This section analyses INTERREG IVC's response to the EU entrepreneurship challenge. It presents summary information on each of the eight projects which have been reviewed as part of the entrepreneurship capitalisation work and explores their impact on entrepreneurship policy and practice. It goes on to highlight some of the common and different challenges they face and provide some answers to the core questions posed through the capitalisation work.
1. INTERREG IVC'S RESPONSE
This report focuses on eight entrepreneurship projects supported through the INTERREG IVC Programme. The projects are diverse, reflecting the breadth of this policy area, but they also highlight a number of common challenges, as we discuss below.
The projects have involved 76 partner regions from 21 countries across Europe with lead partners coming from six different Member States. The projects come mainly from the second and fourth calls in the current 2007-2013 programme, and on average, they have each run for three years. Six of the eight are now complete, with the remainder continuing until December 2014.
- A summary of the projects is presented in Table 1.
Table 1: INTERREG IVC Entrepreneurship Projects
Title Aim Lead Partner Status
Public policies and Social Enterprises
To reinforce the effectiveness of regional public policies promoting and supporting social entrepreneurship as an asset for local economic development and territorial competitiveness. It recognised the particular characteristics of the social economy and its capacity to correct major economic and social imbalances and to help to achieve a number of general interest objectives.
Marche Region (IT) Complete
Entrepreneurial Inspiration for the European Union
To improve regional and local policies that could help to change people’s mind-sets about entrepreneurship. Throughout its duration, there was a special focus on three communities: Disadvantaged, Disconnected, Discouraged
Youth Entrepreneurship Strategies
To contribute to European competitiveness and regional growth through instilling an entrepreneurial mind-set in the next generation.
Östergötland County Council (SE) Complete
To exchange good practice amongst the partner regions in relation to entrepreneurship support mechanisms. The project had a particular focus on promoting diversity in entrepreneurship.
Kompass, Frankfurt (DE) Complete
Improvement of Methodologies And Governance of European Entrepreneurship Network
To benchmark best practice governance models and support methodologies for entrepreneurship. Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Lyon (FR) Complete
To Promote Entrepreneurship and New SMEs
To promote entrepreneurship and SMEs in former mining and traditional industry regions. Association of Mining Communities (FR) Complete
Mechanism for Enhancement of Synergy and Sustainability among Enterprises
To improve the effectiveness of regional development policies for economic growth and the quality of social entrepreneurs in Europe.
Veneto Region (IT)
To jointly define an integrated support programme for SMEs between their 3rd and 5th years of operation. It also aims to contribute to business consolidation and therefore to improve the efficiency of the SMEs’ policies at European level.
INCYDE Foundation (ES) In progress
Much more detailed information on each of the projects listed in - including a web link, budget, information on the partnership, good practices identified and transferred and project level policy recommendations etc. is included in Annexes - Project fiches.
2. Some solutions and good practices from INTERREG IVC Projects
This section explores some of the solutions and good practices from INTERREG IVC projects. It is structured around five inter-linked themes:
- Education and culture
- Regulatory environment and procurement
- Support and technical assistance
The table below indicates where each of the eight projects analysed fits within these themes although, clearly, there are some overlaps between the projects and the themes.
|Education and Culture||Finance||Regulatory environment and procurement||Infrastructure||Support and technical assistance|
Each of the sections in this analysis starts with a short introduction to the theme and then goes on to provide examples of INTERREG IVC project good practices which fit within it. Consideration is given to optimum conditions and barriers to transfer to other EU regions.
- 2.1. Education and culture
A lack of an entrepreneurial culture is cited repeatedly as a barrier to business generation in Europe. Many people do not recognise entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to employment. An aversion to risk exists and perceptions of business failure are negative. At the same time, the European Commission believes that investing in entrepreneurship education offers real opportunities: "Surveys suggest that between 15% and 20% of students who participate in a mini-company programme in secondary school will later start their own company, a figure that is about three to five times higher than for the general population" (EC Entrepreneurship Action Plan, 2013). Some countries aim to change culture over the long term by embedding entrepreneurship education across the curriculum from preschool through to post graduate level (or ‘ABC to PhD’ as it is referred to in Denmark). Others struggle even to include discreet entrepreneurship programmes in their education systems. In some European regions, there is a belief that business has no place in the education system.
Several good practices have been identified within INTERREG IVC projects which aim to address these challenges and to achieve a long-term change in culture of and attitudes to entrepreneurship through education. The ENSPIRE EU and YES projects in particular focused on these issues.
Partners in ENSPIRE EU were impressed by the Danish InnoCamp initiative where school-age pupils are given a challenge by a local company, which they then have 3 days to work on. All the teams present their proposed solution to a panel of judges made up of stakeholder representatives. The presentations describe the progress of their project (project log), a thorough description containing illustrations or prototypes of the solution, an advertising campaign and a sales pitch containing a market analysis and price quotation. Prizes are awarded for team work, sales and marketing, and for the product or service itself. Before the InnoCamp starts, teachers and companies go to a preparatory camp where they learn how to facilitate innovative processes during the camp itself. This teacher/business camp also acts as a network to foster innovation and entrepreneurship among young people in the local environment. The long-term goal is to invest in young people so as to achieve a step change in entrepreneurship culture. Kranj (Slovenia) is in the process of transferring the InnoCamp initiative from Denmark.
A similar approach was found in the YES project where the ‘Hour Innovation Camp’ (Estonia) offers an intensive ideas-generating workshop for upper secondary school students. Based on Junior Achievement Estonia’s ‘learning by doing’ principle, it hosts small groups of students who work together on developing a business model, supported by a plan which is then pitched to potential ‘investors’. Young people are taken out of their comfort zone – building new relationships, working to tight deadlines and required to assign roles and responsibilities. Through a varied programme of support, they develop skills in team working, problem-solving, marketing and financial analysis. Similarly the ‘Environment Rally’ in Sweden offers a web-based training tool that promotes collaboration between schools and businesses. Companies submit real environmental problems for students to solve. The tasks are adjusted for students of all ages, who choose which to tackle. The fact that these are real projects helps students understand the challenges of regional businesses. Young people bring fresh perspectives and as the problems are cross-curricular, they provide integrated learning experiences which are genuine. The project raises environmental awareness as well as stimulating entrepreneurship through student’s responses. The speed networking initiative in Finland (YES) aims to build an interactive network between teachers and entrepreneurs through a series of events based on this technique. In 2011, over 70 teachers and entrepreneurs participated – building networks, exchanging ideas and scoping collaborative options.
