Mini Europe: Encouraging entrepreneurship among young people

A programme to encourage youth entrepreneurship in Sweden has been successfully transplanted to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as part of the cross-border Mini Europe project.

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The Mini Europe project aimed to raise awareness of entrepreneurship amongst young people in Sweden, Netherlands and United Kingdom. The Mini Europe project aimed to raise awareness of entrepreneurship amongst young people in Sweden, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

The Summer Entrepreneur training programme for start-ups held in central Sweden was identified as an example of best practice that should be replicated in other regions. Under the Summer Entrepreneur programme, students aged between 14 and 20 gathered together to discuss and receive training about setting up their own micro-enterprises.

The three-year Mini Europe Project initially involved similar workshops being held in the Dutch province of Flevoland before being rolled out to the north-west of England (UK) as well as other municipalities in the Netherlands.

The programme is widely credited with raising awareness about entrepreneurship not only among the youth of Sweden, Flevoland and England but also among politicians and policy-makers and this has encouraged the implementation of entrepreneur-friendly policies that have been welcomed by vocational training schools, entrepreneurial networks, regional development agencies, universities, banks, municipalities and entrepreneurs themselves.

In 2010 in Flevoland, 47 young people applied to attend the training programme of which 35 were selected and subsequently attended five-days of training on setting up their own businesses. Following the summer vacation, 16 of the 35 young people successfully continued and registered their businesses with the local chamber of commerce.

Wide field of business activity

The areas of business activity were varied: from the creation of new websites to the construction of garden benches from old chicken barns to the launch of an agency for organising events.

The main achievements of the Mini Europe project include the exchange and improvement of regional policies in eight European regions on the development of small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In particular, the project addressed issues such as the need for greater involvement in entrepreneurship from under-represented groups, such as minorities, disabled people, women and young people.

y encouraging inter-regional networking and the bringing together of experts, stakeholders and practitioners from eight European Union Member States, the project has successfully promoted entrepreneurship through the exchange of experience and good practice between the partner regions.

The success of Mini Europe in encouraging entrepreneurship as well as in creating jobs and economic growth has led to the creation of a new INTERREG IVC project called Smart Europe which has continued the work of Mini Europe from 2012 onwards.

Aside from bringing a version of the Summer Entrepreneur programme to the Netherlands and north-west England, Mini Europe was also involved in the transfer of inter-regional good practice in the fields of financial engineering tools for SMEs, internationalisation, and cluster development. In addition to the partnerships in the UK and Sweden, Mini Europe also created inter-regional partnerships with programmes in Spain, Hungary, Romania, Greece, and Italy. Cooperation and exchange of best practice between North West England and Észak Alföld in Hungary led to clusters in Hungary helping to write a handbook on the internationalisation of clusters.

Meanwhile, another example of a good practice programme – which aims to bolster creativity within companies with no experience of design – was successfully transferred from central Sweden to the UK. The Summer Design Office project involves placing design students within companies, thereby giving the students the opportunity to gain interesting and substantial work experience.

"Mini Europe really stimulated innovation and entrepreneurship in regions from new and old member states. The international spreading of Summer Entrepreneur, a programme to stimulate business creation by young people, is a great example. It was very inspiring to contribute to European economic development and cohesion by participating in this project".

  • Jan Nico Appelman, Deputy King’s Commissioner for the Province of Flevoland

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Mini Europe” was EUR 1 991 638 of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 1 554 917 through the INTERREG IV-C Operational Programme for European Territorial Cooperation in the 2007-2013 programming period.

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