The European Commission is extending the outreach of the Enterprise Europe Network – the business and innovation support network for SMEs - by opening new contact points in Japan and doubling its presence in China.
The aim is to see more European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) profit from the fast growing markets in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
The Commission is also extending the Network in southern Mediterranean countries, with eight contact points in place in Tunisia, a longstanding partner in Egypt and Moroccan branches to be set up soon. The Network helps firms to find potential partners in European and world markets and to turn research and innovation into profits.
On the occasion of the Network’s fourth Annual Conference in Warsaw on 26th September, five winning SMEs received the special ‘Network Stars’ awards. These awards recognise companies and researchers who have used the Network to find opportunities abroad or to develop their businesses and research.
The Business network becomes international
The Japanese Network operates via two centres in Tokyo, based in the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Other new countries to have recently joined the Network include Ukraine, Moldova and Mexico.
The new focus on Africa is conceived to be of mutual benefit for SMEs in the EU and in Mediterranean neighbour countries, where a favourable environment for SMEs and further economic development is essential for political stability.
Further EU support for SMEs to go international will be the subject of a communication which the European Commission will table before the end of 2011.
Star SMEs win prizes
The ‘Network Stars’ awards given at the Network's Annual Conference in Warsaw recognise companies and researchers who have used the Network to find opportunities abroad or to develop their businesses and research. The winners are:
- Danish wind firm APRO and British company Cosalt. They linked up through the Network and their joint venture has already created 30 new jobs.
- French scientist Dr Frederique Magdinier (LBMC Institute) and British researcher Dr Mark Maconochie (University of Sussex). The Network facilitated a technology transfer that has aided research into finding a potential cure for deafness.
- Icarus Sailing Media, run by two Greek former sailing champions in their 20s, won a special ‘Rising Star’ award. The Network guided them in identifying and protecting their intellectual property, helping them to create an innovative business broadcasting sailing tournaments.
Background and results
The Network spans 49 countries and is made up of close to 600 partner organisations employing 3,000 experts. The organisations include chambers of commerce, enterprise agencies, regional development organisations, research institutes, universities, technology centres and innovation centres.
The Network was launched in February 2008 by the European Commission and is a key part of the EU’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, which aims to encourage competitiveness in European businesses. In the past three years, it has:
- served 2.5 millionEuropean small- and medium-sized businesses
- held more than 19 000 local events for more than 750 000 SMEs
- answered close to 375 000 questions on EU topics
- attracted around 66 000 businesses to brokerage events and company missions
- helped companies create 4 500 joint ventures and 1 490 firms to apply for funding from the EU's 7th Framework Programme for research (FP7).