eM-POWERing SME Clusters to help SMEs overcome the valley of death
Creating the bioeconomy lies at the heart of Europe’s solution to the economic and environmental challenges facing society now and in the future. If Europe is to meet its green ambitions and build self-sufficiency and security in areas such as food supply, it will need to look to its biological resources. It will be key to use these smartly and sustainably.
However, this transition will not happen spontaneously; it will need to be encouraged and nurtured. The companies that will create the required innovation will need funding and support. Public funding does exist at the EU level – including through initiatives such as the BBI JU – while at the national level there may be grants, loans, equity investments and venture capital, depending on the country. Due to the lack of awareness among project promoters and few support structures put in place for companies seeking investment, many of these tools are underexploited even within the BBI JU community. The key is to build awareness and create clusters. These are already well-positioned and well-networked, helping SMEs to connect, engage and collaborate with other innovation actors, such as large enterprises, research organisations, public authorities and investors.
To address this, the MPowerBIO project will seek feedback from clusters, SMEs and investors on the challenges facing sourcing investments. To assist, it will build an online platform with digital tools for assessing investment readiness. It will also provide training with ten ‘train the trainer’ events for 90 clusters across the bioeconomy, covering most of Europe, supported by the online platform. MPowerBIO will ensure that clusters become self-supporting, with the ability to maintain these skills within their own organisations. Ultimately, the project will be replicable to other areas.
The overarching objective of the MPowerBIO project is to improve the process of accessing funding for SMEs with bio-based innovations. Within this, it will pursue the following specific objectives:
- To co-create and establish capacity building and business support programmes to empower SME clusters to create awareness about available investment sources. It will also support the SME cluster members in preparing and obtaining investments for outstanding bioeconomy projects.
- To establish and maintain the online tools needed to support the assessment of investment readiness of the projects seeking funding and to provide training and business support services.
- To engage SME clusters both within and outside the MPowerBIO consortium, and provide the necessary capacity-building programme that will empower them to better support their SMEs.
- To engage SMEs and projects and provide them with tailored business support services and help better prepare them to secure investments from suitable financial sources.
- To set and organise the annual final events, during which the best regionally-selected SMEs and projects will connect with, and pitch to, active investors and potential business partners.
- To design and execute an effective strategy for communication and dissemination to maximise outreach, stakeholder engagement and impact. This will also provide innovation management in order to allow the sustainable and long-term exploitation of MPowerBIO assets.
In delivering its overall objectives, the MPowerBIO seeks to maximise access to public and private funding for suitable bio-based ventures. Within this, it seeks to:
- Increase private investment in the bio-based sector by encouraging effective cooperation between SMEs and potential investors.
- Enhance the role of SME clusters as a reference point for SMEs to cooperate, exchange expertise and explore business opportunities to implement successful bio-based projects.
- Improve the competitiveness of the European bioeconomy.
- Enhance communication and dialogue between all stakeholders to help stimulate cooperation and partnerships.
- Provide an economic boost for rural areas.