In the spirit of interregional learning, the Euregio Rhine-Waal welcomed two representatives of the Croatian business development agency HAMAG-BICRO and a representative of the Joint Interreg Secretariat of the INTERREG VA Hungary-Croatia Programme for a working visit to Kleve on 24 June 2019. HAMAG-BICRO is a partner of the Interreg Europe project "KISS ME" led by the Euregio Rhine-Waal, which aims at strengthening the innovation capacities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a cross-border context by comparing and exchanging the strategies of four different border regions.
The visit to the Euregio Rhine-Waal gave the Croatian and Hungarian representatives deeper insights and new input for the implementation of the so-called "Beneficiary Light Grant Scheme" project ("B Light"), which is running within the framework of the INTERREG VA Hungary-Croatia programme and promotes cross-border developments of innovative technologies, services and products of SMEs. Since the structure of the B Light Scheme is similar to that of the "Digipro Project”, running under the INTERREG VA Germany-Netherlands Programme, the working visit was mainly concerned with project implementation, SME acquisition and project management in practice. Similar to B Light, the Digipro project also supports SMEs in the development of intelligent products and processes. Tom Cornelissen, project manager at the Dutch business development agency Oost NL for projects from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), explained that in open innovation projects it was particularly important to be flexible and to simplify the application and implementation processes as much as possible in order to take the bureaucratic burden off the SMEs.
In order to paint a comprehensive picture of SME innovation projects within INTERREG VA Germany-Netherlands programme, the second part of the day consisted of a visit to the start-up "Medipee" in Moers, which had initially received funding for the production of a prototype as part of the Digipro project and is now carrying out the INTERREG cross-border project "Digipee". Thomas Prokopp and Paul Bandi, founders of the start-up "Medipee", as well as Sigfried Schulze, regional coordinator of the Digipro project, welcomed the delegation. The founders presented their project and gave insights into the application and funding process of INTERREG from an entrepreneurial perspective. They also stressed that it was particularly important for SMEs and start-ups to be able to process project applications and the implementation as quickly and unbureaucratically as possible. They described the cross-border cooperation with the Dutch partners as very pleasant, enriching and smooth.
The Croatian and Hungarian partners were extremely interested and pleased with the many insights they were able to gain from the work visit in German-Dutch border region. "It was very interesting to visit both lead partners and entrepreneurs and hear their experiences first hand. I can say that we have learned a lot and will implement some of the approaches in future funding projects in the INTERREG Hungary-Croatia programme," concluded Renato Vrebac, Project Manager of the B Light Grant Scheme at HAMAG-BICRO. This working visit, which was made possible by the Interreg Europe project "KISS ME", was able to provide a lot of good input for the guests from Croatia and Hungary and underlines once again the benefits of interregional cooperation.