Entrepreneurship: high on the EC agenda
For the European Commission (EC), entrepreneurship is the act of seizing opportunities and ideas and transforming them into value for others, which can be financial, cultural, or social.
With the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan adopted in 2013, the EC set out a renewed vision and a series of actions to be taken at both EU and Member State levels to support entrepreneurship in Europe.
In 2016, the Commission launched a European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp) as part of the New Skills Agenda for Europe. It aimed to support and inspire action to improve the entrepreneurial capacity of European citizens and organisations, creating a common understanding of the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to become an entrepreneur. Finally, the new European Skills Agenda from 2020 continues to include the promotion of entrepreneurial skills among its priorities.
Fully in coherence with the European framework, ensuring better quality entrepreneurship for young people was the focus of the Interreg Europe project E-COOL. The Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen (Netherlands), a partner in the project, fully benefited from the interregional collaboration in the partnership, which enabled to improve entrepreneurship education in the Netherlands in the framework of the O2LAB programme.
O2LAB - Entrepreneurship in education in the Netherlands
O2LAB is a programme from the National Organisation for the promotion of Entrepreneurship (RVO) part of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. The aim of O2LAB is to enhance more and better entrepreneurship in education.
O2 stands for Entrepreneurship and Education. One of the main pillars of the programme is the funding of 7 O2LAB hubs, i.e., 7 regional partnerships between educational institutions and entrepreneurs from the region, which receive a financial boost and support from the national O2LAB programme to strengthen their entrepreneurship education.
The first 3 O2LAB hubs were launched at the beginning of 2021. The Northern Region has its own branch: the O2LAB North, located in Groningen. Which is coordinated by Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen. Further partners of the O2LAB Hub North are Noorderpoort, Alfa College, VNO-NCW/MKB-Noord and 3 innovation hubs (Digital Society Hub, EnTranCe, Health Hub Roden and Tech hub Assen).
The O2LAB hubs modernise and expand entrepreneurship education within secondary education, intermediate vocational education, higher professional education, and university education. They also strengthen cooperation with regional SMEs. The hubs build on many years of experience and good relations with the business community.
This ultimately means that:
- More students, at all levels and in all disciplines, can access entrepreneurship education and develop their entrepreneurial competencies.
- The educational offer is better tailored to the issues of entrepreneurs. This means more (entrepreneurial) practice in the curriculum and challenging and inspiring education.
- More and better training and tools are being developed for teachers who want to work on entrepreneurship education.
- Entrepreneurship education is better embedded and anchored in the curriculum.
Improvement of the O2LAB programme thanks to the E-COOL project
Throughout their participation in the E-COOL project, the representatives of Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen and the local stakeholders managed to improve the O2LAB programme with different initiatives inspired by the exchanges with the E-COOL project partners. Several new or improved initiatives were added to the portfolio of the O2LAB programme:
‘Entrepreneurship label monitoring’
Part of the activities of Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen is to deliver ‘entrepreneurship labels’ to educational institutions in the region of Northern Netherlands. The label shall help those organisations promote their activities in entrepreneurship education and mobilise local stakeholders, especially businesses. However, the existing approach, although useful, was perceived as too academic and static.
Thanks to the input of the partners from Devon City Council and the adaptation of their practice The Gatsby Benchmarks and The Careers Hub Modal, the way entrepreneurship education and support is monitored in educational institutions was improved.
‘SME Learning Communities’ programme
In the spring of 2022, the E-COOL team at Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen actively contributed with ideas from the O2Lab North to shape the national RVO O2Lab SME Learning Communities programme. They have done this with the knowledge and experience of the Czech partner in the E-COOL project, the South Moravian Region, building more specifically on their good practice Playpark Brno, which helps want-to-be entrepreneurs build a sustainable business from scratch to a business plan.
The special thing about the concept is that students work for existing companies. The idea that students “sit in” at companies and physically leave school has become part of the O2LAB programme. Affiliated O2Labs can request funds allocated for this initiative (EUR 400k in total). In addition, an active effort is being made to ensure that the individual O2Lab hubs acquire resources themselves to continue the SME Learning Communities.
Those policy improvements demonstrate impressively the potential of interregional collaboration for impactful policy making. It is especially noticeable that those changes aim for durable improvements in entrepreneurship education in higher education in the Netherlands.