Lisbon, Northern Ireland and Valencia win "European Entrepreneurial Region of the Year 2015"

Portugal's capital city, Lisbon, UK's Northern Ireland and the Spanish Region of Valencia have been selected as the winners of the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) for 2015. Their strategies to promote entrepreneurship and spread innovation among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were selected by a jury which included representatives of EU institutions as well as business associations. The awarding ceremony took place in Brussels on 25 June.

On the occasion of the CoRs' 107th plenary, the EER award was presented by Ramon Luis Valcárcel - President of the EU's Committee of the Regions to ), Ramon Luis Valcárcel, to António Costa (PT/PSE), Mayor of Lisbon, Alberto Fabra Part (ES/EPP), President of the Valencia Region and to Arnold Hatch, President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association and Trevor Cummings, Ards Borough's Councillor,

The EER Jury has specifically acknowledge the impact of Lisbon's efforts in positioning itself as an Atlantic business hub and Atlantic startup city, exploiting its geographic location as a gateway to the Americas, Africa and the EU. In particular, the identity of “Startup Cities” has been reinforced through an impressive set of initiatives such as “Empresa na hora”, allowing the creation of a new business in a very short time; the Startup Lisboa business incubator, which opened its doors in 2012 and is part of a urban regeneration project for the downtown area of the city (Baixa); the Lisbon Youth Entrepreneurship Programme that offers education and training for the youth in the areas of citizenship and ethics, career development, entrepreneurship and financial literacy; and the Lisbon Challenge that selects start-ups to receive top mentoring and support, including through sessions organised in Boston, London and São Paulo.
Mr Costa stated that: "Lisbon is a unique city with a great potential as an entrepreneur city, a real Start Up-City. This has been a priority for the Municipality of Lisbon, which has launched various articulated projects and programs with this objective. The vital steps have been; spaces for incubation and testing of new concepts (like StartUp Lisboa and Fab Lab Lisboa) ; financial instruments giving support to the entrepreneurs; entrepreneur programs in schools; networking between the different partnerships and spaces, like the Network of incubators of Lisbon, and the Week of entrepreneurship; promotion and support of important international events in Lisbon. Today, Lisbon is internationally recognized as a privileged destination for entrepreneurs, and has been highlighted as one of the best cities in the world for entrepreneurship, by the magazine Entrepreneur".
Northern Ireland
The points of strengths identified by the EER jury - made of representatives of EU institutions and business associations - include the attention to the region's natural resources; the partnership with EER 2013 region Nord Pas de Calais to exchange best practices on social entrepreneurship; the Food Network initiative, which brings together commercial and public sector funders with renowned culinary restaurateurs to create work opportunities for socially excluded citizens; as well as the Aspire Programme, developed and run by local authorities, which addresses graduate unemployment.
Councillor Trevor Cummings stated that, "Northern Ireland has witnessed massive change for the better over the past ten years. We still require brave political decisions, in the collective interests of all our people, whereby our prosperity & well being underpin our current stability and our emerging Programme for Government in 2016. The EER Award 2015 is crucial - it challenges those of us who support, invest in and promote local enterprise. It links private business and the social economy with EU, regional and local government. It fulfils so many of the key Programmes and Policies, from the NI Economic Strategy, to European Regional Development, Structural and Social Funds, from peace building to subsidiarity”.
Alderman Hatch added that, “Northern Ireland's entrepreneurs will sustain our economies, whether these are film makers, artisan bakers, micro brewers, bus and coach manufacturers, or medical technology specialists. If we give them support, Northern Ireland has a bright future with jobs, growth and prosperity replacing conflict. EER gives us focus and motivation. Our work plan will be testimony to Northern Ireland’s enterprise and our untiring work ethic. We thank President Valcárcel, his officials, our three MEPs, fellow CoR members, NILGA and Invest NI”.
The Valencian Region focused on increasing the innovation potential of small enterprises by assisting them through the region's four Business Innovation Centers (BICs), in coordination with the region's universities, scientific parks and technological institutes. In the past years, the BICs have helped more than 800 business creation with innovative content, supported the development of 1.600 companies’ business plans and generated 2.000 qualified jobs. At the same time, the reduction of administrative burden on businesses has been given the highest priority. In particular, the ‘Top Ten rules project’ identified through a public consultation those rules that raise barriers in establishing and developing a business and paved the way for their elimination by the Valencian Regional Parliament. As regards the spreading of innovation among SMEs, initiatives such as the Patents Bank and the Technology Transfer "Connecting Knowledge For a" helped the region in promoting the encounter between entrepreneurs, businesses and knowledge centres and in facilitating the transfer of results generated by scientists to productive and service sectors. The Community of Valencia is also participating in the CLIMATE KIC, one of the Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs) created by the European Innovation and Technology Institute (EIT). The regional focus is on mitigating and adapting to climate change, especially against carbon emissions. Up to now, it has allowed 30 new and innovative companies from the climate field to implement their business ideas.
The President of the Valencian Regional Government, Alberto Fabra, thanked the CoR and the jury for awarding the EER to the Region of Valencia: "This is a Region with an enormous entrepreneurial potential, which has always been well known as a land of entrepreneurial people and as a world reference in various economic sectors, thanks to the fact that many of our ancestors opened long time ago the way to entrepreneurship exporting their products all over the world".
Mr Fabra has also congratulated the other two awarded regions and has pointed out that entrepreneurship is the necessary starting point for economic recovery. For this reason "the Valencian Regional Government promotes and supports the sustainable, smart and inclusive entrepreneurship in our region, boosted by our economic and industrial policy".


Pierluigi Boda
Tel. +32 2 282 2461
Mobile +32 473 851 743