Regional initiatives challenging the state of entrepreneurship and encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit among young people with innovative ideas have been emerging to provide the best possible regional support to young startups and SMEs. One of those initiatives is the CERIecon, a three-year project funded under the INTERREG Central Europe programme. The main focus of the project is to provide adequate education and training to young entrepreneurs to improve their skills and competencies, giving them a boost to start their own businesses.
On the 11 March 2019, SERN participated as one of the panelists in the CERIecon’s workshop on European startup activities “CERIecon goes Brussels!” which took place at the Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the European Union in Brussels. The participants discussed the European Startup activities as well as opportunities for young startups and SMEs to continue to grow.
About the project
Following the workshop, we talked with Mrs Cornelia Steiner from the Board of Education for Vienna, the Lead Partner of the CERIecon project. “When we started developing the CERIecon project idea, we had a clear vision: By mid-2019, the CERIecon project should have changed the way young European entrepreneurs are inspired, trained and supported. Why did we think that this was important? We noticed that daring young entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas could contribute considerably to make the cities and regions in Central Europe better places to work and live. But factors such as a lack of an entrepreneurial culture and mindset leading to a limited interest in entrepreneurship were hampering their efforts. We also realised that there was inadequate training to improve their skills and entrepreneurial competencies. And yet, entrepreneurs must be empowered to create change; they “form the majority of business entities and are the biggest employers” in Central Europe. It is important to provide, at the regional level, the right mix of financial and non-financial support to assist entrepreneurs to create new firms.” she says. “The CERIecon project wanted to change the current situation”.
Gathering 14 partners from 7 Central European regions, CERIecon put its focus on providing said support through the establishment of new-type comprehensive regional innovation ecosystems (Playparks) in each partner region, where young people with innovative thinking were paired with experienced trainers in developing their ideas and with Playparks working closely in a transnational network. “In order to ensure that many excellent innovative social and economic products/ideas will be brought to market, we also wanted to make sure that external target groups, such as policy stakeholders, SMEs and funding initiatives, are being involved,” Mrs Steiner tells us.
The results and plans for the future
When asked about the results of the project and how successful it was, Mrs Steiner explains: “Looking back now on what CERIecon has achieved so far, we are very satisfied. Not only did we manage to train over 1046 people so far (start-ups/young entrepreneurs/pupils/teachers) but we were also able to set up a certain ‘CERIecon methodology’ which will – hopefully – support other European regions to train young entrepreneurs.”
With the project coming to its end in mid-May this year, CERIecon organized this promotional event where it also showcased some of its successful Playpark stories and presented the plans for the future. Mrs Steiner went on to say: “The event was a great success, not only for CERIecon and the partners involved in the project but also for the young startups who were invited to present their business ideas.”
Regarding the future beyond the project, she continues: “The diverse regions have different approaches in order to ensure the sustainability of the CERIecon project. Apart from regional strategies, we would like to create a Playpark BRANDING which will allow us to spread the CERIecon ‘spirit’ as well as the achievements of the project in a more professional way. Our vision would be to see the idea of regional Playparks spread and to have many more Playparks in European regions – or also outside Europe!”
When asked about the one advice she would give to young entrepreneurs that have innovative ideas, she concludes with “I think that young entrepreneurs need to be open-minded and courageous. As it was said also during the event in Brussels: Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone and start calling!”
You can read more about the CERIecon project here.