Stuart Jackson
Tom Keighley

Member Article

SME opportunities through the Enterprise Europe Network

**The Enterprise Europe Network encompasses business support organisations from 50 countries across Europe and aims to help small businesses make the most of the European marketplace.

Bdaily recently spoke with Stuart Jackson, whose role is to manage the Enterprise Europe Network activities at Newcastle Science City.**

In the North East, Enterprise Europe Network is delivered by three partners including: Newcastle Science City, the Centre for Process Innovation and Teesside University.

The programme works with companies to identify European opportunities, and helps them to exploit these opportunities.

“Companies might come to us because domestic funding opportunities here have dried up, or they might want to find out more about growing in Europe,” explains Stuart.

“Other times they might have a product or service they are looking to take into a Europe market, and need the context, connections and advice to make this happen. Business may also want to explore the potential to collaborate on a product or service.

“Sometimes we meet firms through our work with Science City work and realise that their needs might be best met in an international context. We can then work with them using Enterprise Europe Network.”

Enterprise Europe Network first identify the needs of the company. Businesses may be at various stages of readiness, and the team need to assess how they can help most effectively.

This might involve application to funding, or there may be synergy for a partnership with one of the 25,000 businesses within the network.

Stuart continues: “Companies can tap into publications on the various products and services active in the network by visiting our website.

“We can also search for suitable partners and then act as mediators while the businesses make that initial contact and develop a relationship.

“A typical example would be a company looking for a specific distribution partner for their product. From here, we go out and find a partner, helping to broker a relationship between the two with a partnership agreement.

“Unlike UKTI, who are more focussed on getting a product out, we look at cooperation. The idea is that we complement their services.

“Our service is also administered through consortiums in each region, and therefore it taps into different levels of contacts.

“We can go quite local, and get really small SMEs working together across borders.”

Stuart suggests there is an increasing appetite for companies to look abroad for opportunities. Despite the crisis, Europe offers growth potential.

He points to multi-billion pound European R&D funding as just one example of the substantial pots that are ripe for exploration.

Stuart details some of the key streams: “We have Framework Programme 7, which is aimed at research and development for new products for basic, applied research. This is predominantly used by universities and academics, although there is scope for companies to be involved in order to help to bridge the gaps between academia and the market place. This research typically involves products that are quite some way off the market, and consequently they can be quite futuristic.

“There’s also the CIP Programme, the competitiveness and innovation programme. This looks at three areas: sustainable energy; ICT and entrepreneurship. Generally these programmes are for SMEs and look at using existing technology, but in new ways. Typically products within this programme will be 2-3 years away from market.

“Elsewhere, there’s Eurostars - this is a very bottom up approach. Companies can decide what they want to work on within broad themes, get together with other firms and submit a bid to work with them. There’s rolling deadlines with this, but overall there’s a lot less of the administrative burden.

“Then we have the Ambient Assisted Living Core, which is a new stream of funding. It’s called joint-programming. The European Commission has talked to a lot of funding bodies, like the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) in the UK, and asked what they doing around innovations for elderly people.

“The idea is to harmonise the field so companies can work internationally while using national funding. So, a UK company can receive TSB funding to work with a Germany company, in turn working with their national funding and so on.”

From Enterprise Europe Network’s perspective the current political uncertainty between Britain and the EU is unlikely to impact funding streams.

Stuart explains that the next ‘7 year block’ of funding is yet to be finalised by the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.

Funding programmes for 2014-2020 are still being negotiated and that may impact on on areas such as infrastructure. Stuart suspects the Enterprise Europe Network’s advice will remain the same, although funding amounts may differ.

He indicates that funding from 2014 onwards will predominantly fall under the Horizon 2020 project, which will move away from sectoral funding and focus around three key areas: societal challenges; excellent science and industrial leadership.

The societal challenges component will encompass everything from ageing, through to food security, climate change and transport.

Stuart adds: “The thinking here is that they can bring people together from different sectors to work more innovatively. This is very much what the Enterprise Europe Network aims to foster.”

For more information about Enterprise Europe Network and available funding please visit www.een-northeast.co.uk

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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