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H2020

ACE Creative Report Summary

Project ID: 644386
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.1.1.4.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ACE Creative (ACE Creative: Harnessing the strengths of innovation multipliers to accelerate creative industry growth through an integrated ecosystem of supports in finance, market access and technology exploitation.)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

ACE Creative aims to stimulate the growth of ICT-driven creative industries in Europe by overcoming challenges at individual SME level, at innovation support level & at overall creative industry level. ACE Creative addresses these challenges by networking innovation support players & harnessing their regional strengths into a European ecosystem to respond more effectively to SME needs.
The ACE Creative network connects partners committed to pooling their expertise in supporting the international growth of ICT-driven creative industries & opening up their facilities & support networks of investors & mentors to ACE Creative companies from anywhere in the EU to accelerate their international growth & access to new European markets. An infographic describing the support process from the end-user SME's perspective is included as figure 1 below.
Launched in January 2015 as a 2-year pilot, ACE Creative set out to:
- provide Customised Support Programmes (CSPs – see figure 1) to 100 SMEs;
- prepare the top 30 companies to pitch to international investors at the Creative Business Cup;
- support 400 SMEs through 15 ACE Creative bootcamps staged across Europe in 2015 & 2016;
- engage 1000 SMEs on ACE Creative’s online platform; &,
- grow the ACE Creative network of Business Support Organisations to 100 partners covering the EU28.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The results emerging from ACE Creative confirm that investment & international growth opportunities in European creative industries exist. Over 2 years, ACE Creative has worked intensively with 100 ICT-driven creative startups to accelerate their international market access & investment readiness. To date the following impressive results have been tracked:
• Over €11 million euro in cross-border funding has been raised
• 49 participants in ACE Creative accessed new markets, generating €1.9 million new revenue
• 113 corporate clients acquired abroad
• More than 65,000 BtoC & end-user clients acquired
Other less quantifiable results include distribution & commercial partnerships signed with international market players & pilot installations implemented with large corporations.

In order to better understand the different sources of cross-border investment ACE Creative analysed the breakdown. The results of this analysis, presented in figure 2 below, indicate that all kinds of funding sources have been explored & successfully activated, reflecting the diversity of technologies & business models involved in the creative ICT sector & their attractiveness to different types of investors.

To achieve these results ACE Creative ran the intensive programme of activities described above during its 24-month pilot. Progress towards the initial goals & KPIs achieved during the pilot are summarised in Figure 3 below. As highlighted, the KPI of reaching 100 associate partners including at least one in each EU member state is still a work in progress. To address this the platform continues to accept new registrations & targeted efforts to address this shortfall in terms of numbers & geographic reach are being made through partners’ networks, especially those of EBN, CBC & ECBN.

In order to achieve its goal of delivering value-added support for growth to Europe’s ICT-driven creative SMEs by engaging with existing European internationalisation support projects, one of the first tasks ACE Creative carried out was a mapping of existing support services on offer at regional, national & European levels. This was updated in Year 2 to include a rating which fed into the sustainability plan for the ACE Creative Network.

The sustainability plan has also been informed by an online evaluation survey completed by participating companies. This revealed that 87% of companies classify projects like ACE Creative as helpful. Meanwhile, 75% would recommend ACE Creative to other entrepreneurs. Among the service delivery methods face-to-face mentoring & meetings were rated most helpful while the online resource centre received the least favourable reviews. Services where companies would like to see continued or additional support being made available are support in:
o business plan definition;
o finding investors;
o to attend international events;
o the introduction to international markets; &,
o access to technology-developers at universities.

During the final quarter of the project, the consortium focused its efforts on putting in place a feasible action plan to ensure the Network’s continuation in the medium to long-term. These actions have become a part of the Final Operational Plan for the Network & include:
- ACE Creative Light: founding partners have committed to self-funding their continued participation in the cooperation mechanism established in ACE beyond the pilot period.
- EBN will continue to manage the ACE Creative online platform & social media presence & to promote relevant activities of its Creative Industries Special Interest Group to the ACE Creative community & vice versa.
- ECBN will maintain the ACE Creative Network & online platform as key tools in their core activities around facilitating internationalization of SME’s. The platform will be kept alive by fostering further expansion of the service providers as well as by directing SMEs to the platform.
- CBC will continue to promote ACE Creative companies & activities through the CBC media channels. Moreover, they are currently exploring with a major shareholder who was impressed by the quality & scalability of the ACE Creative finalists at CBC if it would be possible to sponsor an ACE Creative Challenge at the event in 2017.
- Showcasing Success Stories: Success stories will continue to be updated & widely disseminated beyond the project funding period.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

As described above, the results achieved by the 100 ACE Creative companies during the 2-year pilot (€11 million euro in cross-border funding, €1.9 million new revenue generated in cross-border trade, 113 corporate and 65,000 new BtoC & end-user clients acquired abroad) demonstrate that investment and international growth opportunities in European creative industries exist.

Nonetheless, challenges to growth and the development of sustainable business models in the sector remain, and initiatives like ACE Creative are an important resource to help entrepreneurs overcome these. In addition to the support services identified as key to their growth by entrepreneurs themselves, retention of talent and protection of IP have been identified by other ACE Creative stakeholders as key issues that must be addressed at policy level for the ICT-driven creative sector in Europe to thrive. Preliminary recommendations from ACE Creative in this respect include:
- Retention of talent to fuel growth;
- Sustained investment by public bodies in generating new creative content
- More education for creative content developers on how to protect this content and use the investment to build a sustainable business

ACE Creative continues to address these challenges and support ICT-driven creative entrepreneurs to realise their growth potential by networking innovation support players to respond more effectively to SME needs.

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