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Points of View:

Enterprise Europe Network helps SMEs on the ground

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The new Enterprise Europe Network has a strong regional foundation, made up of professional business support organisations with extensive experience in dealing with SMEs. Beyond promoting entrepreneurship, its primary mission is to provide an array of customised services to SMEs throughout Europe and beyond via its more that 554 host organisations and even more contact points.

Laurent Volle is Head of the Dijon, France-based CRCI Bourgogne’s Enterprise Europe Network partner, one of the first business support organisations to sign up to the Enterprise Europe Network. According to Volle, any SME with questions related to the European market and to market opportunities in Third Countries – whether they be about policy, innovation, or regulations – can contact its local Enterprise Europe Network partner. “They will either provide them with an ad hoc service straightaway, or signpost it to the closest, best suited’ partner able to answer its questions,” he says.

The Enterprise Europe Network is not just a network of organisations; it is also a network of people. “Colleagues know each other quite well and essentially follow the same objectives. When I help another’s Enterprise Europe Network client by providing them with the right information on, say, the French market, or on partnership opportunities, I’m also helping my own clients,” adds Volle.

The Enterprise Europe Network framework of professional organisations is delivering services primarily to SMEs in 44 countries including EU 27, candidate countries, EEA and Third Countries. “As network ‘clients’, Enterprise Europe Network services are generally free of charge for SMEs. Some additional consulting services, participation to missions or events are charged for, but in some regions SMEs may benefit from other funding schemes to cover a part or the whole of these costs,” says Volle.

The Enterprise Europe Network is currently composed of former EIC members, former IRC members and nearly 130 enthusiastic newcomers. It is organised in consortia of several partners (up to 20-plus in some cases). Each consortium is managed by a coordinator which has been selected either for its SME expertise or because it is already a leading and efficient coordinating organisation in the region.

Enterprise Europe Network membership also brings many benefits for host support organisations. Says CRCI Bourgogne’s Volle: “First and foremost we can rely on a network of colleagues (not just the organisations themselves) to deliver better quality services to benefit our (mainly SME) customers. It’s the region’s gateway to Europe, with better access to European policies, funding, regulations and markets. Members also occupy a key position in their local area because of this ability to bridge enterprises with the rest of Europe and the Commission. CRCI Bourgogne also benefits itself by being able to benchmark and develop opportunities by carrying out common projects with other Enterprise Europe Network members.”