A longer-term approach to entrepreneurship training and education can be found in ENSPIRE EU where the Groupement de Créateurs (Entrepreneurs Team) delivered by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry aims to build awareness among unqualified and disadvantaged people on developing their own small business as an alternative to finding a job. It encourages disadvantaged people to trust their ability to come up with good ideas and to carry out their own projects. It also aims to foster beneficiaries’ self-esteem, self-confidence and autonomy of action as well as providing them with the opportunity to access an academic programme in business management. It is structured in three phases - the Emergence, Training and Academic phases and leads to a University degree in Entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship education in schools, however, assumes a degree of experience and expertise amongst the people who are expected to teach it - namely the teachers. Gothenburg, Sweden (IMAGEEN) is trying to address this by developing and delivering an entrepreneurship teacher training programme initiative which gives school teachers and careers advisors the skills and knowledge they need to stimulate entrepreneurial awareness in the young people they teach or advise. Like InnoCamp, the aim is for this approach to have a ‘ripple effect’ in the long term by gradually instilling a sense of entrepreneurial spirit in the business owners of the future. Representatives from Lubuskie (Poland) visited the programme as part of the ENSPIRE EU project and are now introducing entrepreneurship teacher training locally. However, with education systems across the EU being so different (and mostly defined at a national level), transferring such a practice may not be straight forward. In Sweden, for example, there is a national strategy to embed entrepreneurship in schools which paves the way for local and regional authorities to introduce complementary programmes such as this one. Clearly, this is not the case in all countries.
In the field of social entrepreneurship education both the Hampshire School of Social Entrepreneurs (UK) (ENSPIRE EU) and the Foundation of the Social Economy School (Spain) (PASE) are good examples. The former uses a variety of different support interventions and learning methodologies to provide tailored, personal development and organisational support that social entrepreneurs need. It is part of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, which is a UK organisation developing through a franchise model. Disadvantaged people are supported by trained facilitators and experts to understand the social entrepreneurship landscape. Methodologies include action leaning sets, witness sessions, expert sessions, show-how project visits, mentoring and coaching. Training and support are provided in a range of areas including legal structures, financial management, business planning, securing funding, marketing, partnering and other essential skills.
Similarly, the Foundation of the Social Economy School offers training programmes for entrepreneurs, business managers, trainers and leaders based on social economy values, and delivered both in class and through e-learning. It is a national reference point for social economy training.
Elements of both of these examples have been transferred to other EU regions through INTERREG IVC. At the Krakow University of Economics in Poland (PASE), for example, the Social Enterprise curriculum was improved by transferring the ethos of the Andalusian example. It inspired a change of thinking to be less theoretical and to focus more on practical business skills in finance, marketing, labour law, public procurement. This knowledge has also been transferred to national level to the Ministry of Labour and through cooperation with universities in Warsaw and Szczecin. From the experience of seeing social enterprise support and its status in other regions, the Malopolska region now also includes a marketing campaign to convince civil society about the quality of products and services of social enterprises. Consumers often think that, because traditionally social enterprises were run by disabled people, addicts etc., they were not trustworthy and therefore the product or service is not trustworthy. This image has to be challenged through awareness campaigns.
It is clear from these examples that changing entrepreneurial culture through entrepreneurial education requires long-term commitment. Rewards will be great but will take time. Even in INTERREG IVC projects, there seems to be quite a significant geographical divide between those countries for which entrepreneurial education is an integral part of the school system (mostly Scandinavia and some North West Europe countries), those where schools offer some entrepreneurship programmes alongside the core curriculum and those where there is practically no mainstreamed entrepreneurship education offer. Interregional exchange (such as that promoted in INTERREG IVC) can make a significant contribution to the step change in entrepreneurial culture which the Commission sees as a prerequisite of job creation and economic growth. It allows local and regional authorities to learn from their peers what works and what doesn't in different contexts and to test new approaches in their own countries.
- 2.2. Finance
Access to finance - whether in the form of loans, seed funding, microfinance facilities, angel type investment or other equity funding, grants or guarantees - is particularly difficult in the current context of public sector austerity and limited liquidity. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that some of the INTERREG IVC projects have been exploring new ways of helping (new) businesses to get the funds they need, when they need them.
One such example is the Munich Business Plan Competition (IMAGEEN) which started in 1997 and guides start-up entrepreneurs in developing a business plan and implementing it. The competition has three stages which take place between October and July each year.
In the first stage, would-be entrepreneurs submit their business concept in a maximum of 10 pages, and there are 10 equal winnersIn the second stage, these 10 winners submit their market strategy in a maximum of 20 pages, and there are five winnersFinally, these winners prepare and submit a full business plan including financial data in a maximum of 30 pages, and there are three winners.
The Jury is made up of industry and finance experts. All entrants receive written feedback. Intensive training and individual coaching is offered every step of the way. The best business ideas are awarded cash prizes and all participants have the chance to become members of the evobis network which provides additional support to facilitate the implementation of the plan as well as access to financing (venture capital, business angels, and subsidies). There are eight staff members, and between 1997 and 2012, there have been 3726 entries, 808 enterprises have been started, 5199 new jobs have been created and over €300 million seed to growth capital has been invested in these companies (2011 data).
One of the key success factors in this model is that the access to finance element forms part of a much wider support package - one that has generated massive added value for the region. The ‘competition’ title in reality acts as a marketing tool and attracts people to the programme - both potential investors and entrepreneurs. It provides good visibility for the initiative and attracts a high level of media attention. Interestingly, in the IMAGEEN project Birmingham (UK) started to transfer the initiative to their own region, they decided that in their context the term ‘competition’ could be a disincentive to some potential entrants. They are hoping to embed some of the strong elements of the practice within other entrepreneurship initiatives in the region, building on some of Munich's learning e.g. that a systematic approach with incremental steps and rewards along the way (membership, consultancy) works well. It helps the organisers to identify demand for future entrepreneurship services and to identify ‘gazelles’ - companies with high growth potential.
In the Young SMEs project, the lead partner INCYDE Foundation is also working with established companies to help them access finance. Here the emphasis is not necessarily on high-value companies but often on shops or other local businesses. The programme aims to help them survive - it is about business sustainability rather than growth. It offers training, capacity building / advice and consultancy through a team of consultants who go to one town at a time and work intensively with the businesses there. The Team spends around 10 weeks in each town (not every day). Each young SME is offered 4 to 5 hours of support each week (including access to finance, marketing, IT), and then a consultant spends 2 to 3 hours with each business owner working on their specific needs. This model is replicated each week on different topics. INCYDE Foundation is in the process of trying to integrate this programme with the new JEREMIE initiative which has been approved nationally and will provide a revolving fund of loans for SMEs. INCYDE Foundation will be responsible for assessing applications for loans and are keen to ensure that, where possible, these are integrated into a wider support package.
The PASE project also offers some examples of access to finance initiatives - this time for social enterprises. In France for example, since 2001, the Regional Council Provences Alpes Côte d'Azur has delivered a project called ‘Solidarity Economy and Active Insertion’ (ESIA) to help social enterprises to access banks and traditional financial institutions. It carries out financial audits and needs analyses for social enterprises and provides funding in the form of loans and loan guarantees, as well as advice and guidance. Between 2002 and 2008, some 264 projects were funded and over €11m committed. Elements of this project have been successful transferred to Malopolska in Poland.
