The iEER organized its midterm conference on 22 – 23 March in Brussels and brought 120 participants across Europe to learn about findings and experiences of the project.

The first day started with a plenary session. The First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Chairman of the iEER High Level Committee Mr. Markku Markkula welclomed the audince and reminded that the main objective of the iEER project was to encourage regions to take entrepreneurship as their key target. He also encouraged the regions to think what will be the next steps for the network and concept of the EER hosted by the CoR.

In the plenary session, tangible results of the project, such as an interactive eHandbook were introduced by Cathy Giles and David Kaneswaran, Institute of Technolgy Tralee. The iEER posed a policy framework to develop a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem covering 11 phases from -5 to 5.   iEER called for more policy attention to the entrepreneurial education and mindset activation in early childhood  throughout a person’s learning journey and to the monitoring and evulation of the policy intervention.

 At parallel sessions regional stakeholders presented their good practises in the fields of entrepreneurial competence and mindset activations, startup and acceleration support, supporting startups in outlying areas, and implementation of smart specialisation strategies for young entrepreneurs. Sessions enabled valuable exchange of views and discussions between project partners and EU stakeholders.

EC Vice-President Katainen called on regions to contribute to the EU budget debate

At the second day, discussions focused on how entrepreneurial success could be delivered through growth and jobs programmes. Keynote speaker, the Vice-President of the European Commission Mr. Jyrki Katainen mentioned that two global megatrends namely circular economy and artificial intelligence will bring opportunities for entrepreneurs and public policy should thus be geared towards them. Access to finance is a continuous problem for the European SMEs and a major barrier for investments. Today, EU supports SMEs through various financial instruments such as COSME and Horizon 2020 which are complemented by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).  For the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) the EC is planning a new investEU fund bringing the current seven differen financial instruments for SME under a single umbrella. 

He also encouraged cities and regions to take actively part in the current EU MFF process and bring ideas how to effectively use EU funds beyond 2020. Katainen called upon the participants not to leave the MFF only to the national governments as regions’ voices are needed.

The first panel discussed the role of public sector in facilitating favourable environment for entrepreneurship. It is suggested following the findings of the iEER project report that entrepreneurship education support and investments has to be in the very beginning stages. It is of utmost importance that entrepreneurial spirit among the students is fostered in universities. There was a common understanding that investing in entrepreneurial exchange programmes, funds for education, awaress raising, and Erasmus for Clusters would improve the current situation.

SMEs and multinationals are experiencing different kinds of realities. While one enjoys various benefits and access to information, support and infrastructure the other is alone in the market.  The second panel session concentrated on what can be done in the future regarding iEER regions delivering growth and jobs for startups and young entrepreneurs. Experience of Kerry County, ,Brandenburg, West Region Romania and Valencia in the iEER became evdidnce that getting to know what other regions are doing bring added value and new knowledge to the region and to act smartly.

Public-Private Partnerships models were integral in implementing the projects effectively. Territorial integration, regional differences, importance of the outlying areas, differenciation of services, support and support systemsin regions and safety nets, i.e. social security schemes for entrepreneurs and their families, are crucial.

More than 50 actions implementing support for entrepreneuriship

The conference was concluded with a signatory session. Policy representatives from each iEER region signed a distinguished regional iEER action plan which will be implemented and invested with 11 Growth and Jobs Programmes during 2018-2020.

The action plans are committed by 10 European regions affiliated with the European Entrepreneurial Region Award, including Hauts de France, Brandenburg State from Germany, Region of Southern Denmark, Marche from Italy, Valencia from Spain, Kerry from Ireland, Northtern Ireland, Polish West Pomerania, West Region Romania, and Helsinki-Uusimaa region, being the lead partner.

For revisiting the conference, please check presentations and photos.