Helping businesses to get started and grow
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are vital for the growth of the economies of EU Member States. Across Europe’s regions, SMEs are leaders in innovation, job creation and job security. But many such small companies find it hard to get started and to develop their business to its full potential. The aim of GROW Enterprise is to support and help young entrepreneurs and small, mainly technology-based companies to grow significantly and have an international impact.
GROW Enterprise is part of the Business Growth pillar of the GROW programme, with special reference to the creation and development of high technology companies, a key plank in the EU’s drive to become the world’s most dynamic economic bloc. It sets out not only to give direct support to new businesses and SMEs but also to build contact networks, increase awareness of sources of help, and create a continuing programme of mentoring for selected companies.
The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) leads the project, working with partners in Spain, Poland and the Netherlands. The project’s activity is based on events and workshops aimed at sharing best practice, networking between regions and match-making between companies where business or trade opportunities seemed ripe for exploitation. Workshops have been held in Guildford and Southampton (UK), Den Bosch (NL) and Krakow (PL). The creation of the mentoring programme is another key element in the project’s success.
The most significant result of the project has been the establishment of a network of contacts between businesses, business support organisations, business incubators and local authorities in each partner region. Promising start-up companies get what they need most – knowledge, business opportunities and access to clients. The clients in turn get cost-efficient, high quality products and services from start-ups they otherwise would not have known about.
In Poland, SMEs in the Malopolska region have signed contracts with bigger companies or business support organisations and got their first big chance to
show off the quality of their products. Other Polish companies have received individual mentoring and are preparing business development plans targeted at foreign markets with mentors from the British Polish Chamber of Commerce.
In the UK at least three companies have benefited from local area knowledge and expertise in contacts with chambers of commerce in Spain and Poland. Following a visit by a UK partner to the Netherlands, the local council of Aylesbury Vale has approved a sum of £150,000 (about €215,000) to revitalise redundant properties for use by entrepreneurs.
In the Netherlands and Spain companies have developed business contacts within and beyond their own region and project mentors are supporting six companies with potential international impact.
“The project has made us realise through our partnership that Europe is now one big country where different people and groups can cooperate without obstacles to deliver the highest quality services and products,” said Krzysztof Jaszczuk of Polish partner BPCC.
Project partners hope that funding through INTERREG IVC will enable a new edition of GROW Enterprise to be launched next year. All are confident that the techniques and knowledge gained by many businesses through the project will enable them to continue to grow and strengthen.
“Promising start-up companies got what they needed most – knowledge, business opportunities and access to clients.”
Southampton Enterprise Hub, Chilworth Business Incubator, Chilworth Science Park
Southampton, Hampshire SO16 7NP, UK
Tel: +44(0) 238076 3794