Enhancing transparency in regional and national business support – the COPIE Resources Map

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Effective business support services are at the heart of regional entrepreneurship programmes. Member States and regions in Europe have established and financed a large number of support schemes for different sectors and for different stages in the entrepreneur’s itinerary. 
These are mostly delivered by economic development agencies, specialised support organisations, chambers of commerce and craft, business associations, independent advisors or local authorities.

To tap the full entrepreneurial potential and hence stimulate economic growth it is crucial to open up traditional support systems for inclusive entrepreneurship. The European Social Fund (ESF) has served as an important instrument for doing so. Between 2007 and 2013, this priority will have received some €2.75 billion of ESF funding in Europe, confirms the European Commission. The total spend is still estimated to be much higher due to added matching national funding.

However, besides the lack of common quality standards, overall coordination and systematic integration of different services remains weak in many regions and Member States in Europe.

Thematic Group Integrated Business SupportCOPIE’s Thematic Working Group on Integrated Business Support has therefore picked up this issue of coordination by sharing a common tool to enhance transparency in regional and national business support provision. The Resources Map offers users a comprehensive overview of existing organisations and services, based on a detailed analysis of the business support infrastructure in a given geographic area. By grouping services along the five stages of motivation, pre-start-up, start-up, access to finance and growth and consolidation, it serves as structured guide for both clients and stakeholders in the region.

Compared to the COPIE Diagnosis Tool, the Resources Map does not specifically focus on gathering comprehensive customer or stakeholder feedback on individual segments of the support environment. It rather seeks to capture and provide detailed individual information on all services offered as a basis for further reflection. In fact, the process of collecting the data allows public and private stakeholders to actively engage in a reflection on the role of individual organisations and services within the overall entrepreneurial support chain. It therefore promotes COPIE’s key principle of joint action planning.

COPIE RessourcesLed by the regional government of Asturias, the COPIE Integrated Business Support group of partners consisted of the two Spanish regions of Extremadura and Galicia, the Kaunas region in Lithuania and the Czech Republic. As the 2009 baseline study revealed, support infrastructures in the partner regions varied significantly in terms of their ability to offer support throughout the overall business lifecycle. While some regions put a special focus on offering comprehensive services during the pre-start up phase, others received higher scores in providing support for specific stages or services in the support chain, namely for access to finance or training. None of the partners was able to show a systematic approach to support provision in all business creation and development stages as yet.

In the course of the group work, the partners carried out a questionnaire-based exercise in their regions and countries to collect specific information on all support services provided. The main aim of this exercise is to detect the needs that should be covered as part of new regional action plans for the upcoming round of European Structural Funds. The questionnaire asks for key data on individual organisations, services offered in different phases of the business creation process, resources available as well as the organisations’ links to other support providers in the region. It also invites respondents to propose future actions for structured improvements within each stage.

Mapa de RecursosThe results obtained were compared between the partners to enhance peer learning. By sharing their very own ‘Mapa de recursos para emprender en el Principado de Asturias’, the lead partner of Asturias then offered a concrete example on how this information can be summarised, and how the Resources Map can be used in practice.

The added value of this collaboration and the Resources Map tool is summarised by Noemi Iglesias from the Business Innovation Centre in Galicia: ‘[The Resources Map] is a key element to organize business support structures in the region according to their role in the entrepreneur’s itinerary as well as to identify strengths and weaknesses of the organizations and business support package giving as a result new policies for the implementation of added value services to promote and improve entrepreneurship and to optimize existing ones’.

More information on the individual tools and partners’ experience with their implementation can be obtained at the COPIE Policy Forum in Berlin on April 16-17, 2012.

For more information on COPIE’s work on integrated business support and further contact details, please go the Thematic Group section of this website.