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Engaging European Start-ups and Young SMEs for Action for Sustainable Energy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - START2ACT (Engaging European Start-ups and Young SMEs for Action for Sustainable Energy)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

Research in recent years has shown that around 20% of energy, which is currently consumed, can be saved through measures targeting behaviour change. In the EU, the collective environmental impact of 20 million SMEs is massive, contributing to 64% of environmental impact. Active engagement of start-ups and young SMEs is therefore essential in order to reach the EU’s 2030 Energy Strategy, and there is market potential for almost all enterprises to cost effectively reduce their energy consumption.

START2ACT aimed to unleash the potential of energy savings at European young SMEs and startups via behavioural change actions. Through a set of innovative training and capacity building measures, it aimed to trigger action by young entrepreneurs and their emerging enterprises as well as by the owners and staff of young SMEs to save energy at their offices.

Office equipment is the fastest growing energy user in the business world. START2ACT aimed to trigger the use and uptake of the many available tools and solutions offering a great potential for energy and money savings in offices. In addition, it aimed to stimulate sustainable procurement of office equipment. In so doing, START2ACT aimed to sow the seeds of a sustainable energy culture in startups and young SMEs.

Although changing behaviour and increasing energy efficiency at the office have the potential to lead to energy and cost savings, these are not short-term priorities for many startups and young SMEs, and they cannot always easily see the long-term benefits of these interventions. Therefore, young SMEs and startups are by definition a difficult target group to reach and engage in such interventions. However, it was observed that the more tailored the advice they receive in line with their needs and interests, the more engaged they will become towards such capacity building actions. Indeed, once exposed to the training programmes, both employees working for startups and SMEs reported that the trainings inspired them to take more actions in the future to conserve energy, at home and at work, and that they became more willing to change their behaviour and become more energy efficient based on what they have learned in the trainings.
Following a baseline assessment of the motivations, interests and needs of European startups and young SMEs on energy efficiency, the core training and capacity building activities started with the development and launch of the Online Energy Saving Platform hosted on the START2ACT website. This platform provided the users the possibility to enhance their knowledge on energy efficiency at work through interactive and entertaining tools as well as a more comprehensive repository of tools and solutions:
• Knowledge Base served as the central repository of the project and the main resource to convey the understanding of energy and cost saving potential in offices to the target groups online.
• e-Learning course provided an engaging and hands-on experience on how to take action to save energy in an office through demonstrating real-life scenarios, interactive videos and exercises.
• Energy Saving Competition aimed to provide a motivating framework for SME employees to change their behaviour by making them conscious of their energy consumption at work and encouraging them to reduce this in a variety of ways.

In addition to these online tools, face-to-face activities were also implemented:
• Energy Efficiency Business Breakfasts were held, providing information on energy management at offices and an action plan to help save energy.
• On-site Capacity Building Activities helped young SMEs in identifying and embracing measures for energy efficiency at their companies through a series of visits by the START2ACT partners.
• Sustainable Energy Mentoring activities helped engage young, innovative companies at an early stage, so they would understand the importance of energy efficiency while growing their businesses.

On the Online Energy Saving Platform, the Knowledge Base and the e-Learning have been the most popular, while a higher level of interaction with the target groups was achieved through the Energy Saving Competition.

Over the course of the project, 60 business breakfasts were organised, reaching a total of 1,059 people. The participants represented 794 organisations in total, of which 377 were young SMEs and startups. 306 SMEs were trained on-site, and 433 startups, representing 2,019 entrepreneurs, were mentored via 71 mentoring sessions in nine START2ACT countries.

Extensive dissemination activities and targeted promotional campaigns were carried out to reach the project’s target groups and engage them in the project’s activities as well as to stimulate the uptake of the many valuable outputs of the project by the stakeholders and end-users. START2ACT and its results received extensive visibility and outreach both at the partner countries and beyond. Furthermore, strong collaboration was established with other projects and initiatives, leading to effective cross-promotional actions and synergies.

Open access has been provided to START2ACT Training Kits, Handbooks, ToT Manuals, Baseline Assessment Report, Report on the Assessment of the Behaviour of the Target Groups, other public deliverables, and most importantly, the Knowledge Base and e-Learning. Such a wide selection of free materials on energy efficient practices and cost saving measures for SMEs and startups realises the added value of the project yielded after its completion to wider audiences beyond its target groups. To this end, all of these materials and online tools and platforms will be maintained beyond the project and further promoted by all partners at relevant occasions and through their networks.
START2ACT’s actions are expected to lead to increased energy efficiency and energy savings at offices and trigger the market uptake of energy-efficient solutions, tools and products for offices. An important part of the START2ACT approach was to facilitate behavioural change by understanding the motivations, attitudes and knowledge levels of managers and employees of young SMEs and startups. Throughout the project, the training and mentoring activities were monitored via surveys to investigate the effectiveness of START2ACT’s actions.

Both the SME trainings and the startup mentoring sessions were evaluated positively. The SMEs and startups thought the trainings were valuable and brought them new insights and that they were also more willing to change their behaviour and become more energy efficient based on what they had learned.

SMEs are an important pillar of our society as they account for more than two thirds of employment in the EU. Increasing the energy efficiency of the backbone of our future business landscape in the EU at an early development stage of an enterprise represents considerable value for economies, the society and the enterprises themselves. In addition to cost savings, energy efficiency provides other benefits that can help businesses grow and develop, for example by improving productivity, profitability and competitiveness as well as product quality. Moreover, by reducing reliance on energy imports and lowering environmental impacts, added value is provided not only to businesses, but also to the society.
START2ACT Business Breakfast
START2ACT Energy Saving Competition Autumn Edition
START2ACT Dissemination Material
START2ACT at the WSED 2018
START2ACT Final Conference at the EUSEW19
START2ACT Consortium
START2ACT at the Startup Night 2017 in Budapest