SPARK Demo is the new business support structure for entrepreneurship in Tartu. Its goal is to act as platform to spark create new opportunities.
Development plan of city of Tartu (policy instrument) states one of its main goals to develop Tartu as entrepreneurial city.
Policy has defined three strategic goals: Tartu has competitive and sustainable enterprises; Tartu has high-tech economy; Tartu is the best place to start a business and attractive investment environment.
To achieve these goals policy has described five focused development directions:
1. Development of innovation and growth capacity of entrepreneurship
2. Development of human resource
3. Development of business support system & infrastructure
4. Support for internationalization of entrepreneurship
5. Development of entrepreneurial culture and reputation of entrepreneurship environment
SD directly contributes to points 3, 4 and 5 and indirectly also to 1 and 2 through its activities. It operates as platform which brings together region’s most successful exporters, opinion leaders, employers, brightest startups and business support organizations, educational and R&D institution and is the ‘Go to’ place for foreign visitors interested in business opportunities in (South) Estonia.
It does so through showcasing daily 40+ strongest (by export turnover and employment) and most innovative (both startups and corporates) companies in region of South-Estonia. SD hosts and organizes more as 150 events annually, majority of them entrepreneurship related.
Set up cost was ca 120k-150k € from which approx. 50% were physical infrastructure and other 50% operational costs. 2 FTE persons employed during initiation phase of SD.
Today SD runs with ca 120k€ annual turnover, employs 2 full time persons.
Funding sources annually: 50k€ from Tartu city
Evidence of success
SD in 2017 hosted over 6 000 visitors, among them 150+ delegations from 20+ different countries, more as 120 entrepreneurship related events. It showcases in total 60 demo walls of 42 regional companies mainly from wood, food and ICT sector. It operates as platform and meeting place for regional stakeholders from private, public and academic sector.
Funding is always issue, we need to increase revenue earned by SD services. Content is another topic – need to find fresh speakers, topics, approaches for workshops, trainings, seminars etc. To find interested companies and being valuable to them requires personal approach and man-hours.
Potential for learning or transfer
How might we adjust support to individual needs of startup companies? How might we make communication effective among all the stakeholders, so that public administration gets sound and reliable knowledge and feedback form their clients? How might we help internationally oriented companies in entering international markets with more specific, individual support? How might we ensure best conditions for knowledge and technology transfer (from the region)?
Above are just few questions which are coming from partner regions of ESSPO project. In most European regions the challenge how to operate a platform which manages in most efficient manner the triple (or quadruple) helix model and its players – Government, University, Enterprises and Society.