How regions and cities can make their business environments more robust and future-proof was the main focus of the annual conference of the European Entrepreneurial Regions (EER) on 24 January in Brussels. The event organised by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) also provided tips and advice for potential applicants for the 2019 edition of the EER award.
The network of present and past winners of the European Entrepreneurial Regions (EER) * award is composed of 24 regions and cities, which have shown how to support SMEs and develop their territories. The EER annual conference brings those winners together with other representatives of local and regional authorities, EU institutions, stakeholders and experts, in order to explore current issues in entrepreneurship and SME policy. The goal is to identify good practices and explore challenges and future policy options on how to better support entrepreneurs at regional and local level.
" It is our cities and regions that can create the right conditions necessary for the development of entrepreneurship and help catalyse sustainable territorial development", said CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz opening the event. " To provide concrete evidence that cities and regions are able to make a real difference for their entrepreneurs and their SMEs, the European Committee of the Regions has developed the EER initiative , which identifies and rewards European territories that are committed to delivering cutting-edge entrepreneurial strategies to support sustainable economic growth in Europe ", he added.
To learn from their example, the first panel of the conference discussed the approach of Central Macedonia, which has built its entrepreneurial strategy on the basis of an in-depth analysis of the actors present in its region. Their strategy aims at confronting the challenges by lessening administrative burden for SMEs, addressing the lack of financing for SMEs by leveraging private funds through a strategic funding platform, nurturing innovation and support entrepreneurs to participate in EU actions and partnerships around the world.
The second panel focused on key ingredients of successful entrepreneurial policy by looking at good practices in Europe and the regional experience of the projects. One example was the strategy of the Northern and Western Region of Ireland, which had provided a coherent response to the threat of Brexit. The action plan is based on the 10 principles of the EU Small Business Act identifying remaining gaps and listing steps, targets and deliverables to be achieved during the EER year 2018. It includes innovative actions, such as capitalising on the National Ploughing Championship – Europe's biggest agricultural exhibition – to promote entrepreneurship in rural areas, or targeting Irish emigrants through an awareness raising campaign implemented in the regional airport.
Finally, the third panel looked at how policy can define future-proof solutions that increase the resilience of their entrepreneurial environments against future challenges. The starting point of the discussion was the long-term approach of the Ile-de-France Region, which focuses on strategic sectors such as aeronautics, digital evolution, health and innovation. Their goal is to become the world's top region for innovation and job creation by 2020 and a pioneering smart region taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital transition.
Concluding the morning session, Robert Negoiţă, CoR rapporteur on the Future of the COSME programme beyond 2020 , invited CoR members and EU institutions to continue the discussion at the external conference of the CoR commission for economic policy (ECON) to be held in Bucharest on 20/21 June 2018. It will explore how local and regional authorities can benefit from EU support to facilitate access to finance for SMEs and entrepreneurs.
The afternoon session took the form of an interactive masterclass for local and regional policy practitioners. It built on the results of the conference in the morning to develop concrete ideas and tools that can help regions and cities improve their entrepreneurial strategies. It also provided advice and tips to potential applicants for the EER 2019 edition , which is open for applications until 17 April 2018.
*The European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) award is a CoR initiative launched in 2009 that identifies and rewards EU regions with an innovative entrepreneurial policy strategy, irrespective of their size, wealth and specific competences. The regions with the most promising and credible plan are granted the label EER for a specific year. The awards are therefore given for the year ahead, over which time the EER team works closely with the chosen territories to help promote the successful roll-out of their strategies. The winners (24 until now) are part of the EER network, where their experience also feeds into the consultative work of the CoR through workshops, surveys, studies and events like the annual EER conference.