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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.

European Satellite Navigation Competition kicks off in Brussels

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The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) was launched, along with the Copernicus Masters, the leading innovation platform for commercial Earth observation applications, at a joint international kick-off event hosted by the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the EU in Brussels, on 5 April 2017.

From now until June 30, ESNC will be searching for the most forward‐thinking applications based on satellite navigation. The winners, which will be announced at a ceremony as part of European Space Week in Tallinn, Estonia, in November, will share in this year’s prize pool of more than EUR 1 million and will benefit from the ESNC’s unparalleled support network, including the ESA Business Incubation Centres and the brand new E-GNSS Accelerator, co-funded by the European Commission.

Speaking at the kick-off ceremony, Andreas Veispak, Head of the European Commission’s Space Data for Societal Challenges and Growth Unit, noted that the EU had invested a lot of money in satellites, and now stakeholders, including Member States, were looking for a return on this investment. “This can only be yielded through satellite applications that are of use to end users in the public and private sectors,” he said.

Return on investment

This is where the ESNC plays a key role. Since 2004, the Competition has been fast-tracking the most ground-breaking ideas for Galileo-related applications across Europe and beyond and transforming them into market-ready products and new ventures. Each year, the Competition helps promote over 400 business ideas and has already awarded prizes to more than 300 winners over the years, which represent just a fraction of the more than 3,700 innovative concepts submitted by over 11,000 participants.

                Also read: KYNEO project moves closer to commercialisation

This year is no different. With an impressive prize pool of over EUR 1 million, the Competition will give entrepreneurs and start-ups with services, products or business ideas that use satellite navigation in everyday life access to more than 160 space-related stakeholders and allow them to benefit from support from over 40 incubators and the expertise of more than 250 experts.

Copyright: ©GSA

GSA special prize

Within the ESNC, there is the GSA Special Prize for the most promising application idea for European GNSS. The European GNSS Agency (GSA) works with the European Commission on a range of activities aimed at helping European entrepreneurs and businesses – especially high-tech small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), business incubators, and related networks – take commercial advantage of European GNSS (EGNSS). This year the focus of the GSA prize is on connecting Europe.

                Watch this: Europe for space, space for Europe

Now that EGNOS is performing very well, Reinhard Blasi, Market Development Officer at the European GNSS Agency (GSA), noted at the ceremony, the focus is shifting from not only embracing EGNOS on a European level, but Galileo on a global level. “Since December 2016 we have been progressing from deployment to user service provision, which means that users can benefit from Galileo right now,” he said. “In light of the 60th anniversary of the EU, and a milestone year when Galileo starts to provide services with the Declaration of Initial Services, we have been thinking about how we can use satellite navigation to showcase how European GNSS helps connect European citizens.”

E-GNSS Accelerator

The ESNC is now additionally equipped with the brand new E-GNSS Accelerator. This programme is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and start-ups to accelerate their business case on a broad scale and bring their products and services to market. The E-GNSS Accelerator will run for three years and will directly support the winners of the ESNC 2017, 2018 and 2019. As a result, the participants will receive even more prizes, services and three further business incubations worth an additional EUR 500,000.

For more information on the ESNC, including all relevant information on prizes, partners, and terms of participation, visit the Competition’s official website: www.esnc.eu. Information on the Copernicus Masters can  be found here: www.copernicus-masters.com.

Source: www.gsa.europa.eu

Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you republish, we would be grateful if you could link the article back to the GSA website (http://www.gsa.europa.eu).

EIT Health’s Product/Market Fit open to e-health companies looking to expand

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With a good idea, some investment and hard work, start-ups in the health and life sciences fields can get started in their local market. But if these firms are going to achieve meaningful growth, and if their innovations are going to benefit a wider audience, they will have to go abroad – which means understanding new regulations, a different culture and an unknown set of market realities.

This is where Product/Market Fit comes in. An EIT Health Accelerator programme, Product/Market Fit helps start-ups that have already established themselves in one market and are ready to expand beyond their borders. The support this programme offers has an estimated market value of EUR 25 000, but the opportunities it provides can be worth much more than that.