Malopolska itself is home to an interesting initiative which offers financing (through European Social Fund grants of €4 500) to unemployed people to help them to set up social enterprise. The funding is part of an integrated package of support measures including advice, guidance and training. It forms part of the region's ‘Centre for the Support of Social Cooperatives’ which aims to promote social enterprise as a viable economic option for disadvantaged unemployed people.
Access to finance continues to be a major challenge for entrepreneurs. The key learning in these INTERREG IVC projects is that access to business finance cannot work effectively when operated in isolation. It needs to be part of an integrated support package which includes needs analysis, guidance and support. In addition, different forms of finance are needed and entrepreneurship practitioners across European regions are well placed to facilitate these, for example, through platforms for crowd funding or setting up business angel networks. The proposals for Cohesion Policy 2014 also seem to provide opportunities to set up microfinance support schemes.
- 2.3. Regulatory environment and procurement
The aim of policies supporting entrepreneurship must be to reduce regulatory barriers to enterprise and to create legal frameworks that enable entrepreneurs to take new products and services to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. Regulation is often experienced or perceived as a constraint. Businesses regularly complain about ‘too much red tape’ and as one project partner stated “if government can't help they should stay away!” Legislation regulating business start-up has many layers at many levels, from European regulations around the functioning of the single market and state aid to national fiscal systems, to local taxes, and business registrations. This complexity makes it more difficult to transfer practices simply, or at least necessitates thorough analysis of the local legislative contexts in order to assess the feasibility of transfer.
Some good practices emerged from the INTERREG IVC projects on how smart regulation can help create a more level playing field for entrepreneurs and social enterprises to get started in the market. Regulatory tools such as the effective use of procurement policy can also support the growth of the local economy in key sectors such as the environment and health and social care. In the case of the PASE and MESSE projects, many of the practices explored offered forms of regulation that support social enterprise.
One of the first challenges for entrepreneurs is to identify the right legal form under which to operate. Many project partners in the entrepreneurship theme had models for supporting start-ups with legal advice. Good practice models, for example Kompass in Frankfurt (ENTREDI) offer systematic and consistent support to entrepreneurs including technical assistance to make sure that entrepreneurs are aware of and comply with regulations, such as tax, company reporting, health and safety requirements, and import- export regimes.
Many partners in the PASE project were very inspired by the strong co-operative models in Italy and Spain. Compared to other regions, this social economy model is a more sophisticated concept and cooperatives in Italy and Spain are very real, competitive, serious businesses. As a result of exchange in PASE the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Region wants to focus on getting more start-ups to develop as co-operatives from the beginning. The legal basis of social enterprises as associations is not well adapted to economic activity in the way that the co-operative model is. Association statutes can be a block. The cooperative statute has the right shared governance and ethical base. The region is now working with the Association of Co-operatives to get more businesses constituted that way from the start.
There were some cases of innovation and bottom-up approaches influencing regulation between public agencies and social enterprises and innovative strategies favouring the emergence of new public social partnership/procurement models at local level. The Marche Region showcased the Italian practice of co-programming, which is effectively a new dialogue and cooperation between public sector and social entrepreneurs to develop and fund social services.
Public procurement offers the possibility for cities and regions to insert clauses that invite and encourage bidding for contracts by entrepreneurs and social enterprises. It can help to achieve multiple objectives, including enterprise development, employment creation and improved social cohesion. The scoring of tenders can include social and environmental criteria. Targets can be introduced for a certain percentage of contract value to be awarded to small businesses, local businesses and social businesses. These good practices, used in France and Italy, were explored and documented in PASE. Italy has reserved tenders for social enterprises, and in the Marche Region, 5% of public spending goes on enterprises focused on integration.
Procurement processes, designed to ensure fair competition, are in fact often a daunting prospect for entrepreneurs and small businesses, who often do not have the human resources or skills to complete the complex paperwork required, and this puts them at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger businesses. Several regions had good practice in preparing entrepreneurs and social businesses to improve their capacity to win work through procurement. For example, the Supplier Development Programme in Falkirk, Scotland, part of the Young SMEs network, offers a bespoke training programme to help entrepreneurs access new contracts.
The new consolidated EU directive on public procurement provides opportunities to open up new clauses and reserved tenders. During the final stages of PASE, partners participated in an international workshop about public procurement and EU level rules. Some Hanover social enterprise stakeholders took part in the workshop in Brussels and introduced some very new ideas on how to define social standards and social clauses. The city of Hanover and the region will need to change public procurement in line with the new EU legislation, and will include social clauses, which give greater possibilities for social enterprises to receive contracts.
A lesson from the project exchange is to stress that any regulatory tool designed to support entrepreneurship, such as procurement clauses, must be backed up with good training and awareness for public servants to use it well. For instance after 10 years of social clauses in procurement in France, results showed that, out of 82 billion Euros of public spending, only 1.9% is allocated through them. And even if reserved tenders are allowed by national legislation, these provisions are not always implemented at regional level.
Because of the multi-level nature of governance regulating business, good practices may need substantial adaptation to transfer them to the different legal and historical traditions of European regions. For example, the Basingstoke and Deane Council 3en Venture Capital Fund (UK - ENTREDI) - established in 2005 as the first Local Authority Venture Capital Fund in the UK aims to provide early investment support for high-tech businesses. It prioritises new businesses with a sound structure and Intellectual Property Right (IPR) shares. The fund focuses on a range of new industry sectors – software, IT, telecommunications and new media – and will offer risk capital to the value of around €95,000. This practice was considered interesting by other partners, but the regulations allowing this financing tool are so different that it would be impossible to establish it in the legal settings of other regions. On the other hand, transfer of best practice into the Malopolska Region from PASE partners was quick and effective. Within two years, the region had developed a framework and modified regulations for social enterprises.
There was also a note of caution from some project partners about the limitations of regulation. Some member states have strong traditions of following rules. The advice to policymakers from some project partners is "Don’t always follow the beaten path. Go off the track. Look over the edge of your plate."
- 2.4. Infrastructure
The value of regional infrastructure promoting entrepreneurship is an important message to come from this capitalisation work. Starting and sustaining a business is tough. It can be lonely and isolating, and support structures have a vital role to play in encouraging and sustaining entrepreneurs.
Here, when we speak about infrastructure, we include the physical spaces where entrepreneurs can find not only office space but also support and encouragement. Business centres, incubators and science parks are all in the mix here. Shared spaces, which bring entrepreneurs together, are consistently acknowledged as being important.
However, our definition of infrastructure also includes the growing suite of virtual support services available to embryonic businesses. The use of effective ICT tools as support platforms has distinct advantages – for example in rural areas as well as being able to offer a 24/7 service. Together, this combination of physical and virtual support is an essential component in the establishment of an effective regional ecosystem for entrepreneurship.
