin Kokta makes clear: “We wanted to start cooperating with foreign investors who want to rent property in the EU. CUBESPACE builds and remains the owner of these buildings (usually offices), and rents them to investors.”

To invest in more properties and attract more investors, CUBESPACE needed a loan.

Equa Bank offers a range of retail and corporate banking services. The bank agreed to lend CUBESPACE Kč35 million (ca. €1.4 million), 50% of which was guaranteed by COSME, the EU programme established to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Thanks to this, CUBESPACE increased its production by half, doubled its number of employees, started 2-shift production and gained access to a wider client pool.

The loan was possible based on a 2016 agreement signed between Equa Bank and the European Investment Fund (EIF). This agreement will allow Equa bank to provide Kč1.8 billion (ca. €66.5 million) in loans to Czech SMEs over 2 years.

Take it from Cubespace, the agreement brings results. As Equa Bank’s Head of Business Banking Department Vojtěch Záškodný explains: “We have provided loans to about 75 SMEs, backed by the COSME Loan Guarantee Facility so far. Many of the clients would not have reached the requirements had it not been for the guarantees provided by the EIF.”

Businesses can contact selected financial institutions in their country to access EU financing: access to finance website.

Read the original article on the COSME website

MSME Day 2018 – The Youth Dimension

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This year the annual MSME (Micro, Small-Medium Enterprises) Day was celebrated on 27 June and was dedicated to youth. This year the main event focused on youth entrepreneurship and youth employment, and aimed to advocate for the importance of MSMEs in youth employment, raise awareness around the skills needed by youth to acquire decent jobs and finally raise awareness around youth entrepreneurship.

The MSME Day may have passed but the campaign is still going and the need to advocate for youth employment and youth entrepreneurship continues. But why the particular focus on youth for 2018? This year the MSME Day campaign communicated about the difficulties that youth face in securing steady jobs and the hurdles faced when entering the workforce. This in itself is a large contributor to the rate of youth unemployment, which currently stands at 15.6% in the EU according to Statista.

In addition to the challenges, MSME DAY 2018 highlights the reasons why a focus on youth would be ultimately beneficial for industry including the fact that young entrepreneurs are more active in high-growth sectors and are more likely to hire other young employees and pay higher wages than ‘older’ firms. Youth-led enterprises can also trigger youth-led job creation, with start-ups accounting for up to 50% of new jobs, and finally young people show higher levels of entrepreneurial initiative than adults do.

Visit the MSME Day 2018 website to find out more and support this campaign to support youth in industry.

The European Commission is also interested in supporting youth and particularly in hearing their voices, which is why the SME Week European Youth Essay Competition was created back in 2016. Two years and two winners later, the competition is back for a third edition and with another question:

“What steps should entrepreneurs and government take to become more innovative?”

Find out more about the competition and how to enter here on the News 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.

European Innovation Council Fast Track to Innovation: 216 proposals seek funding

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The European Commission received 216 proposals for Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) before the latest cut-off date on 31 May 2018.

Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) is a fully-bottom-up measure that promotes close-to-the-market innovation activities that is open to all types of participants.
As there are no set topics, proposals are classified according to the keywords introduced by applicants. The top keywords introduced were engineering, health and energy.

The proposals include participants from 31 countries, the biggest number of application were submitted by project proposals coordinated in Spanish, Italian and German applicants. Most of the proposals have four participants.

The Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) is now central part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, targeting radically new, breakthrough products, services, processes or business models that open up new markets. FTI promotes close-to-the market innovation activities open to all types of participants. The programme offers € 3 million to consortia composed of 3 to 5 partners including mainly industrial participants.

The next cut-off date for FTI is 23 October 2018.

Read the original article on the EASME website.

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:

Catching up with Frici Barabas – Youth Essay Competition finalist 2016

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Today on Promoting Enterprise we are catching up with 2016 Youth Essay Competition finalist Frici Barabas! The Youth Essay Competition is an opportunity for the youth of Europe and COSME partner countries to have their say on pressing issues in the area of entrepreneurship in Europe. Previous editions have asked the following questions:

What will be the question for the 2018 edition? Stay tuned to the Promoting Enterprise News Portal and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find out as soon as the next edition is live! For more information on the competition have a look here.

When Frici entered the competition two years ago he was a budding entrepreneur with a t-shirt business, and his online venture ‘digital lifestyle’. So what has he been doing since then? Read on to find out!

What have you been doing since being a finalist in the Youth Essay Competition in 2016?

Since being a finalist I have been working as a freelancer in the online marketing and social media marketing space. My work has taken me global and I have worked with companies from Dubai, the US, India and Europe, specifically Hungary and Romania.

