As the SME Assembly 2017 approaches, along with the beginning of the Estonian presidency, Promoting Enterprise has decided to briefly explore how this Member State rose to be the digital pioneer of Europe.
After gaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Estonia was a small state with a small population and few resources. It was at this moment that the country’s leaders decided to build on the global launch of the internet and integrate it into the construction of the post-Soviet Estonian infrastructure. Preparations for the modern e-Estonia began with the passing of the Information Policy in 1994, followed by the Personal Data Protection Act and the launching of the Tiger Leap project in 1996.
The Tiger Leap project marked the beginning of the prioritisation of the creation of Information Technology structure, by allowing educational institutes to access computers and the internet. This ensured the training of tech-savvy Estonians from a young age, which continues to allow the healthy growth of the national IT industry and development of innovative e-services such as the ID Card project and the X-Road. The project continues to run today and fosters the development of entrepreneurs and their innovations.
Fast forward to the present day and Estonia continues to pioneer digital solutions and is the training ground for other countries wanting to implement online voting and e-Health systems, to name a few. Not only a European but a global pioneer, Estonia is the seat of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre after demonstrating the ability to defend itself against a cyber-attack on national level in 2007.
E-Estonia is by no means finished and new systems and innovations are constantly being developed and added. What will Estonia develop next? We will have to wait and see…
For more information about E-Estonia: https://e-estonia.com/
By Karen Márquez, CEO and Founder of Infantium
I write these lines from Boston, after a massive snowfall! Since we were featured as a SoS company, lots of good things have happened. Infantium uses brain-inspired computing to personalize learning of children (Neuroscience, machine learning and AI).
2014 was a promising one for Infantium. In summer, we were awarded with a scholarship (global impact competition) to attend the GSP at Singularity University (founded by Google) at NASA headquarters in Mountain View. It’s one of the most selective in the world, and among thousands of applications, 80 leaders and technology entrepreneurs from 35 countries are selected to analyze the major technological advances transforming the world.
In two decades, the people living in big cities will grow by two billion. This shift will put tremendous stress on healthcare, housing, education and other critical resources. The great transformation yet to come cannot be managed by political or economic tools, but with technological innovations. The mission of Singularity is identifying leaders and groundbreaking changing technologies that can impact the life of at least 1 billion of people.
So it is such a honor to be recognized as game-changers that can impact society through cognitive systems.
Reverse engineering the brain and Machine learning used by Infantium can really make the difference in transforming education. Education is the only way of changing human being’s lives; to fight against poverty and reach equality globally. It will be one of the important topics for humanity in the coming years: understanding the principles of human intelligence, understanding how the brain performs essential functions, and emulating those functions can mean a tool to emulate natural learning in people, overcoming the huge challenge of dropouts and frustration.
The second big news is that we made it into phase 2 of the SME instrument (EU’s Horizon2020), being the only educational Project for this phase. Exponential technologies will bring the issue in which large parts of the economy –most of them current students in K-12 -are underemployed, unemployed or unemployable, with machines replacing specific tasks and no marketable skills, acquired mostly through obsolete educational systems. Education is a pillar for the future of Europe, ensuring essential skills in a future where traditional curriculum will be far from enough. With the grant, Infantium will incorporate biometric feedback, computer vision and contextual data in our brain-inspired system to help children develop critical skills adapted to cognitive abilities, not based on curriculum-based demands.
Karen Márquez is the CEO and co-founder of Infantium, a multi-awarded start-up based on cognitive learning for young children using brain science and cognitive technology, selected as one of the 12 best start-ups of the EU by the European Commission (Tech All Stars). Karen has been awarded as MIT Young innovator under 35, with special mention as social innovator of the year, Google’s and NASA’s Singularity university global impact tech, and entrepreneur of the year by the professional Association of Computer Engineers (Catalonia, Spain).
A vote by delegates at the recent SME Assembly in Naples found that Europe must do more than provide digital technology for entrepreneurs. 73% of those who voted via the conference app disagreed with the motion ‘Thanks to digital technology, everyone can become a successful entrepreneur’.
Watch the Big Debate yourself and let us know which way you would have voted, in the comments below.
A record number of 31 countries entered the 2014 EEPAs. 22 projects from 15 countries – Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and the UK – were shortlisted during the jury meeting held earlier this summer.
Commenting on the shortlist, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, the newly appointed Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, stressed the creativity and imagination used to produce these outstanding results. He said it proves exactly why harnessing and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit is so important to driving the growth of European business. He believes that the 22 shortlisted projects will inspire and encourage young people and women especially, to choose entrepreneurship as a viable career path.
