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8 tips for getting your Close-to-Market proposal approved

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LifeIn 2018, the LIFE programme is investing close to €400 million in cleantech and climate action. Part of those funds are earmarked for bringing green solutions to market. If your business idea is on the brink of technical and commercial maturity, LIFE can help it off the ground. Past projects have notably helped SMEs conduct market studies, build prototypes and ramp up production. LIFE Programme pays special attention to promoting close-to market projects delivering improved environmental solutions capable of being widely taken up by the society in general and the economy in particular. These projects have very special features that do not necessarily apply to other LIFE projects.

Here are 8 tips for getting your Close-to-Market proposal approved:

1. Show the impact

Clearly explain how your project will serve the environment. Make sure that its benefits are ambitious, yet credible and well quantified.

2. Think sustainable

Make sure to well explained how your project’s objective will outlast its funding and how the products or services that you develop will proper on the open market. LIFE’s close-to-market projects must also produce a Business Plan as part of their compulsory deliverables.

3. Transfer & replicate

Outline how you will help replicate and transfer your results, notably to other sectors, regions or countries, beyond the duration of the project.

4. Follow guidelines

Refer to the application guide for environment and climate action projects when detailing the problem you address, the solution you propose, the team you pitch and why your project is worth funding.

5. Your team 

Describe the staff involved in each action and demonstrate that your partners are capable of taking on the challenges ahead.

6. Plan ahead

Before writing, start budgeting. Make sure that each expense is justified given its impact on sustainability and your business potential.

7. Writing

Start writing your business plan as soon as possible for the duration of the project and the 12 months following its conclusion.

8. Read up

Read through the 2018 application guide, evaluation guide and other resources in the LIFE application package and explore the work of existing LIFE projects.


All applicants for funding under the LIFE sub-programme for Climate Action must submit their full proposal by September. As of this year, applicants for LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency projects will submit their proposals in two-steps, with a simple concept note expected by 12 June, and full proposals for shortlisted candidates in January 2019. More information about close-to-market LIFE projects here.

SERN response to the European Commission Consultation on Public Procurement of Innovation

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Public procurement of innovationOn the 4th of October 2017, the European Commission DG Grow launched a consultation on the draft Guidance on Public Procurement of Innovation, announced in the Public Procurement package of 3 October 2017. This consultation is aimed to received feedback from all stakeholders by 2 January 2018.

The Guidance on Public Procurement of Innovation is part of the Commission’s efforts to support the wider uptake of public procurement of innovation in the EU. The modernisation of public procurement rules in 2014 has resulted in a renewed interest in using this instrument to increase sustainable growth and support job creation and innovation in the European Single Market. In response, the EU has been providing targeted funding for the public procurement of innovation pilot projects in EU countries and facilitating the exchanges of best experiences. Furthermore, public procurement of innovation is seen as a policy area that is insufficiently explored when it comes to public support of innovative start-ups and SMEs.

SERN has elaborated a response to this consultation and provides two specific recommendations for facilitating public procurement for startups. The aim of this document is to contribute to assist the regions in providing startups with a better and easier access to public procurement and would contribute to improve the communication between procurers and vendors.

Here you can find the integral response of SERN on Public Procurement Innovation.

Blockchain Hackathon: Groningen hosts the biggest blockchain event in the world

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Blockchain Hackaton GroningenIn the weekend of April 5-8, Groningen hosted the second edition of the biggest Blockchain Hackathon in the world. In one weekend, around 65 teams with a total of 750 people from all over the world worked on solutions for societal challenges by using blockchain technique. To explore the possibilities of blockchain, seven so-called tracks were set out on the hackathon. The seven tracks that the teams could focus on were: Future of Pensions; Health; Energy transition; Public safety; Digital Nation’s Infrastructure; Machine 2 Machine Economy; Global Digital Identity.

Within each of the thematic tracks, the various teams worked on blockchain technology to tackle social issues. Some of the questions that were addressed were: How can we organize the approach to cybercrime? How can we make the energy transition possible, without large companies being able to ignore the rules? And how do we ensure that your personal data remains yours? The blockchain hackathon aimed to find answers to these highly relevant societal questions.

