The 2013/01/23 at 07:58
At a time when unemployment affects 26 million Europeans, in other words one working-age person out of ten, industry and services seem to lack the means to eliminate this trend singlehandedly. Faced with this fact, the European Union has decided to stimulate the entrepreneurial fibre of citizens – a mighty task as the crisis has seriously dampened the enthusiasm of Europeans. While in 2009, over half of the continent’s population was ready to set up their own business, only four out of ten people today declare that they wish to become their own boss. Brussels has thus issued a series of measures to reverse this tendency.
Education on company creation
In an Entrepreneurship Action Plan, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for entrepreneurship and industry, has defined a series of specific aids aiming to motivate Europeans to set up their own businesses. “We want to make entrepreneurship an attractive and accessible prospect for European citizens. If we can unleash Europe’s entrepreneurial potential, we can bring back growth to Europe.” The European Commission points out that SMEs are the main breeding ground for employment, creating four million jobs per year.
Yet newly-created companies need to be nurtured. Over one-half of companies that are born do not survive past the five-year mark. In this way, Brussels wishes to promote training on entrepreneurship in higher-education contexts in order to foster “high-tech and high-growth companies”. As the Commission also notes, “between 15 % and 20 % of students who participate in a mini-company programme in secondary school will later start their own company, a figure that is about three to five times of that of the general population”.
Certain members of the European Union are already broadcasting this initiative on their national scales. In this way, Germany has set up the “Exist” programme, providing financial support to universities offering company creation on their list of courses.
Young people are not the only population group to be targeted by the European action plan. Women, who represent only 34.4 % of Europe’s self-employed, are another key entrepreneurial pool. The same goes for migrant populations for whom, according to Brussels, self-employment is a “precious opportunity for their economic empowerment and social inclusion”.
However, it’s not enough to stir the entrepreneurial calling; it’s also necessary to support young buds as they grow. Brussels is therefore encouraging support to businesses during crucial phases of the business’s lifecycle, namely via resources including management training and R&D (research and development) coaching. Noting the necessity to help companies come to terms with the digital age, the Commission observes that “SMEs grow two to three times faster when they embrace ICT (information and communication technologies)”, thus inviting Member States to work towards the endurance of their companies. Indeed, according to the European Union’s statistics, in 96 % of cases, bankruptcies are due to late payments. The Commission therefore suggests that regulations be introduced to help companies overcome financial difficulties and to give second chances to “honest entrepreneurs”. The action plan further highlights that “second-starters” – or entrepreneurs who have failed a first time – succeed better.
Indeed, experience is placed at the heart of the action plan. For while senior citizens are invited, alongside women, young people and migrants, to set up their own companies, they are also perceived as carriers of know-how. In this way, the plan envisages involving retired business people more in company transmission. In addition, Brussels considers that transfers of business ownership should be facilitated at a time when every year, 450,000 companies representing two million employees, change hands. Specific action is all the more necessary as 150,000 of these companies – in other words 600,000 jobs – disappear as a result of these handovers.
Why not encourage cross-border business transfers, asks Brussels? On the cross-border front, European Chambers of Commerce and Industry have already anticipated the movement. Eurochambres, the Association of European CCIs – a network of over 2,000 Chambers representing twenty million businesses, 93 % of which are SMEs, in forty-four countries – launched, at the start of January, the second phase of the “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs” programme. Until April 2015, young entrepreneurs can apply to spend six months in another European country in order to exchange ideas and learn from experienced company heads. Partly financed by the European Commission, this programme has already, during its pilot phase from 2009 to 2011, resulted in over 1,300 exchanges.