Within the INTERREG IVC projects there are various examples of physical space providing the combined package of a work environment with ancillary support. One of the most attractive is the Gothenburg Brewhouse (IMAGEEN), located in a distinctive refurbished building in the city centre. Part of the IMAGEEN network, this facility provides a shared space for creative industry entrepreneurs, which includes incubator units and collaborative work areas. The latter has been important in promoting the cross-fertilization of ideas amongst users of the facility.
A quite different example of a physical space with a sectoral focus is the Cleantech Campus (PROSPECTS), located in Houthallen-Helchteren, Belgium. In this former mining area, these facilities provide support to businesses involved in clean mobility, renewable energy and clean production processes. In addition to incubation units and a conference centre, there are education facilities – important in a region seeking to adjust perspectives on future economic prospects.
One of the key issues in former semi-urban mining regions is access to support, which is also a priority in rural areas, where economies of scale are not possible. As part of the ENTREDI project, the Jönköpping Science Park showed that this type of sectoral support can work beyond urban areas. This model is delivered via a network of locally located nodes. It supports entrepreneurship in small towns and rural areas, aligned to a strategic regional focus on supporting and retaining small businesses, many of which are family-owned.
The Jonköpping science park offers a support package which combines on-site and virtual delivery. The availability of a comprehensive support offer which is easy to access recurs as an important element in the effective regional entrepreneurship model. The ability to package this offer seamlessly, yet mobilise a range of agencies to provide appropriate elements of it when required, is a powerful combination within these INTERREG IVC projects.
A good example of this from the IMAGEEN project is the Lyon Ville de l’Entrepreneuriat. Fronted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, this comprehensive service is provided by more than 40 partners behind a single brand. The aim is to ensure that no entrepreneur in the region is more than 15 minutes away from a support point, from where they can tap into the wider network’s expertise. This coordinated model is now well established, and has contributed to Lyon enjoying a higher new business start-up rate (by 18.2%) than the national average.
In Frankfurt, there is also a coordinated support structure, developed by Kompass and known as the ‘4+1’model (ENTREDI). Here, the emphasis is on recognising the different types of support required by new businesses at each stage of the start-up process. This staged framework model relies less upon the provision of physical space and more on access to the right support models and appropriate tools. The Kompass model was widely praised by other regions and was one of the most commonly transferred examples of good practice.
The growing effectiveness of ICT platforms to complement face-to-face interventions plays an important part in the Frankfurt model. A priority for the ENTREDI network has been to widen the search for potential entrepreneurs beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and to reach out to those who might have second thoughts about setting foot in a conventional business centre. Women, young entrepreneurs and people from minority backgrounds are amongst those under this banner.
Two projects in Spain, from different projects, give an insight into elements of this work. There, a potentially positive outcome of the crisis has been to raise the profile of entrepreneurship as an alternative to regular paid employment. This rising tide of interest in enterprise is being met by an online service model in Granada, showcased as part of the IMAGEEN project. This provides a web portal for entrepreneurs – actual and prospective – where the full range of resources can be found in one place. The model has encouraged municipalities to collaborate, thus reducing duplication and recognising that businesses often transcend administrative boundaries.
Where the online portal focuses on supporting the entrepreneurs of today, the Murcia Regional Entrepreneurship Plan (YES) provides a strategic support framework for those of tomorrow. This ambitious model involves over 50 regional delivery partners, working with young people through the education system. Participation in INTERREG IVC has seen their strategic focus shift from promoting the mechanics of business – through mini-enterprises etc. – to one where the priority is on transmitting entrepreneurial attitudes: creative-problem solving; team working; communications and so on.
The sub-theme of targeting has been important for many of these INTERREG IVC projects. Several drivers are at work here. One is that individuals with a more traditional start-up profile (redundant executives, higher education spin-outs etc.) require less public sector support, so there is a limited market failure argument in these cases. Consequently, public resources are better invested in those who might not otherwise have this opportunity. Widening awareness of school pupils is a good example of this, as a good way to reach a universal audience. Another, evident in the ENTREDI network, is to develop services focused at those under-represented in the start-up communities – often women, minorities and the young.
We have seen that in Spain, enterprise is being especially encouraged during the crisis, as a way to create jobs and opportunities. In Eastern Europe, too, we can also see examples of this in the INTERREG entrepreneurship projects. Within the ENSPIRE EU network, the Entrepreneurship Foundation in Zary, Poland provides an example of this. As in Murcia, it has a strong offer to young people in education, but beyond that, it also actively targets people looking for work. Evidence suggests that timing can play an important part in the decision to become an entrepreneur, and the Foundation seeks to intervene at a point when people may be asking fundamental questions about their future life and prospects. A business incubator, combined with an entrepreneurship development fund, is amongst the repertoire of support tools on offer through this project.
One of the important points emerging form this work is the need to acknowledge the wide range of motivating factors behind entrepreneurship. This is perhaps particularly relevant when considering the drivers from atypical entrepreneurs – who will not always be ‘in it for the money’. The YES project has highlighted environmental activism as a factor for engaging young people, whilst PASE and MESSE explore the support issues relating to social entrepreneurs.
Not surprisingly, the support needs of social entrepreneurs are in many ways similar to those of their more purely profit-focused peers. Access to high quality information and guidance – delivered flexibly on a just-in-time basis, is a recurring requirement for all businesses, regardless of their legal structure. So too is having access to like-minded people, and the opportunity to collaborate with kindred spirits. In the Veneto region (MESSE), the Consorzio in Concerto unites 16 cooperative businesses from across a range of industrial sectors. These businesses provide services whilst creating opportunities for the most disadvantaged in the community – but again they would struggle to succeed in isolation. The infrastructure support provided by the Consorzio reflects the enterprise frameworks evident across many of these INTERREG IVC project regions.
In conclusion, these eight projects underline the importance of infrastructure in supporting and sustaining entrepreneurship. But this is not simply a case of providing a few business units. Physical space does matter in a number of ways: it can provide a visible symbol of the enterprising spirit in those areas where the concept has limited traction; it offers a shared space – often a neutral one – for entrepreneurs to mix and to trade ideas; and, most obviously, it can provide room to grow.
Yet, space in itself is not enough. A strong and clear message from this work is that entrepreneurship is primarily about attitude. It is a people thing – not a buildings thing. So a prerequisite for an effective infrastructure offer is to combine any physical space with an appropriate menu of support and resources. As we have discussed in this section, this might be wrapped around an industry sector focus, as with the Cleantech Campus. It may be sited in nodal points across a territory, as we see in Lyon and Jonköpping. And it is increasingly common to have that offer delivered via a combination of advisers who can be met face to face, and support that can be accessed day and night via an ICT-based platform. The defining factor however is that it is reliable, of high quality and easy to reach.
- 2.5. Support and technical assistance
Entrepreneurs stress the importance of access to an integrated support model. The availability of a pipeline of appropriate services, delivered through trusted relationships, is highly valued by those engaging in new enterprises. This is clear from the previous section, which focused on the key role of regional infrastructure.
