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July 2003

 
Innovation

START-UP COMPANIES

 


PAXIS 2 looks east

 
    The second phase of PAXIS supports six large projects to develop the lessons learned in PAXIS 1 and adds a fifth thematic network. Transferring innovation know-how to central and eastern European countries is a major new priority.

L essons learned in the first phase of PAXIS - an EU-funded initiative which aims to improve Europe's capacity to support innovative start-up companies - are now being put into effect in PAXIS 2 which started in January.

Where the 18-month first phase supported 24 projects, the second phase focuses on just six. "In the first phase we learned a lot about the possibilities of PAXIS," says Charlotte Avarello of the European Commission's Innovation Policy Unit. "In those 24 projects we covered all the main issues for start-up creation but it makes no sense to do the same again in PAXIS 2. So we decided to offer more money, to have bigger consortia, to have a clearer focus and also a clearer work programme." The projects will each be funded to the level of around €1 million and will run for 30 months.

Of the six projects to be supported, four - ESTER, Promotor+, Transact and Globalstart - concentrate on transferring know-how on start-ups to the central and eastern European countries, many of which will be joining the Union next year. One of these, ESTER, follows on from a PAXIS 1 project called IFISE which validated expertise gained in Israel on seed capital and the management of incubators. ESTER will transfer that experience to organisations in Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia, again with the help of Israeli partners (see ' Incubating methodology ').

22 Regions of Innovation Excellence supported by PAXIS.

22 Regions of Innovation Excellence supported by PAXIS.

Management know-how

Promotor+ will transfer know-how on the management of regional innovation programmes. Organisations in Spain, Germany, Austria and Greece will make their experience available to partners in Poland, Latvia, Bulgaria and Slovenia. Five start-up companies will be supported in each region. A European Day of the Entrepreneur will be held in Sofia in October, the first in a non-EU country.

The third project, Transact, involves universities in Germany, Spain and France which will transfer their proven spin-off support schemes to institutions in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia and Romania. The ultimate aim is to define a detailed transfer methodology for each participating university, which can be used for future start-up ventures.

A fourth project in this group, Globalstart, has not yet been confirmed but is also expected to focus on support for university spin-off companies.

The two remaining projects - Biolink and Tractor - explore new models for supporting start-up companies. In Biolink, biotechnology incubators in France, Germany, Italy, Israel and the UK will exchange experience and establish a tool kit for best practice in supporting biotech start-ups. The kit will be tested on a dozen or so start-ups from the participating regions.

Tractor, involving partners in Spain, Sweden, France and Slovenia, will integrate and formalise the good practice learned from the creation and development of innovative enterprises, and make it available through the internet. The partners hope to improve the success rate of start-ups from 10-30% to 40-60%.

The networks will meet in Turin in November to review progress.

The networks will meet in Turin in November to review progress.

Thematic networks

In addition to the projects, another important aspect of PAXIS are the thematic networks, which each bring together several European regions of innovation excellence with interests in a specific field. PAXIS 1 recognised 15 regions of excellence, which were joined by a further seven at the Third European Forum for Innovative Enterprises in Stockholm last year. Although a priority of the second phase is to extend PAXIS into central and eastern Europe, there are no plans yet to add to these 22. "The new countries are growing very fast but they have not yet reached the level of excellence of the current Member States, as measured by innovation performance indicators," says Tomás Botella, project officer for the thematic networks. "But it would be very good if at least one or two regions from these countries could join PAXIS at a later date along with regions from the 'missing' EU countries, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal."

The four thematic networks from PAXIS 1 - KREO, Highest, Spring and Panel( 1 ) - are continuing into PAXIS 2, with Dublin joining Panel and Berlin joining Highest.

A new network - Start - unites Vienna, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Hamburg and Venice. "The approach is more or less the same as in the other networks," says Botella. "Each partner selects one topic and is the leader for that topic, but involves the rest of the network. The five general topics for Start are university spin-offs, incubation, seed financing, training for entrepreneurs, and the development of start-ups." Added value

The networks will operate in much the same way as in PAXIS 1, with the partners learning about the mechanisms for creating start-ups, but the orientation will be different. "We continue to stress that all the activities should have a really European dimension," says Botella. "That means each work package will finish with benchmarking and comparison on the same basis as the appropriate indicators in the different regions. This will give real European added value."

Progress on all the networks will be reviewed at a workshop in Turin in November this year. "They will also create a kind of network of networks," says Botella. "For instance, seed financing is being tackled by Highest, Panel and Spring as well as Start, so some kind of networking could be done. The same goes for other topics. So this is a new step which keeps the identity of each network while making more general benchmarking and comparisons among all the regions."

The networks will be supported for three years from January 2003. By the end of that period Botella hopes they will be able to become self-sustaining. "They should have demonstrated to the regional and local governments that they are useful instruments in supporting innovation policy and be able to find the funds to continue working. So if they show such sustainability we have succeeded." Voice for start-ups

The third aspect of PAXIS consists of three accompanying measures - SUN&SUP, IMAN and Athena. SUN&SUP is creating a pair of networks to support the start-up community in Europe. "The idea is to create a sort of lobby for the start-ups," explains Charlotte Avarello. "One network will be for representatives of service providers and the other will include representatives of start-ups themselves, so they have a voice at European level."

The other two accompanying measures are similar to those in PAXIS 1. IMAN will provide support for communication and dissemination of information, including the European Day of the Entrepreneur and the Fourth European Forum for Innovative Enterprises which will be held towards the end of 2004. Athena, on the other hand, will monitor and evaluate results from the projects and networks.

"In the first phase of PAXIS we discovered what a powerful tool we had in our hands," says Botella. "We obtained some quantitative results and created some start-ups, but in PAXIS 2 we have refined the methodology of working. These activities also have a European added value different from other actions which are the confluence of national or regional initiatives. All the partners in PAXIS contribute through a common, open methodology and this time we expect to harvest the fruit of this activity." (1) See ' Europe's cities - centres of innovation culture' , edition 2/02.

Contacts

  • C. Avarello, European Commission
    Enterprise DG
    Tl. +352 4301 38021
    Fx. +352 4301 34129
    (email removed)
  • T. Botella, European Commission
    Enterprise DG
    Tl. +352 4301 37116
    Fx. +352 4301 34129
    (email removed)
    /paxis/


   
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