On 12 and 13 February 2020, the Policy Learning Platform organised a peer review in Karlovac (Croatia) for the Regional Development Agency (JURRA KŽ) to receive hands-on feedback and advice on the establishment of a Regional Competence Center in Karlovac County for SME development. Peers from Italy, Poland, and Spain, together with our Thematic Experts, gathered to exchange their relevant experience on SME support institutions with representatives from the county level institutions, local administration and vocational schools.

Access the recommendations in this follow-up report

The main objective of JURRA is the facilitation of the coordination and promotion of regional development at the local (regional) government. It is the certified Regional Coordinator by the Ministry of Regional Development and European Funds.

The topics addressed in the peer review

  • Stimulation of creation of companies and start-ups, boosting the entrepreneurship at regional level.
  • The creation of partnerships among important stakeholders in the EU.
  • Promotion actions for JURRA as well as collaboration with others and participation in international and regional fairs and projects.
  • Training actions including specialized 'training of the trainers'.
  • Setting up and managing competence centres.

Karlovac SME support ecosystem is still in developing stages and one of the biggest current challenges is a lack of institutional support for SMEs and relevant infrastructure to provide such support. At the regional and local level the lack of co-ordination among different economy and business supporting institutions results also with a weak visibility of their actions and interventions. As well a limited amount of people who understand the start-up economy. For these reasons, many entrepreneurial people look towards the capital city Zagreb or across the border to Slovenia. 

The added value of the peer review was the chance to share experiences from other regions who have gone through similar process in the past. In other words, Karlovac has the chance to avoid mistakes made elsewhere.

One of the main recommendations provided in Karlovac was to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem instead of specific start-ups which includes an holistic approach including working closely with secondary and vocational schools. It was advised to set up a working group with agencies and people that work with businesses on a daily basis to more effectively pool to existing know-how and resources.

Organizing informal and speed dating encounters and providing tailored support to SMEs were also recommended to boost entrepreneurship. For setting up competence centres it was advised to expand the initial target gorup of students in vocational schools to regional companies.

As immediate actions according to the recommendations provided, JURRA KŽ is planning, together with other participants in the peer review, to analyse the possibilities of participating in an international business platform for improving the business climate and competence on the whole in Karlovac County.

Find all the addressed questions and recommendations in the follow-up report.