Education is an essential element of entrepreneurship. Studies show that students who receive entrepreneurship education are not only more likely to be employed, but also more likely to start their own companies. With that in mind, the European Commission has proposed a series of actions that will help expose students to entrepreneurship and, as a result, help create jobs throughout Europe. Full story
Sharing the know-how of entrepreneurship
Experienced entrepreneurs who have "been there and done it" can provide valuable help for people starting out in business. By helping new or aspiring entrepreneurs spend working time with a host entrepreneur in another country, the EU's new Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme offers access to good advice. It also opens up prospects for new business relationships with partners from different countries in the Single Market.
In the past two decades, almost 2 million students have followed part of their education in a university in another EU Member State. The Erasmus programme, now one of the major components of the Union's Lifelong Learning Programme, has grown into one of the EU's best-known initiatives. Every year, 200 000 students qualify for a grant which enables them to live and study in a different culture and educational system, to make friends from other Member States and explore the different approaches to life and learning which enrich Europe.
Now the European Commission is offering budding and novice entrepreneurs a similar experience, through working alongside an experienced entrepreneur - the owner or manager of a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) - in another Member State. The Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme kicks off in February 2009. Its €3 million budget will support around 900 such relationships in 2009-2010. Almost double this number can expect to receive support in 2010-2011, with funding of €5 million set aside for an expanded programme.
The programme is just one initiative in the Small Business Act, being undertaken by the EU to encourage entrepreneurship and to create a business and administrative environment more friendly to SMEs.
The Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme addresses the problem that many founders of SMEs lack management experience and key skills. This, coupled with the fact that the vast majority of SMEs operate in only one country, restricts growth. Without doubt, Europe needs more entrepreneurs to develop growth and employment and fulfil the Lisbon Agenda. The new Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme contributes to this objective. It is part of the European Commission's commitment to place SMEs at the heart of European competitiveness policies to enable them to adapt to globalisation.
To participate, new entrepreneurs can be of any age, but they should either be on the brink of starting up a firm, and have already put together a detailed business plan to turn their intention into practice, or have started their own company within the past three years. Some may also be preparing to take over the family business, but still want to get some entrepreneurship experience abroad. The commitment demonstrated to following through their business plan will be critical in assessing their application to participate. So too will be the project they plan to carry out while working with the host entrepreneur.
New entrepreneurs who apply may already have a host entrepreneur in mind, or they can ask the responsible intermediary organisation in their country or region to help them find one through the network of participating intermediaries. Under the programme, organisations such as chambers of commerce and bodies which help start-up firms from across Europe have set up European partnerships to help match up new and host entrepreneurs, and to support them in planning their project and organising the new entrepreneur's time abroad. The European partnerships also have a budget to provide grants to the new entrepreneurs, which contribute towards the costs of their travel and accommodation.
Once the new and host entrepreneurs are in contact, their first task is to agree on a work plan / project for the young entrepreneur's stay with the host entrepreneur, which could run for as little as a month or as long as six months. In order to allow the entrepreneurs to organise the work plan / project flexibly, the stay can be broken down into several shorter trips over a maximum of 12 months. The key to a successful relationship is that completing the project brings benefits to both parties. The aim is that the new entrepreneur should work directly with the host, rather than simply observing or working on a discrete project with little contact.
The Commission expects to see, in the longer term, the creation of new businesses and the development of a network of new and experienced entrepreneurs in the EU.
Both parties gain the opportunity to learn about the other's national market, business culture, and possibly get access to innovative ideas. The chance to see at first hand, particularly - but not exclusively - for the new entrepreneur, how another enterprise is run, how the boss takes decisions, how staff work with each other and with the managers/owners, or how they deal with suppliers and customers, provides a basis to evaluate and reassess whether their own way is the most effective or could be improved. Beyond the immediate relationship, both parties can be expected to make new contacts in the other's national market, which can form the basis of new business opportunities in the future.
Each relationship will be unique, with the activities to be undertaken, goals on both sides and the length of the trip all decided by the participating entrepreneurs based on the interests of their respective businesses and their own situations. Whilst in some cases the relationship may lead to an ongoing business partnership between the two entrepreneurs and their companies, in other cases the future relationship after the project is completed is likely to be a less formal one. A network of contacts is a valuable asset for any entrepreneur, and for one aiming to do business in the Single Market, the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme offers the chance to expand that network very effectively. Indeed, participants will be able to make contact with other participants of the programme, both in their own and other EU countries. The programme will therefore have the bonus of creating a network of European entrepreneurs with an international outlook.
If you are interested in taking part in this new programme, more details on how to apply can be found at http://www.erasmus-entrepreneurs.eu/.
Entrepreneurship Unit email@example.com,
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry
The text only of the articles can be republished as long as the source of the article is quoted: Enterprise & Industry magazine (http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/magazine/index_en.htm), © European Union, 2008 - 2012