Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit needs to be encouraged if it’s to get back on the road to sustainable and inclusive growth. “Making Europe more open to challenges by reforming its institutions to channel and give more access to essential resources: finance, knowledge and labour, for entrepreneurial ventures is what can reinvigorate growth, boost the transition to sustainability and stem the populist backlash that threatens the European project,” says coordinator Mark Sanders of the EU-funded FIRES project. FIRES focused on financial and institutional reforms for an entrepreneurial society in Europe. This will help to tackle the problem of the EU’s lack of inclusive, sustainable and innovative growth. “It’s well understood that new business creation and experimental venturing are what brings innovation to the economy,” explains Sanders. “Less well known, but equally important, is that entrepreneurship is essential in bringing about the major transition to more sustainable economic growth that Europe needs to make.” Reform agenda to stimulate entrepreneurship The aim of the project was to first establish the need and inevitability of a tailored reform strategy. It was also crucial to recognise the strong historical path dependency in the process, as well as in the institutions that Europe has put in place to allocate the labour, capital and knowledge needed for entrepreneurial innovative venturing. To formulate well-founded proposals, FIRES brought together scholars from such fields as history, geography, law and economics. The FIRES team produced a long list of potential interventions and selected reforms designed for Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. It tailored the reform strategy to local contexts to show how various parts of the agenda can be relevant in different areas of Europe. In addition, the project presents an approach that can be repeated by other EU Member States. Stepping stones towards successful reform Project partners designed a 7-step process to achieve a tailored reform strategy. It builds on the European regions’ rich and diverse history, assesses the bottlenecks in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and surveys relevant stakeholders in that ecosystem. Then, it proposes appropriate interventions from a menu of research-based policy proposals to improve the situation and assesses their legal context and political feasibility. “A healthy entrepreneurial system is never finished,” notes Sanders. “Instead, it relies on positive feedback mechanisms: policymakers should thus evaluate and experiment, enabling the return to step one for the next iteration of possible reforms.” The 7-step method is applicable to European, national, regional or local levels of governance. “We view this as a sound method that policymakers can use in tailoring a reform strategy to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he stresses. FIRES also developed analytical tools to assess the viability and functioning of the entrepreneurial ecosystems in Europe. These tools identify strengths and weaknesses and evaluate the processes of venture creation and company formation across European institutional contexts. The project ended in mid 2018, but the work has only just begun. “It’s up to policymakers to take up the challenges FIRES has identified and push forward with the tools created for promoting entrepreneurship in the EU,” concludes Sanders.
FIRES, reform strategy, reforms, entrepreneurship, policymakers, economic growth, entrepreneurial ecosystem, governance