Shortlist for the 2014 European Enterprise Promotion Awards
Category 1: Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Austria: AplusB build! Start-Up Centre’s two main goals are to promote entrepreneurship as a career option and stimulate entrepreneurship by providing coaching, training and financial support for innovative start-up projects in the Carinthia region. Their goal is to support 8-10 new start-up projects each year, and the initiative has already funded more than 95 start-ups, with over 90 per cent of these companies trading successfully.
Responsible organisation: build! Gründerzentrum Kärn GmbH
Organisation website: www.build.or.at
Hungary: Encouraging Business Start-ups by Mothers with Young Children helps mothers to acquire the entrepreneurial skills and mindset to start a business and make it profitable. The project delivers online resources including a blog, Facebook page, e-learning training programmes and a weekly newsletter, as well as the Entrepreneurial Women’s Roundtable meeting to help mothers navigate the world of business and network with each other. The project also hosts the annual Mother Company of the Year competition and the Business Mums’ Conference.
Responsible organisation: Gazdagmami Kft.
Organisation website: www.gazdagmami.hu
Lithuania: Mobile Apps Laboratories is an initiative to promote entrepreneurship in information and communication technologies. Working in the four biggest Lithuanian education institutions, Mobile Apps Laboratories bring together young people with academics and industry professionals to deliver ‘App Camp’ during their bachelor, master or PhD dissertation works, with the objective of bringing innovative new products and services to the market. It also aims to increase the number of women starting businesses in information technology.
Responsible organisation: App Camp, JSC
Organisation website: http://www.appcamp.lt/
Netherlands: International Business College 20:80 Learning is an entrepreneurial programme for students in secondary education. The young students complete the standard Dutch secondary school course in four days per week (80%) and during the remaining time (20%) they have an International Business College (IBC) day where they set up and run their own business. There are currently 10 active IBC schools and 350 students involved in this education programme.
Responsible organisation: International Business College
Project website: www.20-80learning.nl
Category 2: Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills
Bulgaria: Brandiko educates students on how to build a brand and register the brand as a Community Trade Mark. Students establish training companies and are mentored on how to build and manage their own brand, market the brand and use it to increase sales. Pupils also learn about the importance of intellectual property protection. More than 1,700 students have completed the Brandiko programme.
Responsible organisation: Ministry of Economy & Energy
Organisation website: www.mi.government.bg
Germany: BRENNEREI Next Generation Lab enables master’s students and graduates to learn and develop new entrepreneurial approaches. Together with professionals from the science and creative industries, scholars work full-time in inter-disciplinary teams to solve the real problems of companies or public entities. The activities include analyses and finding novel approaches that are socially relevant in the areas of communication, product design, and use of new media. Approximately 60 applications from all over Europe have been received for the 2014 scholarship.
Responsible organisation: WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH
Organisation website: www.wfb-bremen.de
Project website: www.brennerei-lab.de
Serbia: Western Balkans Business Challenge is a unique competition for high school students from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In mixed teams (4 students from each country), they compete to provide the best business idea for the challenge put before them. The initiative develops entrepreneurial and financial skills and motives the students to think proactively. At least 1,500 students and 200 business community representatives have participated in the competition so far.
Responsible organisation: Junior Achievement Serbia
Organisation website: www.ja-serbia.org
UK: Primary to Professional (P2P) engages primary and secondary school pupils introducing them to important entrepreneurial skills including creativity, innovation and risk taking and leads to a specialist enterprise academy for start-up businesses. This has developed into supporting business start-ups with the first Start up Weekend in Wales and the new Tech Hub for new Tech Entrepreneurs. More than 4,000 secondary school pupils have taken part in Young Business Dragons and enterprise is now embedded in a number of educational institutions across Swansea.
Responsible organisation: Gower College Swansea
Organisation website: www.gowercollegeswansea.ac.uk
Category 3: Improving the Business Environment
Austria: Sources of Strength has five clear objectives to improve the manufacturing economy in the Murtal-Murau region. These include building a sustainable image of the industrial/manufacturing economy, positioning this sector as an attractive employer, strengthening the integration of businesses in the region and developing an industrial tourist product and launching this into the tourism market. Since its inception, 61 leading companies have come together to strengthen the integration of industry and trade services in the region.