Major Dutch and European corporates and governmental organizations sponsored these seven tracks. They are potential launching customers teaming up with key stakeholders and essential blockchain consortium partners to challenge and support pioneering teams to come up with relevant solutions for their grand challenges. The companies worked together with the teams at the hackathon and provided essential knowledge about the industry. The close collaboration between teams and launching customers ensured that blockchain applications meet actual needs from the industry and society. It also formed the basis for continued cooperation after the hackathon, when the sponsors will become the start-ups first clients and provide an opening into an international market. Solutions that arise from the Blockchaingers Hackathon are not straightforward answers to one-dimensional problems. They rather serve as software ecosystem solutions for entire collaborative networks.

Groningen Digital City

It is no coincidence that the Blockchain Hackathon is organized in the city of Groningen. Groningen is young, talented and already ahead in digital, and therefore able to see this digital transformation not as a threat, but as an opportunity to boost the economy. Next to that, Groningen has been known for its excellent start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially in the field of ICT. The city government actively supports and fosters this ecosystem, for example by the start of a ‘Digital Office’.


You can find the Aftermovie of the Blockchain Hackathon here.

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Vote for your favourite EU Regions Week session!

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Vote for your favourite #EURegionsWeek session!The 2018 edition of #EURegionsWeek will take place on 8-11 October 2018. From 16 to 27 April, you can vote for your favorite proposals in an open online consultation on the EU Regions Week website. Now is your chance to vote!

Our session:

PCP and PPI:  challenges faced by regions and cities

The public sector is facing important challenges and issues. Addressing these often requires public sector transformations. PCP and PPI can open up markets for industry/researchers, creating growth and jobs in Europe. However, the potential of PCP and PPI is under-utilized in the EU, due to a lack of initiatives. The aim of this participatory session is to bring together managing authorities and public procurers (cities and regions) and different PCP and PPI stakeholders, to exchange experience and discuss improvements.

How to vote for SERN?

  • Open the survey form and select the thematic cluster ‘Education, culture and youth’;
  • Search for ‘PCP and PPI: Challenges faced by Regions and Cities’ and tick the box;
  • Fill in your personal details and click ‘submit’.

Join us at the #EURegionsWeek! Spread the word and encourage others vote for their favorite(s) by filling the survey by 27 April. The results will be published on 30 April.

Conference “The future of the European Union and the role of regions “

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The future of European Union and the role of the regionsA wide debate on the future of Europe is taking place, at a time of multiple challenges for the European integration. Regions play a central role in promoting and engaging in partnerships and in supporting European co-operation in all its different forms: economic, social, cultural and political. It illustrates the need to discuss what role the regions could and should play in the future EU27. But the question remains How regions can feed the debate about the future of the EU?”

In the conference “The future of the European Union and the role of regions” that happened on the 10th of April 2018, several themes have been discussed, as the risks of a multiple-speed Europe, the legitimacy of the principle of subsidiarity, the heart of European architecture or the future of the social Europe and of the Cohesion Policy. Regions seem to be closer to the citizens and they are seen as important actors to rebuild trust in the EU.  They are the links that bring Europe closer together, and it is essential that the EU gives high priority in the future to supporting and reinforcing regional co-operation activities, particularly given the instability facing Europe. The opinion, coming out of the conference, is planned for adoption in the CoR plenary on 8-10 October 2018.

The main conclusions are as following:

  • Consider that the debate on the future of Europe can be an opportunity to reintegrate citizens into the heart of European project, while re-vitalizing the European project;
  • Are in favour of reforming the current EU institutional set-up through strengthened multi-level governance rather than new treaties or new EU ministerial positions;
  • Consider that cohesion should be the number one policy priority for the EU and that having cohesion available in all regions is of great important for EU future.

For more information, please check, the agenda here and the online streaming of each workshop here.

The Startup Europe Ecosystem

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The Startup Europe Ecosystem

Analysis of the Startup Europe projects and of their beneficiaries

The Startup Europe EcosystemSuccessful startups generate large economic benefits and facilitating their growth is ascending the policy agenda. Policies that support startups aim to improve both the framework and the systemic conditions of the entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published a Technical report about Startup Europe projects and their beneficiaries.

In 2015 the European Commission DG CNECT launched the 2nd edition of the Startup Europe (SE) initiative under the Horizon 2020 EU Research and Innovation programme. This initiative coordinated the efforts of six distinct projects (Digistart, Welcome, ePlus, Startup Scaleup, Twist and Startup Europe Partnership) that connected just as many European entrepreneurial ecosystems. The report “The Startup Europe Ecosystem. Analysis of the Startup Europe projects and of their beneficiaries” provides the theoretical framework to analyse the policy support to entrepreneurship and evidence on the nearly 700 startups participating in the SE projects. This exercise also helps to collect relevant insights about the effectiveness of the matching between the SE offerings and the needs of startups.