But when we speak of services, what type of support is particularly helpful for entrepreneurs? Looking at these eight INTERREG IVC projects, what stands out and which support mechanisms have been most widely transferred amongst partners?
This review suggests that tools can be grouped as being either generic – i.e. suitable for all businesses – or tailored, where they are focused on supporting particular sub-groups of entrepreneurs – such as young people or ethnic minorities.
Looking initially at the generic tools, two of those transferred via the ENTREDI project have been particularly interesting. The Kompass profiling tool allows business support agencies to work with potential entrepreneurs to test their readiness to start a business. This screening tool produces a profile of the individual which assesses overall business capability, and in doing so can identify whether further training and support is needed before engaging in trade.
Although the Kompass tool had been tried and successfully implemented in Frankfurt, it was interesting to note the adjustments made in order to transfer it to other cultural contexts. For example, the original version contains a suite of questions about family background and relationships, designed to assess the personal and emotional stability of the candidate. Some partners felt that this was inappropriate for their working environment, so these elements were deleted during the transfer process. This important aspect of the exchange process was summarised well by a Finnish interviewee:
“The implementation isn’t just about copying what others do. It’s more a process of reflection and adaptation.”
Another valuable ENTREDI tool was the I-Planner, showcased by the Tartu Science Park in Estonia. This is a web-based environment for business plan creation and implementation. The user can enter text and numbers, and the I-Planner will calculate cash flow, break-even points and other key metrics. The tool is now well established throughout Estonia, and increasingly government agencies and banks require new businesses to use it as a condition of financial support.
This sheds an interesting light on both of these generic tools. For, although they are useful for the entrepreneur, they are also important screening processes, which can help identify weaknesses and potential flaws. At a time when public resources are tight, mechanisms like these which reduce risk are highly attractive to public sector funders of innovation and entrepreneurship.
In discussing such tools, it is important to mention the role of support and mediation. For, although the products are good, the critical factor is often around the way in which they are brought into a trusted relationship between the entrepreneur and the adviser. This human aspect should not be overlooked.
Another important aspect of effective generic services is the ability to deliver them flexibly and to tailor support around the busy lives of entrepreneurs. Two good examples from Sweden feature in the IMAGEEN project. ‘Mind Your Own Business’ (MYOB) offers a comprehensive support service for entrepreneurs which is free of charge, with a paid option of more intensive support. What is distinctive is that the service is provided at hours to suit the business people, so as to minimize disruption for them.
Expedition Forward, also from Sweden (IMAGEEN), provides leadership support to business leaders. The focus is on building a growth plan and structuring a personalised ‘expedition’ to support leaders to achieve this. The expedition comprises various customised components and each company is assigned an account manager who works closely with them, monitoring progress and providing guidance and feedback. There have been high levels of customer satisfaction from this experience.
The Expedition Forward project emphasises the concept of a journey, which takes entrepreneurs beyond their normal experience and knowledge – in some respects out of their comfort zones. This is a recurring theme in several of the entrepreneurship projects under review. The combination of a mentoring or coaching relationship, allied to exposure to new ideas and creative approaches can be a particularly effective approach.
The CIME (Creativity and Innovation Toolkit for SMEs) Project linking Ireland and Wales, in the Young SMEs project is a good example of this. Through this model, supported companies have access to a mentor who, as well as providing generic support, is tasked with looking to stretch the new businesses by building their creative thinking. Young SMEs focuses on small businesses between their third and fifth year of operation, which can be a time when small firms stall, particularly in the current economic climate. Data shows that businesses participating in the programme were twice as likely to take on new staff as the regional average.
The dual component of the trusted support relationship combined with a focus on encouraging attitudinal change is a powerful combination that is evident throughout many of these entrepreneurship projects. It appears to be especially important when working with specific groups who might be less likely to become entrepreneurs.
Ethnic minority communities provide a particularly interesting example. Much of the available evidence indicates that ethnic minority groups often display higher levels of entrepreneurial behaviour than host communities. However, their aspirations can be limited by various issues – including language, limited knowledge of legal and commercial norms – and as a consequence, they may restrict their plans to within their own community, or face greater risks in operating in the open commercial environment.
There is an active debate about whether support services for minorities are more effective if delivered within the mainstream, or whether bespoke approaches are better. A good example of the latter is the Ethnic Coach for Ethnic Entrepreneurs project operating in Denmark and part of the ENSPIRE EU project. Again, this approach builds upon the trusted coach/client relationship, both of whom are from the Muslim community in this case. The role of the coach is to occupy a pivotal role connecting to the wider range of support services, but starting from a shared knowledge and culture base with the ethnic minority entrepreneur.
This trusted relationship is also a key feature in one of the best known support programmes for young business people, the UK Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme, which is also involved in the ENSPIRE EU project. The Trust supports young unemployed people aged 18-30, many of whom have had negative experiences in education and employment. The organisation looks to build confidence, nurture talent and to support these young people with their business ideas. The support on offer includes a range of training inputs (financial management, marketing, employment law etc.) as well as access to a coach and exposure to the ideas of a wide range of successful business people – many of whom are Trust alumni. The Prince’s Trust also provides financial support – in the form of small grants and loans – to fledgling entrepreneurs.
The Prince’s Trust model recognises the role of a wide variety of stakeholders in providing support to entrepreneurs – coaches, mentors, business people, peers, and so on. Their programme also acknowledges the importance of these diverse stakeholders coming together to collaborate and to feed off one another’s ideas. A hidden objective is also to dismantle the psychological barriers that can exist between different stakeholder groups.
This has been an important consideration for the YES programme, which has focused on promoting entrepreneurship in education. Some of the project’s most valuable work has stemmed from their research into the varying attitudes amongst key stakeholders – who for them include business people, the education profession and students. Nurturing improved collaboration – particularly between teachers and industry – has been a consistent theme for many of the project partners, and the Finnish YES centres offer an attractive model that has stirred interest in Spain, Sweden and Ireland.
The YES centres are resource nodes, usually staffed by seconded teachers, whose role is to stimulate and support cooperation between education and industry. The approach is pragmatic and hands-on - producing resources, organising events and brokering relationships to break down attitudinal barriers and to promote collaborative activity. An important point noted by external partners was the YES centres’ focus on attitudinal issues, recognising that these are priorities for a successful enterprising future generation. Another important finding for the partners was the model where teachers are invited, not required to participate. In this way, those who are supportive will get involved, and resources can be targeted at them, rather than at reluctant professionals who lack commitment to the overarching aims.
Overall, there are consistent messages emerging about the type of support entrepreneurs need. Amongst these are issues of cost, accessibility and convenience. Increasingly, we live in an age where consumers expect round the clock services personalised to their needs. Entrepreneurs are no different. They are busy people, often with strong and clear ideas, and with high expectations of the support they need to succeed.
