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Over 1750 small businesses seek funding under the EIC SME Instrument

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The European Commission received 1752 proposals for the European Innovation Council pilot’s SME Instrument Phase 2 before the latest cut-off date on 9 January 2019. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 37 countries submitted proposals. Selected projects will be announced in early March 2019 at the latest.

In this phase of the SME Instrument, each project will receive up to €2.5 million to finance innovation activities like demonstration, testing, piloting and scaling up. The companies will also benefit from 12 days of free business coaching and acceleration services.

The biggest number of proposals for this batch were submitted by Spanish applicants (266), followed closely by Italian (182) and Israeli applicants (136).

Since 2018, the SME Instrument is part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot. A novelty under the EIC pilot is that applications are fully bottom-up. Therefore as there are no longer set topics, proposals are classified according to keywords introduced by applicants. The top keywords introduced were Health, ICT and engineering and technology.

In addition, applications are evaluated in two steps, a remote evaluation and a face-to-face interview with a Jury of business and innovation experts. These interviews will concern around 135 companies, approximately half of which will get the funding. The interviews will happen in Brussels during the week of 11-15 February 2019. For more information read the tips for applicants.

Results are expected to be announced in early March 2019 at the latest.

Read the original article on the EASME website.

START2ACT Energy Saving Challenge

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New year, new resolutions, even for your office! By entering the START2ACT Energy Saving Challenge, you could reduce energy use in your office by up to 20% by using the simple and low cost measures recommended by START2ACT.

Entering the challenge only takes a couple of minutes and could result in not only important energy savings, but several exclusive prizes.

How to enter?

Step 1: Take a photo or film a video clip of how your company saves energy

Step 2: Write a description of the action(s) – just a sentence or a short paragraph

Step 3: Email step 1 and step 2 to info@start2act.eu or send it to @START2ACT using #S2Achallenge on Twitter or Facebook

The competition is open now and will close on Friday 15 February 2019. The earlier you enter, the more chances you have to win through the monthly prize draw.

For more information about the challenge, read the original article here.

About START2ACT

START2ACT is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and aims to support young SMEs and startups to save energy and cut costs at their workplace. The objective is to provide young SMEs and startups with the tools and knowledge to become more energy efficient and cost effective through free mentoring programmes, online support and training activities across nine European countries.

For more information on START2ACT have a look at their website.

SME Performance Review 2018

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The SME Performance Review is one of the main tools the European Commission uses to monitor and assess countries’ progress in implementing the Small Business Act (SBA) on a yearly basis. With an emphasis on the measures from the SBA Action Plan, the review brings comprehensive information on the performance of SMEs in EU countries and other partner countries. It consists of two parts: an annual report on European SMEs and SBA country fact sheets.

Today, on 20 November 2018, the latest SME Performance Review for 2018 was published by the European Commission and presents encouraging news, the SME recovery continues.

The annual report, prepared on a yearly basis, provides a synopsis of the size, structure and importance of SMEs to the European economy and an overview of the past and forecasted performance of SMEs from 2008 to 2019. Comparisons with partner countries outside the EU and with the large enterprise sector are also included.

Read the full report here.

Find out more about the SME Performance Review and read supporting documents here.

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

EEPA National Winners 2018 – Supporting the Internationalisation of Business

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

The fourth category of the EEPA “Supporting the Internationalisation of Business” recognises initiatives that encourage enterprises and particularly small and medium-sized businesses to benefit more from the opportunities offered by markets, both inside and outside the EU. This year the category has nine different projects competing to win, so who will make it onto the European shortlist? Find out at the end of September after the EEPA 2018 Jury meeting!

Bulgaria: Supporting the internationalization and digitalization of SMEs in Bulgaria and Europe

Denmark: Lean Landing

Estonia: Development of the Estonian timber sector as the biggest exporter of wooden houses in the European Union

Finland: Kasvu Open – company growth sparring programme

Hungary: Startup Budapest Programme

Malta: Enabling the digital transformation of Maltese SMEs

Slovenia: Innovative business model 2COUNTRY

Spain: Misión Inversa del Vino y la Alimentación

Turkey: Cyberpark Accelerator Program (CAP): An Internationalization Pathway Business

Come back to Promoting Enterprise every week to discover the national winners across the other five EEPA categories: Promoting the entrepreneurial spiritInvesting in Entrepreneurial Skills, Improving the business environmentSupporting the development of green markets and resource efficiency and Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship.

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

Youth Essay Competition – Advice from 2017 winner Oksana Vedmidska

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Oksana Vedmidska, most recent winner of the SME Week Youth Essay Competition in 2017, is back on the Portal! Last week she shared what she has been doing since winning the competition, the best part about entering and her advice on how to answer the 2018 question. Haven’t read it yet? Have a look here.

Today Oksana shares with us her advice for the 2018 competitors, what she learnt from her competition experience last year and finally her projects for the future.

Do you have any advice for the 2018 competitors?

I am convinced that our thoughts influence our actions in a material manner. That is why my advice would be to think practically. Let me demonstrate this. There is a young Ukrainian performing artist that uses the motto “Brave, Love, Freedom”. I would use this motto in a practical way in order to dwell upon the topic of this year’s competition.

Let’s take firstly the point “Love” I would interpret it in the following way: look around you, define the persons you care about, think about their needs and what innovative steps are required to improve the lives of your loved ones. Now let us look at “Freedom”: get rid of prejudice; let your critical mind absorb and analyse information around you; be open to any topic no matter if you agree with it or not, because firstly you have to listen to opposing opinions, then gather data and facts about the argument and finally build your own opinion. Finally, “Brave”: do not be afraid to talk with experts about topics like: Innovation, Political and Social strategies, Economics, and Entrepreneurship, do not be intimidated by their experience and look for seminars and conferences at which these topics are discussed. Finally, do not doubt yourself, sit down and write down all of your own ideas, because these ideas will one way or another influence the behaviour and way of thinking of those who will read or listen to them!

