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Regional Policy

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The European Business and Innovation Centres (BIC)
and their network (EBN)

Regional Economic Development via for the creation and
support of innovative industrial activities


Official title

"Community action for the creation and development of 'Business and Innovation Centres (BIC)' and their network 'European Business and Innovation Centre Network (EBN)'"



Help create and develop innovative industrial activities through rigorous analysis and preparation in order to reduce the high mortality rate of these risky ventures.

All the BICs are grouped together in an international network called EBN ("European Business and Innovation Centre Network") whose objective is to promote the exchange of information and experiences and to ensure the support and training of BICs.


Target public / beneficiaries

The entrepreneurs and businesses set up in the area of activity of the BIC may benefit from services at particularly favourable conditions. To do this:

  • the entrepreneur must undertake an economically viable and truly innovative project that, from an industrial point of view or in terms of services to industry, can bring a competitive advantage and added value to the economy of his region;

  • he must have the spirit of enterprise and the managerial skills required to make this project successful;

  • the business, whether already existing or in the process of being set up, must have good growth potential.

EBN is today present in some thirty countries and has well over 200 members (BICs and associate members). The associate members support and enrich EBN activities. The services of the EBN network are accessible to all BICs and associate members.



It is essential that a strong partnership is formed before creating a BIC. These partnerships generally include an equivalent number of public and private structures (private enterprises, regional or local public bodies, financial bodies, professional organizations, universities, etc.). EBN may provide technical support in building the partnership (technical documents, in site missions, etc.) and has established a procedure of control over the actual existence of the partnership before BIC recognition.



The concept of BICs was launched in 1984 and has steadily developed since then. Over 20 new BICs have been created each year since 1994.


Eligible measures / nature of activities

The BICs organize integrated systems of services for enterprises, which include:

  • basic management services, technical approval, innovation and technologies, marketing strategy, financial engineering, enterprise analysis, development of entrepreneurial capacities, preparation of business plans;

  • services for the access of SMEs to venture capital;

  • accommodation services for SMEs.

The "BIC method" includes detecting, selecting and assisting (future) entrepreneurs:

  • systematic detection, whether it involves products, manufacturing procedures, organization or marketing methods: the BICs are in search of ideas, projects and innovative entrepreneurs in this area;

  • rigorous selection: only individuals with the aptitude required to complete projects successfully are selected;

  • assistance.


Rural dimension / example of action in rural areas

The BIC's mission is oriented towards the industrial sector and therefore benefits for the most part rural areas where there is a substantial industrial base. Some BICs in urban centres have created networks of sub-regional antennas in surrounding rural areas; this being particularly the case of the BICs in Galway, Ireland and Sardinia, Italy. These antennas support rural development activities such as rural tourism, aquaculture, agri-food processing, etc.

In this capacity the Galway BIC has helped a tourist entrepreneur set up his management plan for the creation of a clay pigeon shooting range that is highly appreciated by foreign tourists.


Nature and amount of aid

The maximum amount of Community assistance is set according to a financial plan agreed between the BICs local partnership group and the European Commission. The aid is on the basis of the total real cost of implementation, that is to say the actual charges and the value of the local contributions. Community aid is paid during the experimental phase. It must enable BICs to be started up: creation of the team, implementation of tools, in particular communication tools, business plans and a period of efficiency tests. Eventually, these should become self-financing (own revenue, national and regional aid, private contributions).


European Union financial support

The Community intervention ranges , in general, from 30% to 50% of the cost of the action.

Directorate General XVI (Regional Policy and Cohesion) finance the action through the usual procedures of the Structural Funds, provided that the areas concerned correspond to the Objective areas of the Structural Funds. It is noticed that more and more BICs, after an experimental period, are involved in the regional development activities of the Community Support Frameworks (CSF) or the Single Programming Documents (SPD).


Communication supports

EBN offers a series of communication supports:

  • "NETWORK", a periodical newspaper written in FR, EN, IT and ES often with a national supplement for countries such as Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Portugal (written in the language of the country);

  • a monthly EBN newsletter (FR, EN, IT, ES) and special invitations to a tender newsletter (FR, EN);

  • a yearbook providing the profile of the members;

  • a collection of 10 technical guides (available in various languages);

  • a collection of standard personalized promotional tools (brochures, displays, posters, etc.) a collection of multilingual videos explaining what a BIC is.

In addition, all the BICs are connected to telecommunications facilities allowing easy transfer of messages, data, etc...EBN services increasingly use this transmission media in preference to paper- based communications.


Information offices or additional sources of information

  • European Commission
    DG XVI/A2
    Rue de la Loi, 200
    B-1049 Bruxelles
    Fax.: + 32 2 296 24 73

  • EBN
    Avenue de Tervuren, 188 A
    B-1150 Bruxelles
    TÚl.: + 32 2 772 89 00
    Fax.: + 32 2 772 95 74


date of publication: 01/98

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