Consequently, consistent features of effective approaches include a ‘trusted relationship’ who might be a coach or mentor, combining a buddy role with a diagnostic service, which helps businesses identify their support needs from a comprehensive range of support options.
As we have seen, there is a wide variety of players who feature in this support landscape. However, it is important to stress the value of those people with first hand commercial experience. Credible, empathetic peers are probably the most valuable resource available to entrepreneurs – particularly if they stand outside the business and are willing to give honest, objective guidance.
The role of the public sector is perhaps worth mentioning here. It has a key role in providing finance, business intelligence, quality assurance and other tasks. However, as part of an integrated service model it is often well advised not to assume the lead role. Business focused organisations – such as the Chamber of Commerce and Business in Lyon – are often more credible and appropriate bodies to provide that public face.
3. Thematic Analysis
This section presents an analysis of the lessons emerging from the INTERREG IVC entrepreneurship projects, and explores the implications for entrepreneurship policy in European regions. The analysis is structured around the core questions at the heart of the capitalisation exercise, which formed the terms of enquiry set by the INTERREG IVC Joint Technical Secretariat at the outset.
- 3.1. Common challenges
Question: What are the common features / challenges / difficulties / successes among the projects of the same topic?
The projects summarised in Section 3.1 and in the additional qualitative information attached to this report all aim to promote entrepreneurship within regional and local policies. They operate in different geographical and socio-economic contexts but share this common goal. Here, we explore some of the challenges the project partners face.
Fragmentation - within policies and programmes and organisations - is cited as a key barrier to progress. Service provision and infrastructure are often developed and delivered in an ad hoc and reactive way rather than being genuinely integrated within a strategic framework. Linked to this, there is a sense that political cycles contribute to short-termism, with politicians seeking to secure rapid results which are not always sustainable in the long term, or which do not deliver long-term impact. Entrepreneurship practitioners can find it difficult to develop consistency and continuity within this environment.
In many cases, there is a multitude of players – and funding programmes – operating in the field of entrepreneurship. These are not always coordinated and sometimes even compete for beneficiaries. They do not always work together to avoid duplication of effort and ensure that entrepreneurs get the best possible service. Similarly, the role of the public sector is sometimes confusing - as one project partner said "Facilitate, don't regulate. If you can't help, don't disturb".
The project representatives also spoke about the difficulties providing services to different target groups. Some practitioners had problems knowing how best to understand these different groups and develop a service which meets their needs. Others found it difficult to engage people in greatest need of support and often reverted to supporting the ‘usual suspects’. Should they, for example, provide customised support for migrants or women or young entrepreneurs for example? Should they develop a core service which is then tailored slightly to address the diverse needs of different groups? Where does social entrepreneurship fit? In the climate of austerity, when authorities face a multitude of dilemmas in resource allocation, is money best spent supporting the start-up phase, facilitating access to finance or to helping with business sustainability?
Many of the projects reviewed are operating in different contexts - some are rural, others urban, some in between the two. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for entrepreneurship policy. It is not possible to take an off-the-shelf solution from one region and directly transfer it to another. There are many potential challenges when transferring a practice, including regulatory, legal, financial, institutional, cultural and political barriers.
The difficulty of developing a shared understanding of political, economic and social motivations for entrepreneurship policy in any given region contributes to this challenge. Some regions are clear that entrepreneurship policy is vital for job generation and economic growth (improvement entrepreneurship). Others believe that, with unemployment at an all-time high, entrepreneurship is a better option for job-seekers (necessity entrepreneurship). Some pick winners - high growth gazelles; others believe that services should be equally accessible for all types of entrepreneurs. These conflicting dilemmas can make it difficult to develop and deliver entrepreneurship policy and programmes effectively.
Measuring the impact and success of entrepreneurship policy is also a challenge faced by several of the projects reviewed. Quantitative indicators – for example, increases in start-up numbers, turnover or number of jobs - do not always tell the whole story in terms of social and economic impact, and yet, practitioners sometimes find it difficult to get politicians and funders to see beyond them. It is even more difficult to measure (and attribute) the impact of the public sector on entrepreneurship.
When it comes to social entrepreneurship, project representatives agreed that an ongoing lack of awareness of, and use of, social clauses, weighted criteria and reserved tender arrangements continued to be a barrier to progress.
Clearly access to finance is an ongoing challenge for all entrepreneurs across European regions, although most projects seem to think that this was not insurmountable where there were good business ideas.
More challenging seemed to be the lack of an entrepreneurial culture and, linked to this, in some regions the lack of an awareness of the importance of entrepreneurial education. Even in regions where there was agreement on the importance of entrepreneurial education, there was sometimes disagreement on whether it should be delivered throughout the curriculum or as a separate module, or whether it should start at an early age or at secondary or even post 16 level.
In any case, projects concurred that across Europe attitudes to risk and the negative perceptions of business failure were barriers to entrepreneurship. This fear of failure was identified as a major challenge, particularly when ‘second chance’ support (entrepreneurs who have already failed once) can often generate successes.
Many of the projects have concentrated their efforts within the framework of the INTERREG IVC programme, on addressing some of these challenges. The good practices identified and shared solutions which have been tested are explored in the previous section of this report.
- 3.2. Transferability of good practices
Question: In particular, do these projects have similar good practices in common? If yes, what are these good practices? Are they easily transferable to other regions? Should they be further disseminated for the benefit of other regions?
Several common good practices were to be found across the participating regions. With some adaptation they could easily be transferred to other regions and information about these practices should be further disseminated.
An example is the concept of an integrated, multi-agency ecosystem that promotes entrepreneurship, attracts potential entrepreneurs and guides them through the various stages of starting and growing a business. These ecosystems exist in many regions, and are exemplified in different models in Lyon and Gothenburg (IMAGEEN), Frankfurt, (Kompass Model - ENTREDI), and in the Murcia Entrepreneurship Plan (YES).
Diagnostic tools to help entrepreneurs to assess the potential of their ideas, their skill and support needs are a fundamental part of most ecosystems and a practice in many regions. Good practices are well developed in Lyon (IMAGEEN) & Frankfurt (ENTREDI). In Grenada, a web portal has been developed to meet a similar need and to signpost (would-be) entrepreneurs to support services (IMAGEEN).
Many good practices in entrepreneurship education were explored - particularly in YES and ENSPIRE EU. The Speed Networking practice in Finland (YES) and the InnoCamp (ENSPIRE EU), in Denmark (see above) are both initiatives that showed great promise for transfer to other regions.
Many partners showcased entrepreneurship competitions to raise profile and show how business ideas can be generated. Some were short – just 24 hours as in the case of the competition held by the Paris Chamber of Commerce (ENSPIRE EU) and the Sweden Environmental Rally (YES). Others are more focussed on business plan competitions like the one in Munich (IMAGEEN). These could be quickly transferred to regions as one-off or regular events.