In addition to this I have also published more courses on Udemy and Skillshare, mostly on the topics of social media marketing, specifically Instagram marketing. I decided to focus on these topics because Instagram started to get big and become important in 2016, right when I began working as a freelancer. It seemed logical to focus on the platform that was growing and getting the most attention.

You can have a look at my courses on Udemy and Skillshare.

Do you have any exciting projects that you would like to share?

At the moment I have been focusing on my startup, which is a social media marketing agency in Romania. Over the past year I have started to help NGOs and local SMEs here in Romania with social media management and social media marketing, and would like to expand on my work and build a company.

Whilst this work has been really interesting, it has certainly come with its challenges. Here in Eastern Europe scepticism around social media is still pretty prevalent, meaning that businesses are not necessarily willing to pay for it. Due to this scepticism it can be pretty difficult to sell as a service as it is difficult to convince owners to invest in developing their social media profiles.

However, this is slowly beginning to change as small businesses realise that they need to do something with their Instagram and Facebook pages, and that they need expert outsiders to help with this. A good example which showed just how powerful social media can be was when the St. George startup week

 was being organised. The event is a global celebration of startups and entrepreneurship, which originally had an expected number of 50 attendees. This became 200 attendees which in a small city of 40 000 people, where the local language is Romanian-Hungarian, is especially impressive for an English language event.

In general my work with NGOs has been much easier, as they normally need less convincing and see the value of social media. It also helps that their budgets come from elsewhere, namely local or European funds.

Based on your experiences since 2016, do you have any new advice for young entrepreneurs, or people thinking about starting out on their own?

The most important thing is to think about helping people with your products or services and not ‘the money you could make’, so start working and doing!

The moment I realised this was when I saw that working in social media in Eastern Europe represents a great opportunity. The market is still relatively open as traditional media still dominates most communication channels. Social media is not as hyped but it is growing, meaning that currently there is little competition and plenty of opportunities to take advantage of.

I have been approached by entrepreneurs who simply wanted to partner with me for the financial gains, and who wanted to make use of my expertise. I turned them down because I want to look past the just the financial gains and look at how I can use my expertise and passion to develop the sector and help SMEs with their social media communications.

Any additional information you would like to add?

I am currently looking for partners in Europe and in the industry in general to continue my work and gain experience. It would be great to find people specialised in certain social media platforms, or who are looking for help with online tools, and to partner up with. I’m open to collaboration!

Want to reach out to Frici? Have a look for him on all his social platforms: Instagram, MediumFacebookMixcloudSoundcloudYoutubeUdemy, Skillshare, Twitter and LinkedIN.

Interested in the Youth Essay Competition? Get inspired from past winners and finalists, including Frici, and stay tuned for more information on the upcoming 2018 edition!

Inspiring to Transform: Showcasing the WATIFY Journey in Sofia, Bulgaria

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The WATIFY project is proud to announce the event ‘WATIFY: Inspire to Transform,’ which will be taking place on 2 May in Sofia, Bulgaria. This event will bring together innovation leaders from across Europe to discuss the latest insights in technology, transformation and innovation. There will also be opportunities to pitch your projects and ideas, as well as exchange experience with innovative European SMEs that will be showcasing their technological transformations, and sharing their success stories through live 3D printing visualisations, virtual reality demonstrations and other interactive activities.

High-level keynote speakers, including Slawek Tokarski, Director of Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing from the Directorate General Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) and the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU will present their vision on the WATIFY initiative. The event will also feature a WATIFY matchmaking event with a keynote from Sasha Bezuhanova – founder and chairperson of MOVE.BG – and show & tell brainstorming sessions in different technology domains. The closing for the event will be just as exciting, when the most prominent SME success story from the WATIFY campaign will be honoured and presented during the WATIFY Awards ceremony.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of the technological transformation conversation, and register today! Don’t wait too long – registrations close on 16 April and there are a limited number of places available.

‘WATIFY: Inspire to Transform’ is organised with the support of MOVE.BG and Enterprise Europe Network Bulgaria and will also be partnering with the high-level event Smart Specialisation and Technology Transfer as Innovation Drivers for Regional Growth, organised by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council. This event will follow the WATIFY conference, and take place from 3-4 May also in Sofia, Bulgaria. If you are also interested in attending this event and especially the WATIFY story-telling session on 3 May, have a look at the event website for more information.

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.

Have your say on the SME definition!

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The European Commission is currently preparing for an evaluation and possible revision of some aspects of the SME definition and is inviting any interested actor to provide feedback on its evaluation and impact assessment.

The SME definition is a widely used tool in EU policies such as competition (state aid), structural funds, research and innovation (Horizon 2020).

Moreover, the SME definition is relevant for some European administrative exemptions and reduced fees, such as for Regulation on registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH).

If you would like to know more about this initiative please check the public consultation on the review of the SME definition. You can contribute until 6 May 2018.

Read the original article on EASME news here.

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