What did you learn from the Youth Essay competition experience?

The essays I read raise very important issues concerning the promotion of entrepreneurship, for example, questions about ethical norms or the way businesses and European officials communicate with youth. These ideas spoke to me and I will keep them in mind in order to use and implement them in terms of my future career and volunteering activities.

Furthermore, while at the SME Assembly 2017 I learnt a lot about the needs, problems and wishes of small and medium-sized enterprises and their suppliers. In addition, thanks to the diversity of the topics discussed I received information that helped me to identify issues that may become problematic and worth discussing in future.

In addition, I must admit that I miss the discussions that I had during the SME Assembly 2017 with the other finalists of the Youth Essay Competition 2017 Evlampia Karavangeli and Pavle Kostić.

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

For the time being my greatest project is to graduate on time and to carefully study the new EU General Data Protection Regulation about which everyone, and especially entrepreneurs, is anxious. I am also interested in seeing how relations between the EU and Latin American countries develop. My interest comes from both having friends in Latin America and my personal conviction that the development of relationships will only benefit both sides and especially youth from countries with emerging economies.

Interested in the 2018 competition? Find out more right here and read the 2018 advice from 2016 winner Andri Pandoura for more inspiration. Don’t forget to read Oksana’s first post here and don’t forget to keep coming back to the Portal for more exciting content on this year’s SME Week Youth Essay Competition.

EEPA National Winners 2018 – Improving the Business Environment

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

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

Austria: Industry-Startup.Net

Finland: Kakola – from a Prison to an Etrepreneurial Base

Iceland: Electronic Company Register

Italy: PLL – Piani Locali per il Lavoro

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

Poland: Entrepreneur Package

Romania: Start up Nation Romania

Slovakia: Better Regulation Center

Spain: Open Innovation 4.0.

United Kingdom: Anchoring economic growth in the Tees Valley

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

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

Oksana Vedmidska – What is the 2017 Youth Essay Competition winner up to now?

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Youth of Europe, we are looking for your opinions! The SME Week Youth Essay Competition 2018 is underway and looking for inspiring and creative answers to:

Not sure how to tackle the question? Deciding whether to enter or not? In order to help anybody thinking about entering the 2018 competition Promoting Enterprise spoke to 2017 winner Oksana Vedmidska about her experience and her advice for the 2018 applicants. Read on to find out what she has been up to since winning the competition, what it was like to compete last year and finally her tips and tricks for answering the 2018 question. 

What have you been doing since winning the Youth Essay Competition?

Back when I won the Youth Essay Competition, I had started pursuing my second degree in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Applied Science in Darmstadt, Germany, which I am still doing. In addition, I am currently one of the volunteer translators in an international non-profit organisation “Global Voices”. This NGO is an international community of writers, bloggers and digital activists, whose aim is to translate and objectively report on what is being said in citizen media worldwide.

I am also continuing to improve my French and in March 2018 I began learning Portuguese. I actually had to put my knowledge to the test shortly after having started Portuguese. I was approached by Isabel Recavarren, an editor of an informative Euro-Latin American platform “Panorámica”, who invited me to participate in the seminar “Challenges of Euro-Latin American Women: Digital Agenda and Access to Markets”. The seminar was organised by the Women’s Forum of the Euro-Latin-American Parliamentary Assembly in the premises of the European Parliament, where I had an opportunity to listen to very interesting and informative presentations, but without much interpretative help. During the seminar I spoke in Spanish about the European youth’s visioning for digital economy.

What was the best part about entering the Youth Essay Competition?

The best part about entering the Youth Essay Competition was that I could present and share all my ideas that I had obtained from my observations. Moreover, I was able to read the ideas and visions of other young people and find out more about the way they think.

Do you have any advice on how to approach the 2018 question?

In my opinion, first of all, governments and associations of entrepreneurs have to agree to organise a round table let’s say every six months, so that governments can take into consideration issues that are important for entrepreneurs. For example, in December 2017 I visited one local seminar in Darmstadt which discussed topics such as: Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Science. Participants included entrepreneurs, scientists, students, a local politician and those who were just interested in the discussion. During this seminar local start-uppers complained that because of a long and complicated bureaucratic process it is difficult for them to obtain a state subsidy for their innovative projects. I think that politicians should take this criticism seriously and develop ways to solve the problem mentioned. It is obvious that in the modern developed world we need regulations and a red-tape in order to guarantee that taxpayers’ money is put to good use and to control levels of corruption. However, politicians could reconsider, for instance, the necessity and effectiveness of certain bureaucratic steps, whether these steps be done online and perhaps whether more staff should be hired in order to process applications more quickly.

Secondly, the future of our economy lies in digital markets, so that governments need to make sure that the majority of their population has access to the Internet and is able to pass through the red-tape via secure Internet channels. Small and medium-sized enterprises, on the other hand, have to pay attention to their presence on the Internet and social media platforms. At the same time SMEs should carefully use the personal data of their customers, employees, suppliers, partners and make sure that their innovative ideas are not misused.

Thirdly, I believe that both parties have to open more opportunities for youth. For example, by providing more scholarships, cooperating with local educational institutions, creating new internship positions or mentoring programs.

Interested in the 2018 competition? Find out more right here and read the 2018 advice from 2016 winner Andri Pandoura for more inspiration. Don’t forget to come back to the Portal next week to read more about 2017 winner Oksana and her advice for the 2018 competitors!

 

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.

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:

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