The initiatives in PASE to professionalise the social enterprise sector varied in scope and ethos and had features in common. The successful example in Andalucia was adapted in other regions with a focus on hard business skills, and in other regions with an emphasis on soft skills / competences / mindsets. The Italian and Spanish practices have elements that other regions may well find useful.
In terms of physical infrastructure for entrepreneurship support some regions had set up a ‘One stop shop’ location (e.g. in Gothenburg, Lyon, Munich in IMAGEEN) whereas others, often for reasons of geography or resources, had created a network of nodal points as in CleanTech (Flanders) (PROSPECTS) or an online portal in Granada (IMAGEEN). All of these models offer possibilities for transfer.
- 3.3. Different solutions to the same issue
Question: Did the partner regions find different solutions to the same issue?
Rather than finding very different solutions to the same issues, many of the partner regions have created variations of similar solutions and practices to support entrepreneurship.
With entrepreneurship education, there is a divergence of ideas about the best approach, which seem to reflect a North/South divide. Some regions think supporting teachers is important, and others believe that is not the best use of resources or even appropriate. For some, entrepreneurship education is an extra-curricular activity, for others it is, or should be, running through all school subjects at all levels. Some partners questioned if business should be in schools at all, and some professionals in education are uncomfortable with that concept.
Although the Basingstoke Venture Capital initiative (ENTREDI) was considered a great model, in fact it would not work elsewhere because of different legal structures, and other partners had developed alternative models of finance. Similarly, the Kompass profiling tool and ‘4+1’ Framework (ENTREDI) was not successfully transferred to Basingstoke as it was considered too resource intensive at a time when public sector budgets were under considerable strain.
The business diagnosis tool used in Lyon (IMAGEEN) was considered too long for Munich and the partners will strip it down for use there. Some regions included more personal and lifestyle questions in such diagnosis tools. Others felt this was too intrusive and not appropriate in a business environment.
The Italian cooperative system is well established and highly developed. Learning about its legal structures led the French partner in PASE to start an initiative in the region to encourage starts ups to have cooperative statutes from the beginning.
- 3.4. Interesting or innovative practices or policies
Question: Does one region have a particularly interesting or innovative practice or policy identified which would deserve to be made available to other regions in Europe?
The practices that have stood out in the capitalisation exercise as especially successful or innovative and that could be usefully showcased for other regions are:
Andalucia: The Infrastructure for social enterprise, including the FIDES training, a network of social entrepreneurs and investment tools (PASE).
The Andalusian social enterprise infrastructure is remarkable in the way it incorporates many diverse elements, and is a mature system. The regional policy tool involves complex collaboration between local agencies, delivering technical assistance, training, guidance and access to capital. It particularly targets young people and women. It links to the nationally recognised social business training programme and offers financial support to start-ups.
Frankfurt: The Kompass system, bringing together a suite of support services and sophisticated diagnostic tools (ENTREDI).
Kompass provides two related practices with high transfer potential. Both are tried and tested approaches, which are particularly relevant for public sector agencies seeking to support entrepreneurialism with fewer resources. The first, the ‘4+1’ model, provides a structured support package for businesses relating to their stage of development. This particularly addresses the issue of new business sustainability. The second product, the Profiling Tool, is a diagnostic mechanism to assess the readiness of entrepreneurs to start in business. Partners have been attracted to this as a way to ensure that public support is effectively targeted.
The I-Planner in Tartu (ENTREDI) provides a web-based business planning tool which is not only attractive to new businesses but also to public funders as it provides a quality assurance check which reduces risk for investors.
The I-Planner is an online business plan tool. It supports users by calculating key metrics – such as cash-flow and break-even points – from data input in numeric and text formats. It has proven to be a reliable indicator of business performance, and in Estonia its use is increasingly a condition of public and private sector financial support.
The Munich Business Plan Competition which has generated huge value both in terms of investments made and jobs created and in business capital for the city as a whole (IMAGEEN).
The innovation here is the use of the 'competition' element or label as a lever to attract would-be entrepreneurs into the support system available to them. In reality, the 'competition' is much more about provision of a wide range of structured business support and access to finance opportunities. The competition 'prizes' do include cash, but the bigger and more sustainable prize is a robust business plan, validated by experts and in some cases supported by investors.
Lyon: The well-developed, fine-tuned Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, led by the Chamber of Commerce that has remarkable, statistically proven success rates (IMAGEEN).
Many regions claim to have a comprehensive entrepreneurship ecosystem. What Lyon has achieved stands out because they can quantify the added value of developing such a system in terms of the number of business start-ups at regional level compared to other regions in France. Every entrepreneur in the region is no more than 15 minutes from a business support service. Different stakeholders come together under one banner, using one strapline and one logo. The common goal is more important than individual organisational priorities.
Gothenburg's Expedition Forward programme which demonstrates the importance of long-term systematised and structured support (IMAGEEN).
The long-term and structured yet flexible nature of this support is what sets it apart from other similar initiatives. The focus is on structuring a personalised 'expedition' which includes various customised elements and emphasises the concept of a journey which takes entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone and challenges them to be daring and take risks along the way with support from their personal account manager.
Murcia's approach to planning for entrepreneurship – focusing on schools through 3 priorities: promoting the entrepreneurial spirit; supporting the creation and consolidation of companies and establishing a coordinated regional support platform for entrepreneurs (YES).
Murcia already had an ambitious regional entrepreneurship in place prior to participating in the YES project. However, their involvement has led to a significant restructuring of the approach – with greater emphasis on the need to encourage entrepreneurial attitudes, and a focus on committed teachers as catalysts for the change process. The regional strategy brings educationalists, business people and public policy specialists into an active partnership.
The CIME creativity and innovation tool used in SMEs in the South East Region, Ireland was considered quite unusual, although at project level, the good practice analysis was not yet complete at the time of writing (Young SMEs).
One of the innovative aspects is that the emphasis in the mentoring relationships developed is on stretching new business owners by building on their creative thinking. The project is thus encouraging attitudinal change through a trusted support relationship whilst at the same time providing more traditional business support.
- 3.5. Results of interest to other regions
Question: Has a project achieved a particular interesting result (e.g. in terms of good practices transfer or policies improved) which could be useful for the other projects in the same topic and more generally for other local/regional authorities dealing with that topic?
The good practices transferred which seem to have reaped particularly interesting results of interest to other regions are:
The Frankfurt Kompass tool (ENTREDI) was the most widely transferred. Lyon and Gothenburg (IMAGEEN) developed and shared similar approaches that show the optimal functioning of this integrated entrepreneurship ecosystem including a comprehensive structured support system. All of these examples could help to inspire other regions to see how to reach this level of success.
All of these practices are robust, tried and tested models which have been proven in their own regions. Of particular interest here are the long-term, structured and strategic approaches combined with a shared understanding amongst entrepreneurship stakeholders that achieving measurable impact takes time but is worth the wait. Working together achieves more than working apart: economies of scale are significant and the business support offer is more comprehensive, more effective and easier for entrepreneurs to understand.