Responsible organisation: Industrie- und Wirtschaftsentwicklung Murtal GmbH
Project website: http://kraft.dasmurtal.at
Italy: Grow and Compete with Business Network Contracts promotes and disseminates a business contract culture and to support companies interested in setting up business networks, particularly to facilitate internationalisation processes and increase competitiveness in foreign markets. The project includes a training phase and a customised support phase for businesses expressing an intention to aggregate through network contracts. So far, the project has led to 12 network contracts being finalised, involving 50 businesses.
Responsible organisation: Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna
Organisation website: www.ucer.camcom.it
Spain: Start-up in 3 is a technology platform that streamlines and simplifies business creation and business start-up procedures, linking existing platforms through a single point of access and connecting all the Local Authorities in Spain. The aim of the project is to reduce the time between the establishment of the company and the time it takes for the enterprise to become operational to just three days which is achieved by registering the enterprise through a cloud-based system.
Responsible organisation: Ministry of Finance and Public Administration (MINHAP)
Organisation website: www.minhap.es
UK: The Sharp Project has converted a redundant distribution centre into a media hub for over 60 companies, including those specialising in digital content production, digital media and TV and film production. It is where space, power, connectivity and people converge in the inspiring surroundings to develop careers and compete on a global stage. The aim of the project is to reduce barriers that prevent creative and digital businesses from growing, creating work and generating wealth.
Responsible organisation: Manchester City Council
Project website: http://www.thesharpproject.co.uk/
Category 4: Supporting the Internationalisation of Business
France: The French Label Living Heritage Company focuses on quality assessment and is awarded by the French Government to distinguish companies with excellent craft and industrial skills. Recognised businesses are characterised by a long trading history, innovation capabilities and rare know-how that has helped establish their reputation. Since 2005, the label has been awarded to 1,157 companies, who account for 53,000 jobs and more than €11 billion in cumulative turnover.
Responsible organisation: French Government
Organisation website: http://www.dgcis.gouv.fr/
Italy: Mirabilia: European Network of UNESCO Sites links together areas of common historical, cultural and environmental significance for the first time. The project is aimed at creating a network of places recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, but which are lesser known to Italian and international tourism, with the aim of promoting them in a co-ordinated and organised way to Italian and foreign tourists.
Responsible organisation: Matera Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Crafts and Agriculture
Organisation website: www.mt.camcom.it
Project website: www.mirabilianetwork.eu
Netherlands: Get in the Ring is a worldwide platform for start-ups to raise capital. It brings together the most promising entrepreneurs from around the world and gives them a chance to secure an investment of up to €1,000,000 by pitching in front of prominent international investors. There have been 1326 participating start-ups attracting over €6million in investments.
Responsible organisation: Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship
Project website: www.getinthering.nl
Category 5: Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency
Malta: EU LIFE+ Investing in Water is aimed at identifying water saving measures amongst best practice enterprises, disseminating this information to others and supporting their implementation. The project is focussed on sharing information through face to face meetings, printed materials and an interactive CD, workshops and via the website. The project has identified 26 best practice enterprises and saved an estimated 141 million litres of water per annum.
Responsible organisation: Malta Business Bureau
Organisation website: http://www.mbb.org.mt/
Project website: http://www.investinginwater.org/
Portugal: AMS – Thinking Ahead set itself the challenge of becoming ‘the most efficient supplier of tissue on the Iberian Peninsula’, achieving this through innovation and differentiation. It has revolutionized traditional industrial processes by installing a pipeline connection to its pulp supplier; a unique alliance that has reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 tonnes per year and generated significant competitiveness in external markets.
Responsible organisation: Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal, Public Enterprise (“AICEP”) in partnership with AMS Gomà-Camps, S.A. (“AMS”)
Organisation website: http://www.portugalglobal.pt/PT/Paginas/Index.aspx, http://www.amspt.eu/
Turkey: Developing a Widely Applicable, Low-Cost Model for Clean Production in the Textile Finishing Industry is a pioneering project which develops models to reduce the quantity of raw materials used in the textile industries and promote sustainable production. The project has resulted in solid methodologies and processes that can be widely adopted and used by a multitude of manufacturing businesses at almost no cost.
Responsible organisation: Uludağ Textile Exporters Association (UTEA)
Organisation website: www.uib.org.tr
Category 6: Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship
France: The Entrepreneurs Team helps young and unskilled people, including those excluded from school, to succeed in employment and autonomy. Offering teaching and coaching based on entrepreneurship, the project involves two main phases; a University Diploma in Business Creation which is accessible to the unqualified, followed by socio-professional support in conjunction with an entrepreneurship advisory body and a University. The project has supported 167 individuals; 23% have successfully created their own business.
