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News | Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Brussels to fund ‘Erasmus’ for SMEs

Entrepreneurs will be paid up to €1,100 per month to move to other EU countries to learn from experienced business owners as part of a pilot project designed to encourage young business owners to make more of the internal market.
The scheme is part of the Small Business Act which was unveiled in July 2008 and will help 870 entrepreneurs to spend between one and six months in another EU member state in 2010.
The specific objectives of the programme are: On-the-job-training for new entrepreneurs in SMEs elsewhere in the EU in order to facilitate a successful start and development of their business ideas; Exchanges of experience and information between entrepreneurs on obstacles and challenges to starting up and developing their businesses; To enhance market access and identification of potential partners for new and established businesses in other EU countries; Networking by building on knowledge and experience from other European countries between entrepreneurs.
People starting their own businesses will be paired with established SMEs with the help of local chambers of commerce and other intermediary organisations.
Funding for expenses varies according to the cost of living in member states and ranges from €560 in Latvia to €1,100 in Denmark, but entrepreneurs keen to avail of the scheme will be expected to raise additional funds and demonstrate that they have a viable business plan.
“New entrepreneurs will gain competences and perspectives that will prove invaluable during the business start-up phase, while also enhancing potential cross-border activity and thus the probability of success,” said Ben Butters, Director of European Affairs at Eurochambers.
Maive Rute, Director for Promotion of SMEs’ competitiveness, European Commission, said the project is similar to the long-running Erasmus programme which allows students to spend a year studying abroad. She said it will strengthen links between EU citizens and foster an entrepreneurial spirit among younger people.
“Europe is not fully exploiting its entrepreneurial potential and needs to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs. 51 per cent of young Europeans would be interested to follow an entrepreneurial route, but too few of them put their ambitions into practice,” she said.
Businesses across Europe continue to focus on their national market rather than exploiting commercial opportunities elsewhere in the EU, with just 8 per cent of SMEs exporting their goods and services within the EU.
Ms Rute dismissed concerns that the project would struggle to attract enough established businesspeople to host young entrepreneurs, saying there are 23 million SMEs in Europe and just 870 are needed to make the project work. An additional €5 million will be made available if the pilot project is deemed a success, she added.
Further information may be obtained from the Enterprise Europe Network office within Malta Enterprise [tel: 2542 3440 or email: info@enterprise-europemalta.com]

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25 February 2009
ISSUE NO. 571

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