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Fostering entrepreneurship through coworking spaces: Key learnings

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People working in a coworking space

On 13 June 2024, the Policy Learning Platform hosted a webinar on how regions can foster entrepreneurship through coworking spaces. 

The webinar highlighted the importance of structured support, understanding community needs, and creating an environment that encourages serendipitous interactions to maximize the potential of coworking spaces in rural areas. 

Watch the recording, download the presentations and dive into the key learnings below. 

Webinar agenda

The webinar has been designed and moderated by Mart Veliste and Luc Schmerber, Thematic Experts for a Smarter Europe. 


00:01:06 Introduction by Mart Veliste on the topic of fostering entrepreneurship through coworking spaces

00:09:55 Keynote speech by Stephen Carolan from the Connected Hubs Network on the policy priority for Ireland

00:26:42 Q&A: Could you sum up what the main motivation is for policymakers?

00:28:13 Q&A: Concerning the rural areas, what type of organisations manage the hubs?

00:31:07 Q&A: Do you see the impact of the hubs in rural areas on other activities such as leisure activities?

00:32:49 Q&A: You spoke about different services the hubs offer, could you elaborate more on this?

00:35:55 Presentation by Eeva Arpala from the CODIL project on the HUBI25 Communal Workspace 

00:45:14 Q&A: How to start and run a coworking space in a rural areas without the big pool of people around?

00:47:15 Q&A: What is an office hotel?

00:49:12 Q&A: You mentioned you offer free consultations to entrepreneurs, what type of consultation do you offer?

00:51:05 Q&A: Stephen, does this HUBI25 resemble the rural hubs you have in your network?

00:53:40 Presentation by Xabier Hualde Amunárriz, Innovation and EU projects officer from the SKALE2CT project on the Local Network of specialised Business Centre

01:07:16 Q&A: You mentioned you saw a new demand since the pandemic, were there any new services entrepreneurs were looking for?

01:09:00 Q&A: You mentioned your new project started in February, do you already have a demand for it? And by what type of users?

01:12:10 Q&A: Do the business centres operate in silos or do the different managers meet and exchange? Panel discussion

01:14:06 Q&A: How can you encourage the cross-sharing of business ideas between entrepreneurs?

01:19:04 Q&A: How can these different hubs attract new talent and help young people?
Read more about EKINN’s young entrepreneur's programme in San Sebastian.

01:23:34 Q&A: What is the role of a policymaker in the effectiveness of these coworking spaces?

Key learnings
  • One of the most impressive coworking support initiatives in Europe comes from Ireland. The National Hub Network is a Government of Ireland initiative that provides a vehicle for 360+ individual hubs, the term used for coworking spaces in Ireland. Hubs can join a shared “Connected Hubs” brand and network to maximize the economic opportunity of remote working and development of rural areas.

    The network includes five types of hubs: Enterprise hubs, Scaling hubs, Research and Development hubs, Co-working hubs and Community and enterprise hubs – each serving different goals and providing a different set of services to entrepreneurs (events, mentoring, training, accelerators, etc). The coworking spaces help facilitate remote and hybrid working strategies.
  • Three things are key when starting a coworking space in a more rural area.
    1. The team is important: a multi-organizational consortium that brings together different skills, networks and services gives a lot of added value to the space and its users.
    2. Understanding the profile of the community: A feasibility or mapping study is advised – hyperlocal scouting of who is around in the area (e.g. who is working for multinational corporations, who are the entrepreneurs, etc).
    3. It is important to start: Experience has shown that there is a need for such coworking spaces in rural areas – they can be used by companies and individuals from many different sectors that one might not normally expect in a rural area. Once launched it is important to raise awareness – to organize opening days and have professional marketing towards the local community.
  • To support entrepreneurship, having a space with desks or working rooms is not enough. A coworking space functions best if it is supported by various business support and soft-lading services. In areas with a housing crisis, a key service can also be access to (below market rate) accommodation for the enterprise and its employees.
  • Business development within coworking spaces is mostly about serendipity, e.g. maximizing chances. Coworking spaces create a space for accidental encounters between individuals from different walks of life. These encounters can lead to beneficial collaborations for the enterprises using the premise. Therefore, open spaces, joint kitchens and resting areas as well as joint events for the community offer intangible opportunities. However, these chance encounters can be facilitated by the coworking space/business hub managers. The space manager plays a key role by knowing all the customers and their needs and therefore can play the role of a matchmaker between community members.

Download the presentations below.