The first learning camp in Brandenburg marked the beginning of a busy fall for the iEER project. Approximately forty local and international participants representing startups, universities and municipal actors from eleven regions across Europe came together on 27-29 of September to learn about local best practices, brainstorm on how to best support and activate entrepreneurs, and to build bridges across regions.

“As an EER (European Entrepreneurial region) awarded region in 2011, I am pleased to see that we are working alongside with the Helsinki-Uusimaa and other iEER regions to finds ways to cooperate and improve our entrepreneurship ecosystem” added Anne Quart, State Secretary and Committee of the Regions member to project partners at the welcoming lunch.

The first iEER learning camp focused on entrepreneurial competence and mindset activation. In a workshop participants discussed the qualities necessary for an entrepreneur, how these can be taught and learned, and what can be done to make entrepreneurship attractive for young people. Communication skills, ability to take risks and a focus on the market were some of the qualities pointed out.

The ideal team includes a hipster for thinking outside the box, a hacker for technical abilities and a hustler for sales and promotion

Entrepreneurship was seen as a team effort. “In a nutshell, the ideal team includes a hipster for thinking outside the box, a hacker for technical abilities and a hustler for sales and promotion” Peik Hämekoski, a startup founder from Finland summed up one of the things he learned during the day.

Discussions with colleagues from other regions raised important insights into entrepreneurial culture and context. “Cultural differences really count”, noted Maria Leye from TH Brandenburg. Unwillingness to take risks was a challenge in some regions, whereas in others risk aversion was unheard of. When it comes to activating would-be entrepreneurs, participants highlighted the importance of positive examples and embedding entrepreneurship into study programs. 

Brandenburg showing the way

The region of Brandenburg surrounds Germany’s booming capital Berlin, which brings both advantages and challenges. Since the employment situation in the region is rather good, local actors face a test when promoting entrepreneurship to students. How to get young people interested in starting a business when employment is readily available? How to keep startups local, when Berlin with its services and customers is just around the corner? 

Brandenburg tackles these challenges in various ways.

Entrepreneurial activation starts with education.  In universities entrepreneurial mindset is activated across study programs by assigning exercises where students work in teams to complete tasks. TH Brandenburg offers individual support for students hoping to start their own business, and University of Potsdam organizes activities such as speed-dating for startups to bring teams and talents together.

Focused funding scheme supports talent and spin-offs. Regional government in Brandenburg offers special guidance and consulting services to attract foreign entrepreneurs to the area, and co-organizes the annual Berlin-Brandenburg Business Plan Competition, which is Germany’s largest start-up initiative. An especially interesting venture is a program called EXIST, which is funded by the German federal government. EXIST provides grants and support for knowledge based start-ups enabling entrepreneurs to focus on building their business for a whole year. The program has a high success rates with over 80 per cent of EXIST-funded startups being alive after three years.

Up next for iEER is a learning camp in Valencia, Spain on 26.-28.10. where the focus will be on startup support and acceleration. Follow us on Twitter at @BoostiEER for up to date news on the project!