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H2020

FIRES Report Summary

Project ID: 649378
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FIRES (Financial and Institutional Reforms for the Entrepreneurial Society)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Europe faces many challenges. And it will continue to do so. If there is anything we know for sure it is that the future is uncertain. And so the best way to prepare Europe for that uncertain future is to enhance its flexibility, resilience and adaptability. This is also true for the European economy. In its call for a strategy that will return Europe to inclusive, sustainable and innovative growth (EURO-2-2014) the FIRES-project proposes to develop a strategy that will make Europe more entrepreneurial. To do so we believe that we must fundamentally rethink our institutions. FIRES will advocate Financial and Institutional Reforms for the Entrepreneurial Society.

An Entrepreneurial Society allocates talent, finance, labor and knowledge to small scale, early stage, experimental economic activity and promotes an entrepreneurial attitude among European business owners, employees, citizens and policy makers alike. The project will show that the transition to a more Entrepreneurial Society is both necessary and desirable. Such an Entrepreneurial Society will create jobs for all, maintain Europe’s competitive position at the global technology frontier and develop the solutions for social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

We will then argue that such a transition requires institutional reforms in Europe’s financial sector, labor markets and knowledge institutions. These institutions, however, have deep roots in Europe’s diverse history. The project therefore first explores what might be reformed and what should be considered the cultural and institutional bedrock on which new institutions must be built.

Building on research establishing the need, urgency and desirability as well as the scope for reform, we then turn to investigating the state of the Union. Measuring the quality of entrepreneurial ecosystems in European regions is both pushing academic frontiers and filling an urgent policy need. Without such measures policy makers are flying blind in trying to improve local, regional, national and European ecosystems. Measuring progress and identifying the bottlenecks preventing it are both explicit aims of our project.

The accurate measurement of quality will also show the large diversity that characterizes Europe. Of course that diversity poses a challenge if the aim is to come up with an integral reform strategy. This is why the FIRES-project will zoom in on specific case studies across European member states and studies in particular the start-up processes across institutional traditions. Following the Varieties of Capitalism literature FIRES will study start-up processes in Germany, Italy and the UK to differentiate between Latin, Anglo-Saxon and continental institutional complexes.

In a final set of reports the project will then also carefully address its reform proposals at the various levels of policymaking, such that our proposals match competencies and both work towards the same goal while also allow for maintaining the valuable geographic diversity.

The FIRES-project is unique in its multidisciplinary approach, connecting scholars from geography, law, history, business and economics. Bringing these disciplines together around a common challenge is the way to bring both social science and evidence based policy making forward. Moreover, the project invests heavily in involving the various stakeholders in various stages of the research. Early on, when research questions are fine tuned and strategies are set, FIRES will engage Europeans with a positive stake in the Entrepreneurial Society: Investors, entrepreneurs and incubators but also entrepreneurial employees, students and artists. In consultation with these stakeholders the research program is refined and finalized. FIRES will not talk about entrepreneurship without talking to entrepreneurs. In the second stage FIRES will discuss preliminary findings and proposals with vested interest groups that we anticipate shall be affected: Labor unions, the financial sector and public and private research institutes are obvious candidates here. Our proposals will touch their interests and it is key to discuss with them early on where they see opportunities and threats. With these groups FIRES will explore the practical implications and possible barriers to the reforms as they take shape. Last but not least we bring our reform proposals to the policy makers we believe will have to act. Promoting the Entrepreneurial Society involves all interacting levels of policy making, this involves local, regional, national and European policy makers. Our reform strategy is expected to touch on institutions for knowledge exchange, labor mobility and financial resources at local, national and European levels.

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 project started with hiring researchers on the many junior positions and initiating the work on all deliverables. At the same time a lot of energy was put in organizing a successful kick-off meeting (see http://fires.magg-e.com/ for a detailed report). In the first few months of the project also the design and set up of the website, house style and organizational issues demanded a lot of attention. In the second half of the first year we were able to focus our attention to the work at hand and the first deliverables started to come in for review and submission. In addition our stakeholder engagement strategy was shifted from inviting stakeholders to join us to being invited by stakeholders to join them. Main tangible results achieved so far are the submitted deliverables, several appearances on especially entrepreneurship events and venues and a published working paper that proves progress on an important milestone in work package 2. Also we have been successful in arranging for FIRES-partners to participate in two international scientific conferences in dedicated FIRES-tracks on the program and initiated negotiations on a special issue in Small Business Economics: An Entrepreneurship Journal and for an edited volume towards the end of the project at Springer Publishers.

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 was indicated in the project proposal, the contribution of the FIRES-project beyond the state of the art is found in its multidisciplinary approach and rather fundamental approach to entrepreneurship policy. It was shown again in the new EU-entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan (http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/promoting-entrepreneurship/action-plan/index_en.htm) that policy makers are aware of the importance of removing barriers and educating young people to become entrepreneurs. The strategy also points to the importance of “reigniting a culture of entrepreneurship”. We believe that such efforts can only be successful if they are complemented with broad and encompassing institutional reforms that lie beyond the traditional instruments of entrepreneurship policy in Europe. By taking a multidisciplinary approach to formulating proposals for doing so on financial, labor and knowledge markets, we go beyond the traditional boundaries of entrepreneurship policy and push this agenda beyond the state of the art. Supporting such proposals with path breaking empirical research is our aim. One year into the project, however, such results and impacts are of course not yet achieved. We do feel that our project is positioned well to achieve these goals towards the end.

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