EU4Business: Connecting Companies’ (EU4BCC) is a project managed by Eurochambres and funded under the EU4Business initiative of the European Union. The EU4BCC project is due to end in December 2023. The EU4BCC project is being developed in the framework of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), which was launched in 2009 in order to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union (EU), its Member States and its six Eastern neighbours (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). EU4Business is an umbrella initiative that covers all EU activities supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EaP countries. The EU4BCC project aims to support sustainable economic development and job creation in the EaP countries by helping SMEs to grow – especially by promoting increased trade, encouraging inward investment and fostering business links with companies in the EU.
In the EU4Business: Connecting Companies, 5 Sectorial Consortia will be selected through call for proposals. Each Consortium will comprise a minimum of 1 EU and 1 EaP Chambers (maximum 4 EU & EaP Chambers per sector) who will manage the selected sector aiming at the implementation of the long term strategy developed by Board of Experts towards improving the competitiveness of the sector covered.
Each consortium will then issue her own call in order to assign the implementation of the activities (B2B matching, twinning, study visits) to the partnerships applying for a sub-grant.
- Contribute towards the development of sustainable and equitable economic growth models in the EaP countries, which can generate more investments and improve socio-economic conditions and employment opportunities for citizens.
- Support capacity of sectorial Business Support Organisations (BSOs) to enhance EaP SMEs internationalisation, export capacities and access to new markets.
- Support SMEs towards trade, more specifically export towards EU countries.
- The project will target BSOs from the 6 EaP countries: sectoral organisations, women entrepreneur organisations, chambers with a sectoral focus, clusters; they will work in partnership with their EU counterparts, in a peer-to-peer approach.
- SMEs from the EaP countries will also directly benefit from the actions, especially those with an international potential; they will receive training, coaching and opportunity for matchmaking with business from the EU.
- Business to Business matching, meant to enhance people to people (SMEs to SMEs) contacts and trade opportunities. A call for interest will be launched and the SMEs will be selected by European Sectoral Consortia though transparent procedure based on the eligibility criteria in accordance with the EU rules. The aim is to explore opportunities for cooperation, working on the creation of a common product or service, etc. SMEs involved will be strongly encouraged to develop cooperation among them (including also third parties if interested/needed) – subcontracting, joint ventures, etc.
- Study visit, they will offer the possibility to learn “on site” from other BSOs, enhance the understanding and knowledge on EaP within the EU business community as well as vice versa, and offer an opportunity for networking. Each study visit will have a specific focus, which can be thematic (e.g. Internationalisation service, women entrepreneurship), or sectoral (e.g. agri-food, textiles).
- Twinnings (defined as Capacity Building / peer to peer learning for BSOs, Coaching) in order to establish direct links between the EU member states’ BSOs and the EaP BSOs. The idea behind is to increase knowledge on trade environment and investment opportunities, to allow for peer to peer exchanges, sharing of best practices and knowledge, mutual cooperation and knowledge expanding on both sides. The activity is not supposed to be a training, but rather workshops and on the job coaching, allowing for peer to peer exchanges, with the help of facilitators and experts provided by the Consortia. Within the same activity, visits to industrial areas, companies and SMEs of the sector, to local clusters and innovation poles will be encouraged, in order to expose BSOs to the local context and business environment.
There were 59 subgrant schemes for 3rd parties at €60.000 (maximum, final amount was based upon the nature and duration of the activities to be implemented).
The three above-mentioned actions finalised in December 2022. With the beginning of 2023 the EU4BCC project is launching a new set of activities including the following:
- A mobility scheme: An exchange programme sponsoring the stay of SMEs and BSOs from the Eastern Partnership at a hosting SME/BSO in one of the Member States of the EU.
- Five sectoral study visits, one per target sector (Bio/organic food, wine, textile, tourism, and creative industries) involving 25 SMEs from the EaP region for a 5-days exchange with B2B meetings.
- A BSO tour: a 5-days mission for BSOs based in the EaP with the goal of creating/expanding the network, exchange knowledge and best practices, and build capacity in the organisation of similar activities.
- An online export academy conceived to help SMEs from the EaP grow their business internationally.