Ethnic Coaches for ethnic people (Denmark - ENSPIRE EU) demonstrated the importance of offering tailored, culturally sensitive solutions to entrepreneurship support, which is of increasing importance to other EU regions, particularly as in many cases people entering the EU from outside bring new entrepreneurial ideas and potential with them.
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes and the notion of the 'traditional' entrepreneur is constantly evolving. It is therefore important that regions recognise that support packages also need to be flexible and adapted to the different needs of different target groups. The Ethnic Coaches project showed that offering peer-to-peer support works well with ethnic minorities. It is clear that this approach is also transferable not just to other regions but to other potentially vulnerable (would-be) entrepreneur communities.
A profound and rapid impact was achieved by the transfer from the Andalusian social enterprise training modules and the French Social Enterprise support structure into the Malapolska Region in PASE. As a result, three Polish universities have now adapted their curriculum for social enterprise (and with national mainstreaming underway), and the whole region has a new support structure that makes use of ESF funds for social enterprise start-ups.
In PASE, there was an interesting juxtaposition of regions with very little knowledge or experience of social enterprise with regions in Italy, Spain and France which have developed advanced systems and practice for social enterprise support. Partners in the regions new to social enterprise expressed how remarkable it was to see such mature well-functioning policies in practice. The exchange process enabled them to understand how these good practices work, analyse feasibility for their own regions and adapt ideas into local policies.
- 3.6. Pre-requisites for entrepreneurship policy
Question: Do the participating regions identify core pre-requisites for a successful implementation of their regional policy in the domain tackled?
A detailed set of prerequisite conditions for successful implementation of entrepreneurship policy are listed in the policy messages section (Section 4).
Most important of all are high level, consistent and long-term political support and clear stakeholder roles and responsibilities. This needs to be coupled with an acceptance that measurable impact takes time as well as the development of a common understanding of why entrepreneurship is important to the region and what can realistically be achieved through entrepreneurship promotion.
All of this needs to be clearly set out in a defined regional level strategy, complementing work at national and EU level. The Europe 2020 strategy provides a useful long-term framework for planning, and the EU initiatives listed in Section 2 show the direction of travel for entrepreneurship policy in the next decade. A good example of effective planning in INTERREG IVC is the Murcia Regional Entrepreneurship Plan (YES) which provides a strategic support framework. The themes tackled in this report - Education and Culture; Finance; Regulatory environment and procurement; Infrastructure and Support and technical assistance - combined with the good practice included - could provide a useful starting point for the development of such a strategy.
Perhaps equally important is the development of an effective entrepreneurship ecosystem incorporating multiple stakeholders who come together to deliver a comprehensive support package for entrepreneurs. Individual allegiances are set aside for the benefit of a predefined common goal. Lyon (IMAGEEN) has demonstrated the difference such an approach can make at regional level in the long term.
- 3.7. Synergies
Question: Depending on the expert’s knowledge, are there some possible synergies among the concerned projects and initiatives undertaken in other EU programmes?
The capitalisation exercise has revealed many synergies between INTERREG IVC projects in the entrepreneurship theme. The cross-fertilisation of ideas, relating to challenges and solutions, has been considered beneficial. In particular, the evaluation of the thematic workshop shows that project partners gained insight and inspiration from a dialogue with projects on a similar theme and that there is an appetite for continuing shared learning opportunities.
There are several links between projects operating in the same, or related, themes. Synergies exist, for example, between ENSPIRE EU and YES, which both operate in the field of entrepreneurship education and culture. This in turn links with the work done by COPIE, which has developed a range of tools to help promote inclusive entrepreneurship, including: diagnosis, action planning and entrepreneurship education tools, a manual on access to finance and a tool which aims to help regions map their entrepreneurship resources. Partners in these projects will also be heartened by the emphasis in the Commission's new Entrepreneurship Action Plan on investing in entrepreneurship education, nurturing a new culture of entrepreneurship and on the entrepreneurial potential of women, older people, migrants and unemployed people.
At the same time, PASE and MESSE share some partners and both focus on social enterprise. The European Social Business Initiative - with its emphasis on improving access to funding for social businesses, improving the visibility of social businesses and improving the legal environment in which they operate - demonstrates the relevance of the work done by these two INTERREG IVC projects.
IMAGEEN and ENTREDI's structured approach to the development of an entrepreneurship ecosystem, structured diagnostic and support tools and measurement of impact have much in common with OECD work on SMEs and entrepreneurship. Indeed IMAGEEN's 'common entrepreneurship barometer' work - which aims to end up with 10 permanent common indicators giving a global picture and enabling comparisons between EU Regions - draws heavily on the ‘OECD Scoreboard - Financing SMEs and entrepreneurs’.
Finally, there are also clear links between Young SME's focus and that of the European Enterprise Network and the Competitiveness and Innovation Financial Instruments with both emphasising the importance of support to new SMEs rather than just start-ups and both exploring innovative access to finance options. Similarly, the emphasis in the Commission’s Action Plan for Entrepreneurship on supporting new businesses in the most crucial stages of their lifecycle reinforces the importance of the work underway in this INTERREG IVC project.
So, taking the body of projects as a whole, there is a good deal of crossover and potential shared learning with initiatives under other European programmes and networks, and particularly with COPIE, the European Enterprise Network and international organisations like the OECD.
INTERREG IVC's 'sister programme' URBACT has also been active in this area. Whilst few of the thematic networks it has funded focus entirely on entrepreneurship, some have included the theme within their work. WEED for example (which explored solutions to the obstacles faced by women in employment, entrepreneurship and innovation) concluded that municipalities can increase women‘s involvement in entrepreneurship by working with boys and girls in school to change their attitudes towards the roles of men and women; making micro-finance more accessible for women and developing more integrated and innovative support for new businesses and business growth. ESIMeC (which aimed to find innovative approaches to sustainable economic recovery) focused one of its transnational events on transitions from education to work and found that in Sweden entrepreneurship education is reaping rewards in terms of increasing the employability of young people. Fin-Urb-Act (which tested out how cities can improve the support they provide to small and micro-enterprises) found that urban politicians and officials often have very little direct business experience themselves and, therefore, there is a major risk of a mismatch between a well-meaning but confusing range of supply-led business support initiatives and the real needs of local firms. Fin-Urb-Act developed some practical recommendations to help cities clarify the role that they can play in creating more favourable conditions for business start-ups and growth that are rooted in the very diverse needs of their local economies.
Building on some of these projects, URBACT's own capitalisation work on jobs and growth in 2012/2013 (More Jobs Better Cities, Framework for City Action on Jobs, 2013) also highlights the importance of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education to the generation of new jobs in the recovery.
INTERREG IVC could benefit more from promoting / facilitating formal and informal cooperation across these programmes, initiatives and networks, for instance by jointly presenting results, organising joint events and sharing practice more widely.