Responsible organisation: Association Nationale des Groupements de Créateurs (ANGC)
Organisation website: www.groupement-de-createurs.fr
Germany: Wiesbaden Engaged – the corporate citizenship strategy of the city of Wiesbaden – promotes the social sense of responsibility of businesses and entrepreneurs in Wiesbaden. They have developed four key activities within the project; an annual day promoting social engagement, two long term projects promoting integration and employability, an award for engaged businesses to establish a local reputation and participation in a national corporate social responsibility networking and consultation project.
Responsible organisation: Municipality of the City of Wiesbaden – Agency for Social Work
Project website: www.wiesbaden.de
Poland: The Construction and Equipping of the Intramunicipal Vocational Rehabilitation Centre aims to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, enabling them to participate equally in society and in a professional capacity. The Rehabilitation Centre offers employment within eight departments including catering, laundry, garden maintenance, cleaning and hygiene, assembly/disassembly and recycling. Employees not only earn an income, but also receive training in vocational and social skills to encourage independent living.
Responsible organisation: Polish Association for Persons with Mental Handicap, Szczecin Branch
Organisation website: www.psouuszczecin.org.pl
Portugal: DO IT – The idea behind Portuguese Origin is a competition to use the experience, talent and dynamism of Portuguese emigrants to benefit their country of origin. Under the slogan ‘They think of it there, they do it here”, the project aims to select and promote ideas and support the realisation of social entrepreneurship projects which contribute to transforming emigration trends in an effective way for Portuguese society and the country as a whole.
Responsible organisation: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Organisation website: www.gulbenkian.pt
Active from January 2014 to December 2015, the programme, aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 40 years old, seeks to add both social and economic value to society. It hopes to transform innovative ideas in a range of fields, from education to social inclusion.
FaciliTO is a model that the Municipality of Turin adopted to tackle the difficulties that small enterprises encounter in struggling urban areas. It won the Improving the Business Environment category of the 2012 European Enterprise Promotion Awards.
One enterprise that has benefited from FaciliTO is NISO Biomed, founded within the I3P incubator of the Polytechnic University of Turin in 2009. It develops and distributes diagnostic devices in gastroenterology and cancer prevention. Distinguished gastroenterologists around the world have tested its technology.
On the “Day of Italian Quality”, a day dedicated to celebrating the best of “Italian grown” business, NISO Biomed won the “Leonardo Start-up prize”. It was also named start-up of the year by the PNICube association of university incubators.
Turin Social Innovation’s start-up programme was also recognised as the best initiative in the sector by a group of experts appointed by six business associations: The Italian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AIFI), Italian Association of Science and Technology Parks (APSTI), Italian Business Angels Network (IBAN), Italy Startup Network for the Promotion of University Research (NETVAL), and the Association of Incubators and Business Plan Competitions Academic Italian (PNICube). The Ministry of Economic Development, the Leonardo Committee and the ICE – Agency of Promotion and Internationalisation of Italian Enterprise, coordinated the award.
Category | Grand Jury Prize
A special prize awarded to the entrepreneurial initiative considered the most creative and inspiring in Europe
Making enterprise a realistic option for the hard-to-reach
Outset, YKTO Ltd, United Kingdom
Outset is designed to show the unemployed that self-employment and enterprise is a realistic alternative to unemployment.
Specifically created to help the most vulnerable groups, including the long-term unemployed, recently redundant, under-25s, women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, people with mental and physical disabilities and those who are over 50 years of age, the programme takes a unique approach to supporting start-ups. A national project that works in urban and rural settings, it seeks to change beliefs about the ability to start a small business.
The project ethos involves using support teams that often have similar challenging backgrounds, come from the same local areas and have had first-hand experience of being self-employed or running a business. Outset actively reaches, through all types of community spaces, from sports centres to Diwali and Chinese New Year festivals to find the people that will benefit most. This in-person outreach is reinforced by highly effective, targeted promotions including radio ads with direct response SMS facilities, quirky and enticing posters, postcards and flyers plus online and email marketing and lots of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We use normal, jargon-free language.
Since the start of the programme, Outset has engaged with over 6,000 people. Of those, 673 have started a business, together creating 890 jobs. Outset Finance has helped its clients raise £790,258 from a variety of funding sources to either start or expand their business.
Most importantly, the businesses that Outset support do last: survival rates, particularly for women entrepreneurs, far outstrip national averages. Within disadvantaged client groups, conversion rates from engagement to start are approximately 1:5 and Outset’s new business survival rate after four years is over 80%.
