The European Week of Regions and Cities, held from October 9th to 12th, 2023, brought together a wide range of partners from European regions and municipalities to showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs and underscore the significance of local and regional levels in promoting sound European governance.
The event also showcased the latest information, innovations, and opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesspeople alike.
Here’s a summary of the key takeaways from the event.
Driving Social Innovation Through Inclusive Entrepreneurship
“We need to develop cross-cultural skills to navigate super diverse communities in our increasingly chaotic world” – Adem Kumcu, PhD, UNITEE President.
UNITEE, in collaboration with Friends of Europe and Eurochambres, hosted an interactive participatory lab exploring entrepreneurial and social innovation skills fostering innovation that leaves no one behind.
Participants worked together with moderators to form recommendations on how inclusive entrepreneurship can drive inclusion and tackle the innovation divide.
In order to promote entrepreneurial skills to be more inclusive towards different backgrounds and needs, groups suggested that strategy should be centred around social and cultural empathy, cross-cultural communication, and cooperation skills as well as risk-taking.
Entrepreneurial thinking should be promoted from a young age in education and can be promoted later on through skills centres, mentorship, and mobility programmes. Finally, relevant organisations such as chambers of commerce, industry, and business networks should include more youth and women in their management as well as members of marginalised groups.
Interdisciplinary collaboration across industry, academia, policymakers, and local communities is also crucial for inclusive entrepreneurship. We should work with local authorities to engage local communities, and policymakers should take active roles in bringing groups together and bridging the gap between different interests and objectives.
Skills highlighted for social actors to implement social innovation successfully included In-depth community understanding, Stakeholder Familiarity, Networking Proficiency, Arena Awareness, Policy Expertise, Financial Acumen, Social Inclusivity, Intersectoral Collaboration, and Journey Comprehension.
The session demonstrated that entrepreneurial skills are essential for the development of European regions and cities, and the development and promotion of such skills must be a priority. Skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and community leadership are not only vital for economic growth but also for driving social innovation, social cohesion, inclusion, and job creation.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs – A “Tinder” for budding businesspeople
The Erasmus Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, established to promote cross-border collaboration, has been a beacon of opportunity for budding entrepreneurs since its inception in 2009.
In many ways, it can be likened to a “Tinder for Young Entrepreneurs”, according to Greta Bilanzola, Senior Policy Officer at Eurochambres and contact for the programme, but its scope extends beyond the bounds of age, welcoming those who are new to the world of business and eager to gain experience.
The scheme’s essence lies in embracing diversity – different cultures, different sectors, and different countries. It operates as a mutual learning process, where fledgling entrepreneurs can glean wisdom from their more experienced counterparts, while seasoned entrepreneurs find themselves exposed to fresh and innovative ideas.
The beauty of this partnership is its reciprocity. Established entrepreneurs stand as much to gain from their partnership with new entrepreneurs, whether it be from fresh ideas to new ways of thinking. And it is open to any European with a business idea.
Ms Bilanzola emphasised that the scheme is not an internship. “You won’t be doing coffee runs! But you will have the opportunity to engage in an equal business partnership that benefits both parties as they learn from each other over the exchange period”.
Finding the perfect entrepreneurial match is essential, and this can be achieved through various means. Word of mouth serves as a valuable resource, but for those looking for a more structured approach, the European Enterprise Network is there to connect the dots.
“We had an example where a musician in the band noticed a remarkable lighting design system during an event they were hired for that enhancing their performance. Curiosity piqued, he reached out to the European Enterprise Network to discover more about the talent behind this remarkable technology and formed a working relationship with a lighting creator”, stated a representative of the Enterprise Europe Network.
The impact of these Erasmus partnerships transcends the realm of business success. They instil transferable skills that have a profound impact on personal and professional growth no matter the sector. “The ultimate goal is to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset that can be used wherever you end up working”, stated Ms. Bilanzola. “These skills hold great significance not only in the private sector but also in the public sector, where innovation and bold thinking are equally essential”.
European Year of Skills – EU addresses labour shortages and skills mismatch
In a bid to tackle the growing labour shortages and skills mismatch within the European workforce, the European Commission launched its flagship initiative European Year of Skills as a priority for 2023. This initiative is a response to a pressing issue where workers are eager and able, but industries face a critical gap in the skills they require.
Recent data from Eurobarometer revealed that a staggering 74% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Europe are grappling with the challenge of filling positions with skilled workers. The impact of this labour scarcity is being felt deeply within the European job market and the broader economy.
The flagship initiative is structured around four key priorities:
- Investment: Prioritising investment in initiatives aimed at bridging skills gaps and fostering a more robust, dynamic labour market.
- Skills Relevance: Focusing on ensuring that the skills imparted are in line with the evolving needs of industries, aligning education and training with the demands of the job market.
- Matching of Skills to Workforce Gaps: Creating mechanisms that better align available skills with the specific needs and gaps in the labour force.
- Attracting Talent from Third Countries to the EU: Attracting talent will help address labour shortages within the EU.
An integral part of this strategy is the ENTRECOMP – The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework. EntreComp is a common reference framework that identifies 15 competences in three key areas that describe what it means to be entrepreneurial.
EntreComp is free to use and can be adapted to support the development and understanding of entrepreneurial competence in any setting to assess entrepreneurial skills, support training of educators, trainers and teachers to deliver entrepreneurial skills, and design programmes and learning opportunities.
This framework will help to address a significant disparity in the recognition of skills across European Member States. Offering a standardised approach to assessing and acknowledging skills, helps entrepreneurs understand the practical applicability of their abilities and how they fit within a broader framework across the European Union.
Entrepreneurial Skills at the Forefront of Local and Regional Development
The European Week of Regions and Cities 2023 provided a valuable platform for addressing themes such as inclusive entrepreneurship, cross-border collaboration through the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs scheme, and the launch of the European Year of Skills initiative.
Participants emphasised the need for inclusive entrepreneurship and further promoting diversity in the field, cross-cultural skills, and education, skills, and mentorship programs. Together, these discussions and initiatives set the stage for a more inclusive entrepreneurial future in Europe.