Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs

The Experience of the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce

Among the Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad, the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Brussels is one of the most active in the field of European funding programmes. The BICC has been participating in such programmes funded by the European Commission for many years now, and on several subjects like vocational training, commercial relations with extra-EU Countries, and promotion of regional products.

Among the projects realized during the years, we would like to highlight the “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs”, for which the Chamber of Commerce acted as Leader partner more than once. Since 2009 the Chamber is an integral part of the Open EYE consortium. The consortium consists of associations, Chambers of Commerce and universities, active in the support of business and promoting the entrepreneurial culture of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. It gathers associations from several Member States playing a leading role in the European entrepreneurial market including Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Spain, France and Greece.

We interviewed Marco Iacuitto, Project Manager at the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce, in order to better understand this programme and find out how it can impact an Italian Chamber of Commerce Abroad.

What are the Chamber’s activities within the programme?

Within Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, the role of the consortium’s members is to act as Intermediary Organizations (IO), allowing young or New Entrepreneurs (NE) to meet  Host Entrepreneurs (HE). The European Commission provides the new entrepreneur with funds to be spent abroad for a fixed period of time during which she/he will be able to acquire new skills, learning from a successful entrepreneur. This means that our Chamber receives applications from new entrepreneurs based in Belgium who want to gain experience abroad. On the other hand, we also manage the applications from new European entrepreneurs who are looking for a host entrepreneur in Belgium.

The Belgian-Italian Chamber has constantly participated in the programme, since the second cycle. How has the programme developed itself during these years?

Our Chamber gained a lot of experience during these years, which has also been acknowledged by the European Commission and EASME. As a confirmation of this fact, we have been asked to take part in a task force of the Intermediary Organizations (IO) of the Programme, aimed at identifying its critical points and proposing improvements. The budget for Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs has been increased during the years, and the feeling is that the European Commission is willing to invest even more funds for this programme in the future.

Does the participation in this kind of projects mean offering an additional service to  our associates?

Certainly yes, but not only. The participation in Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs allows us to enter new networks, make new contacts useful to the Chamber also to promote the other services we offer, to increase the associates’ number and to better know our environment. Our Chamber worked hard to enhance contacts with local Chambers, incubators of enterprises, regional import-export offices and other realities in Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders. In fact, the project is an occasion to establish new relationships at different levels, start interesting territorial dynamics and increase the collaboration opportunities beyond the European funding programme.

What are the latest developments proposed by the consortium?

A brand new development of the Open EYE Consortium, discussed during our project meeting that took place in Bologna the 9th and 10th of May, aims at developing an after care service addressed to new entrepreneurs. Locally, after the exchange period, the partners will provide the new entrepreneurs with a tailored consultancy service focused on the revision of the business plan which was designed before the exchange. The consultancy will also provide administrative, legal and financial information and possible sources of public funds supporting the creation of start-ups. In addition, the consortium will develop the “investor readiness check”, a pilot initiative which supports new entrepreneurs in pitching their business project to potential investors.

Since the beginning of the programme, the Open EYE consortium has continuously raised the quality of the services provided to entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, the consortium has introduced the idea of creating a quality board inviting stakeholders and entrepreneurs to develop and shape the programme’s activities together with the partner organizations involved. The consortium expects that this tight collaboration will contribute to the quality of service the programmes provides to its main beneficiaries, host and new entrepreneurs in Europe.