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ePlus Ecosystem Report Summary

Project ID: 644210
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ePlus Ecosystem (Fostering Web Entrepreneurship in Europe: e-talent, e-mentoring, e-services and e-capital for e-entrepreneurs)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The ePlus ecosystem project will develop and deploy an online and onsite environment, building on and interconnecting existing ecosystems, hubs and initiatives, in order to setup a runway for web entrepreneurs to start and scaleup a business in Europe and grow internationally. This European ecosystem will help web-entrepreneurs to develop and scale up their ideas and businesses, from a business international validation phase, to internationalization, access to finance and to business growth, thus complementing the service offer currently made available at local ecosystems level. The ePlus project will meet the objectives stated in the workprogramme in terms of accelerating web entrepreneurship in Europe, and offer a unique new platform that answers to the need for new services expressed in the Startup Manifesto. It will provide the nurturing to help web-entrepreneurs go global, through a unique combination of talents, tools and services of a European scale in all key elements required to create great companies: team, concept, technology, and capital. This will be done through the following elements:

- Putting in motion a true pan-European web-entrepreneurship ecosystem by setting up the initial backbone made of the interconnection between the booming regional ecosystems of Lisbon, Nice and Baden-Württemberg, combining and intertwining current services and opportunities and making room for more local ecosystems to join in;

- Untap on Europe’s unique mass of + 50,000 skilled and mobile researchers generated by the Marie Curie Actions in order to reinforce the web-entrepreneurs teams’ skills and technology grasp;

- Guide web-entrepreneurs into global business concepts through a European mentoring scheme, building on the best regional and national programmes available;

- Facilitate access to some of the best services from the best service providers in Europe to promote web-entrepreneurs growth;

- Ensure access to capital either in early stage or crowdfunding form.

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 ePlus project has an ambitious roadmap, which was carefully planned to mitigate risks and inefficiencies. Under the overall coordination of INOVA+, each partner contributed for designing and executing the strategy to identify and engage with the most appropriate stakeholders, target groups and target groups representatives, considering their own networks and the national and regional conditions or limitations. Guidance was provided allowing a common approach, following the assumptions made during the application stage and the discussions at the Kick-off meeting. The benefits logic model and dissemination strategy enabled both a common understanding of relevant building blocks and common vocabulary to ensure a straightforward implementation across regions. The creation of the Consortium Monitoring System, together with the monitoring work package leaders (Capgemini Consulting), allowed for the management and assignment of fine-grained tasks crucial for balanced results. However, due the networks of each partner, it is important to highlight that some of the actions planned/undertaken present different challenges to the various partners, which might or might not have an executive role in their local ecosystems and thus relying on third parties for implementation or getting the message across. Still, the partners were committed to overcome any barriers and reach target individuals and relevant organisations outside of the partnership.
The project strategy is supported by common dissemination tools such as the website, brochure, newsletters, press release, etc. Nevertheless, each partner is free of developing further materials with other messages (more informal or more formal; with more details or more generalist, English or localised content, etc.) according to the needs and expected impact/engagement on a local level. The following blocks present the main results toward the project goal of achieving a truly connected Pan-European ecosystem.

Network - There is no great “European” ecosystem as of yet, but there are great ecosystems in Europe. Start by creating a backbone interlinking some of the best regional ecosystems across Europe and promoting the sharing of services, and complement it with expert service aimed at internationalisation and growth.
Main tasks: Services catalogue, Micro-Grants, Cross-promotion, Open days and workshops, Startup Europe community

Match - Europe is full of creatives with brilliant business ideas but no scientific/technological knowledge to implement them, and of brilliant scientists and researchers lacking entrepreneurial spirit and business vision. It is time to put them together.
Main tasks: Date-a-researcher, Date-an-entrepreneur

Mentor - Many European entrepreneurs have managed to do it at an international scale – and many of these are willing to pass that knowledge to others through mentoring. Mentoring has up to now been done mainly at local level, but there is no reason to be like that. We must upgrade mentoring schemes to a European level.
Main tasks: Mentoring service, Web icons

Guide - Capital exists, but it is in fact too spread out and fragmented over Europe. Europe has more potential than the United States for venture capital (as it has more savings) and crowdfunding can make an asset out of fragmentation. The key is to improve the accessibility to these tools, guiding entrepreneurs to capital, as certain organisations already do - such as the European Business Angel Network (EBAN) and the European Crowdfunding Network (ECN).
Main tasks: Handbooks/booklets on accessing funding, training workshops, web pitches.

These building blocks were set up as part of the ePlus Ecosystem platform in a way that adds value to the local ecosystems and to other European regions both for expansion and for maximising available opportunities to the initial regions. All of the services are available since February/March on the website and fully accessible to entrepreneurs and service providers across Europe.

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)

The project is very much focused on establishing sustainable links among key stakeholders on entrepreneurship across Europe. Some of these stakeholders and project partners but others are not.
In such regard, it is particularly important to highlight the participation in cross-region initiatives, networking to foster cooperation, and supporting activities which were deemed extremely valuable to identify challenges to meaningfully engaging with the regions and to characterise individual characteristics and social trends, pitfalls. This ultimately contributed to enhance the key partnerships that sustain an advance to the state-of-the-art in terms of an European Ecosystem. In the end, this project is already contributing to a sense of belonging to a wider European community and overthrow invisible barriers such as regions’ borders.

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