“Based on our experience in the Accelerator, grownup start-ups start needing support with going to other markets,” according to Katrien Van Gucht, a Co-Coordinator of the EIT Health Accelerator Strategy and  Digital Health Program Manager at EIT Health partner IMEC. “We wanted to get in that sweet spot, right when they are ready to expand,’ said Johnny Waterschoot, who project manages European open calls for IMEC. “We are looking for companies that are ready to go beyond their borders, but lack the necessary funding to do just that. This programme will help them decide what markets to address next.”

According to Van Gucht, companies that are mature enough to qualify for this programme have typically raised about EUR 500 000 in investment and generally consist of two or three people. She said the companies obtain great value from the market testing that the programme can do. “The trial and error ratio of going out and seeing for themselves if they can make it in another market, we reduce this a great deal for them. They will see if they still need some work before they start growing in that market. Or the outcome could be that this market is not for them.”

If the entrepreneurs have the passion and drive to expand, the Product/Market Fit programme can provide them with many of the other tools they need.

Interested in finding out how to apply? Read more about the process here.

For more information: https://eit.europa.eu

Digital innovation – The online safety tools of the future

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Digital innovation has led to several technological advances, born in the minds of innovative entrepreneurs who go on to bring their ideas to life. With an increasing number of us online, both socially and professionally, cybersecurity is an issue that affects us all, consumers and entrepreneurs alike. How can you protect yourself? What information do you need to safely reap the benefits of our digitally innovative world? Today, Promoting Enterprise looks into the development of fraud detection systems, accessible cybersecurity and remote incident response platforms.

The tendency for people to be creatures of habit is being put to good use in the cybersecurity industry, thanks to new identification software that uses typical login times and locations, keystroke dynamics and in-app behaviour to verify if someone is who they say they are. It’s one of a series of innovations being developed by European businesses keen to claim their share of a growing cybersecurity market. Analysts predict that global spending in cybersecurity will be well over EUR 100 billion a year by 2021, yet according to a 2016 report despite being the most trusted area globally when it comes to data security and privacy, the European industry is only growing 6% annually, compared to growth of 8 % for the market as a whole.

One of the aims of the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) – the association implementing a cybersecurity public-private partnership set up by the EU in 2016 – is to create connections between industry players, national public authorities and users of cybersecurity solutions to identify priorities and increase collaboration in research and innovation. That connection – particularly between providers and end-users – is crucial if Europe is to grow the industry and take its place in the market. European businesses such as Czech-based cybersecurity firm ThreatMark (advanced fraud-detection systems developer) and German cybersecurity company Applied Security (apsec), could benefit from this connection which could manifest as business-to-business platforms and direct interactions between SMEs and potential clients.

With the development of the cybersecurity industry, there are still three areas to be addressed:

  1. Cybersecurity tools need to be considered as integral parts of computer systems. EU funded projects like CyberWiz, where users set up a model IT network and carry out various kinds of simulated attacks, allow for system development whilst exposing weak points and giving an overview of the network security.
  2. Skilled technical experts are important for the overall success of the industry, but especially in the small- and medium-sized sector. According to chief executive of Secon Cyber Security UK Robert Gupta, ‘In general, there is a lack of the right skills and when you are recruiting, technical experts in cybersecurity are very hard to come by’.
  3. The costs of implementing cybersecurity. Between the costly search for experts, their employment and the implementation and upkeep of a security system, many smaller businesses simply cannot afford this integral part of their online presence. However, EU funded project ConnectProtect could be the answer; a remote incident-response platform helping small- and medium-sized businesses to combat attacks and security threats – at a more reasonable cost. Through such a system and economies of scale for cybersecurity software licences, the total cost of security could come down dramatically for small businesses – perhaps by as much as 75 % per member of staff.

For more information: https://horizon-magazine.eu

Digital innovation is a key theme for this year’s SME Assembly 2017 taking place in Estonia, so stay tuned for more digital innovation content right here on Promoting Enterprise.

If you liked this have a read of: 2017 and beyond: How digital innovation will impact the world

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