You can find the complete report written by Fiammetta Rossetti, Daniel Nepelski and Melisande Cardona here.

Boosting regions as centres of innovation for a competitive industrial sector in Europe

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Boosting regions as centres of innovation

Local and regional politicians adopted recommendations for “Boosting regions as centres of innovation for a competitive industrial sector in Europe” on 23 March in Brussels.

The opinion drawn up by Heinz Lehmann (DE/EPP) highlights the potential of cities and regions to serve as hubs for innovation and so support Europe’s global industrial competitiveness. Given the centrality of regions and regional ecosystems to industrial modernisation and innovation, the rapporteur calls for the EU’s strategy to have a strong regional dimension. In a rapidly changing world, the aim of an EU industrial policy strategy at European level is to respond to current and future challenges and opportunities in order to enhance the competitiveness of European industry. Cities and regions have an important part to play in supporting industry’s capacity for change and innovation to make it fit for the digital age.

You can find the draft opinion on “A European strategy for industry: the role and perspective of regional and local authorities” here.

High-level conference: Financing sustainable growth

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High-level conference Financing sustainable growth“High-level conference Financing sustainable growth”, will take place on the 22nd of March at 9:00 am Brussels time. This conference will present the EU strategy on the basis of the Commission Action Plan but also to agree on concrete follow-up for further development of sustainable finance. Furthermore, it will provide the momentum and a shared vision on sustainable finance to feed the European Council debate and conclusions of 22-23 March 2018.

Action Plan on sustainable finance is part of the Capital Markets Union’s (CMU) efforts to connect finance with the specific needs of the European economy to the benefit of the planet and our society. It is also one of the key steps towards implementing the historic Paris Agreement and the EU’s agenda for sustainable development. The EU needs a strategy to unlock the full potential of sustainable finance and investment in the low-carbon, circular and resource-efficient economy.

The conference will be webstreamed. The link for web streaming will be available soon. You can also register here. Further information about the conference and the agenda here.

Startup Europe Week 2018 'European Regions as key players'

Startup Europe Week 2018 – ‘European Regions as Key Players’

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Startup Europe Week 2018 is an initiative launched in 2016 and promoted by the European Commission and Startup Europe. Regional diversity and local policy making still play a big role in shaping European startups. From helping entrepreneurs to incorporate a company, to providing grants or taxes breaks, European regions are key players. Taking a local perspective is crucial to supporting entrepreneurs and startups in Europe.

Startup Europe Week has several aims:

  • Showcase best initiatives promoted by regions to support entrepreneurs.
  • Inform the local ecosystem about what already exists to help them now.
  • Provide live consulting sessions on how to open a company, apply for a grant etc.
  • Share among regional officers what other regions in Europe are doing and what can be leveraged locally.
  • Connect regional officers, investors and corporates to create stronger local ecosystems.

Why participate in Startup Europe Week 2018?

This is an awesome opportunity for you to learn and get the regional resources already available at an European level. This event is perfect for entrepreneurs, studentspolicy makers, journalists and anyone who works in the startup world. You can also find several events:

  • Information sessions on local specific actions to support entrepreneurs.
  • Regional authorities’ meetings.
  • Information sessions about Startup Europe projects and European Commission funds Office hours and workshops with regional representatives.
  • Great talks with local entrepreneurs and investors.

You can find the closest Startup Europe Week events here. You are also invited to join the official launch of Startup Europe Week 2018 (5th- 9th March) in Brussels. Further information and how to participate here.

Jury of StartUp Europe Awards 2016

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Jury of StartUp Europe Awards 2016

On the occasion of the celebration of the StartUp Europe Awards 2016 European Final, the StartUp Europe Awards organization formally invited SERN to be part of the jury board that will appoint the “Best Public Administration for startups”.

 StartUp Europe Awards is an initiative promoted by the European Commission and supported by the President of the Committee of Regions, several members of the European Parliament as ambassadors and it is implemented by the Finnova Foundation in collaboration with StartUp Europe.

This initiative recognises the effort of the European startups at five different levels: local, municipal, regional, national and European, in ten categories for 2016: Creative, Energy, Fintech, Environment, Health, ICT’s, Smart Cities, Social, Tourism and Water.

This Public Administration will be publicly recognised in the StartUp Europe Award ceremony that will be honorifically presided over by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, Wednesday, 7th June at 17.00h in the European Parliament.


For more information: