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A 'club of excellence' for innovative entrepreneurs

As part of its continuing efforts to boost innovation in the European Union, the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate-General has created a 'club of excellence' for start up companies.

The European Commission is keen to encourage the important role played by start-u...
As part of its continuing efforts to boost innovation in the European Union, the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate-General has created a 'club of excellence' for start up companies.

The European Commission is keen to encourage the important role played by start-up and spin-off companies in the generating highly skilled jobs and economic growth. Now it wants to nurture communication between European regions where pockets of excellence in innovation have become apparent.

To this end, the Enterprise DG launched a 14 million euro call for proposals in June 1999 for a Pilot Action seeking support for regional (or infra-regional) initiatives contributing to the creation and development of innovative firms.

The result is the PAXIS project - a pilot action for excellence in innovation start ups- under which 15 innovative economic areas in Europe have been selected and clustered into four thematic networks. These are:

- KREO: Oxford (GB), Karlsruhe (DE), Lyon-Grenoble (FR) and Emilia-Romagna (IT);

- HIGHEST: Alpes-Maritimes (FR), Helsinki (FI), Torino (IT) and Malmö (SE);

- SPRING: Stockholm (SE), Cambridge (GB), Stuttgart (DE) and Madrid (ES);

- PANEL: Munich (DE), Milan (IT) and Barcelona (ES).

The selected regions will become members of the 'club of excellence' network. The organisation will aim to identify existing resources and competencies, to transfer this knowledge, and to exchange and disseminate good practices for promoting innovation throughout the Member States.

'Members of the club will form a 'European showcase of innovation' which will have a substantial impact and knock-on effect for all EU regions, encouraging economic areas to implement similar initiatives adapted to their local conditions,' says the Commission.

At the same time, PAXIS supports 24 other projects aimed to test and transfer innovative strategies for to help start-ups. The projects will look at how best to transfer knowledge between universities, research organisations and public businesses.

In addition, the Pilot Action contains a series of measures designed to support the network of excellence. These include organising promotional events, creating a website and newsletter, and arranging an `Innovation Policy Interface' - designed to extract the most from the network and individual projects by means of a series of expert panels, visiting schemes, workshops and benchmarking exercises.

Under the forthcoming French presidency, the European Commission is organising the second forum for innovative enterprises in Lyon on 20 and 21 November 2000. It is expected to attract over 500 participants allowing entrepreneurs to give feedback on the local, national or European-wide policies that will help Europe achieve a knowledge and innovation-based society. The event is directed towards those connected with innovation, both on the business side and on the research side.

PAXIS is scheduled to begin in May 2000 and will last for 18 months. Of the 14 million euro budget, 60 per cent is allocated to the 24 projects and 30 per cent to the thematic networks. The remaining 10 per cent will fund accompanying measures to support the whole action.

Source: European Commission, Enterprise DG.

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