Bev Hurley, Chief Executive
St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge CB4 0WS, UK
Category | Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Recognising actions that promote an entrepreneurial culture and mindset and raise awareness about entrepreneurship in society.
Boosting women’s entrepreneurship by providing easy access to financing Women’s Co-operative Bank Ltd Women’s Co-operative Bank ‘initiative’ Ltd, Cyprus
The Women’s Co-operative Bank seeks to boost women’s entrepreneurship by providing easy access to financing. The organisation identifies gaps in the economy, promotes support programmes for female entrepreneurs and provides free advice and guidance, as well as loans, that are tailor-made to the needs of small business owners. Since the project began, women’s entrepreneurship has increased in Cyprus overall from 12% in 2001, to 28% in 2012.
Artemis Toumazi, Chairman/Director
Sinergatikos Organismos Protovoulias, Ginekon Kiprou Ltd, 30 Pavlou Valdaseridi Street, Branches 1-4, 6018 Larnaca, Postal Code 42251 6530, Larnaca, Cyprus
Category | Investing in Skills
Recognises regional or local initiatives to improve entrepreneurial, vocational, technical and managerial skills
Fostering knowledge transfer and digital visualisation
Visualisation Park, Sweden
Visualisation Park in Sweden focuses on the commercial application of digital visualisation technology. Using a business park model, the location in Eksjö offers a home to a cluster of businesses with expertise in this emerging field. They are gathered around Campus i12, which offers a range of vocational courses. 50 partner companies support the educational programmes and the Park provides a meeting place for educational environment and industry to identify and develop projects. Since it was founded in July 2009 the number of partner companies has more than doubled, to over 100. Most importantly, students’ attitudes shifted. More of them are now inclined to be entrepreneurs themselves, either by launching their own start-up or freelancing.
Joakim Falkäng, Manager
Visualisation Park, Kaserngatan 26, SE-575 35 Eksjö, Sweden
Category | Improving the Business Environment
Recognising measures to simplify administrative procedures for businesses, particularly for start-ups
Tackling difficulties faced by SMEs in urban areas
FaciliTO, Municipality of Turin, Italy
FaciliTO is a model that the Municipality of Turin adopted to tackle the difficulties that small enterprises encounter in struggling urban areas. Micro and small businesses in Turin have faced particular difficulty in accessing credit, which is often due to the absence of project expertise. FaciliTO attempts to meet these needs by providing free consultations to support the development of business plans as well as direct financial support. Over 200 businesses have accessed FaciliTO and 93 of them have received financial support.
Elisa Rosso, Servizio Fondi europei Innovazione
Sviluppo Economico, Via Braccini 2, Cap 10144, Turin, Italy
Category | Supporting the Internationalisation of Business
Recognises policies to encourage enterprises and particularly small and medium-sized businesses to benefit more from the opportunities offered by markets both inside and outside the European Union
Co-operating to bring Douro wines to the world
Douro Boys, Aicep Portugal Global, Portugal
A group of five small wine producers from the Douro region worked together to create the Douro Boys brand. Designed to exchange information and support each other to steadily improve the quality of the wines they produce, the group also aims to co-ordinate a marketing strategy centred on promoting the Douro region and its wines to the world. Between 2002 and 2011, the exports of wine from the five producers increased from €4.7 million to €11 million, an increase of 134%.
Jorge Holtreman Roquette, Administrator for Quinta do Crasto SA
aicep Portugal Global, Agência para o Investimento e Comércio Externo de Portugal, EPE
O’Porto Bessa Leite Complex, Rua António Bessa Leite, 1430 – 2o Andar, 4150-074 Porto
Category | Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship
Recognises regional or local actions promoting corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices
Supporting disabled people into the workplace, Disabled at Work, Denizli Municipality, Turkey
Disability is a major cause of social exclusion and poverty, primarily due to the lack of employment opportunities. Disabled at Work, a joint Turkish-Dutch project, seeks to change attitudes and support the integration of physically disabled people into the labour market. The group comprises 16 organisations from Turkey and the Netherlands. The projects provide training as well as a matching programme which offers disabled people mentors as they prepare to enter the workforce. At the end of the programme, 194 people had been trained and 65 were employed.
Ms Pınar GÜLMEZ AĞIRBAŞ, Director of Survey and Project Department
Altıntop Mahallesi Lise Caddesi No:1, 20100 Denizli, Turkey