Project summary

Strengthening the European economic fabric requires that their SMEs are competitive. On the path to their sustainable growth, EU SMEs still meet too many obstacles to get full access to venture capital and business opportunities. Some of FFWD EUROPE project partners have their own business acceleration scheme that proves efficient locally, although most of the partners perceive a lack of support from their regional authorities on the design and funding of measures related to facilitate the access to capital for SMEs.


The common challenge of FFWD EUROPE is to improve partners' policy instruments, and to enable SMEs to participate in public-supported accelerator models in order to significantly enhance their competitiveness through access to private funding and equity; international markets opportunities and new business contacts all over Europe.

Therefore, FFWD EUROPE will contribute to improve the national and regional Programmes for Investing for Growth and Jobs, through a better use of ERDF for the development and/or improvement of regional policies dedicated to SME competitiveness in the EU countries and regions of the partners and their stakeholders. This goal will be accomplished through various exchanges of good practices that will contribute to impact with strength all policy instruments and make them enhance new elements for business accelerators.


The main outputs will be the elaboration of one Action Plan per region, based on the interregional exchanges, that will ensure the appropriate implementation during the phase 2 of the project. Partners will get knowledge and experience to design, create and consolidate the settlement of their Accelerator Programs, supported by their regional policies as a result of the implementation. Communication and stakeholders engagement will also be crucial points. In fine, all European partners with their stakeholders, as well as the SMEs they support, will benefit from the support of the Interreg Europe Programme.


from 1 Jan 2017
to 31 Dec 2021

SME competitiveness

What will this project change?



What policy instruments does the project address?

The regional operational programme (ROP) 2014/2020 for Basse-Normandie aims to strengthen the coherence between investment and the structural reforms priorities. It focuses on the promotion of growth and employment to reach the Europe 2020 strategy objectives. Its “Strategic Objective 1.3.4”, designed by the Managing Authority in cooperation with Normandy Development Agency, has four specific targets:

1. development of equity and quasi -equity for SMEs;

2. development of strategy for innovation, internationalization, skills development, detection of needs from idea to commercialization;

3. support of operations for the exploration and development of international companies;

4. SMEs size increase through innovation and internationalization projects.


Although the ROP states the overall goals, additional actions must be undertaken to ensure the involvement of all stakeholders and beneficiaries in the definition of the regional strategies and roadmaps, so that eligible projects correspond to the regional needs, and also to the specific needs and competences of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Improvement will address the lack of support for the rapid growth of companies and especially inside the accelerator programme FFWD Normandie. ERDF will target to fund actions within the development of the territories, regional strategic studies and reviews of regional economic projects. Beneficiaries will be regional SMEs and foreign companies willing to invest and create jobs in Normandy.



Which partners are working on this?
  • Normandy Development Agency

The relevant thematic objectives in the Operational Programme Lower Saxony are “01 Research and Innovation” and “03 SMEs Competitiveness”.

In these objectives are three Investment priorities which are most important for the planned project:

1b: Promote companies’ investments in R&I: develop a better support for SMEs to invest in R&I, to improve their access to research institutions and innovative international networks.

3a: Support of entrepreneurial spirit by facilitation and support of entrepreneurship and business start-ups. The priority focuses on the transformation of acquired knowledge and research results in marketable innovative products and services realised by entrepreneurs and start-ups.

3d: Support of SMEs’ abilities to participate in the regional, national and international market growth.


NBank is responsible for the implementation of the major aspects of the OP and this project provides a good opportunity to make improvements to our policy instruments and to assist SMEs through the interregional exchange process and by learning from partners who may have different approaches to assist their local SMEs especially in the frame of acceleration. It is anticipated that in the future there might even be an explicit part of the OP focusing completely on internationalisation issues.

Furthermore the development of coming policy instruments will be influenced by the development of better monitoring tools and the exchange of experiences.



Which partners are working on this?
  • Investment and Business Development Bank Lower Saxony - NBank

North Denmark Region is challenged by creating a rather low number of high growth entrepreneurs in the country compared to similar regions in EU. Furthermore, way too few of the established SMEs turn into high growth enterprises. However, the region holds a lot of unrealised potentials, which is prioritised within the Regional Strategy, focusing on entrepreneurs and SMEs with a proven clear growth potential and drive for growth.


According to the Regional Growth and Development Strategy, the Managing Authorithy of North Denmark Region is seeking to support the creation of high growth entrepreneurs and SMEs. More specifically the objective is to support potential high growth entrepreneurs and SMEs by offering targeted framework programmes, such as

• Incubator- and accelerator programmes

• Acces to expertise and knowledge

• Access to finance

• Improve export and internationalisation


Based on these objectives, the Managing Authorithy of North Denmark Region expects the following measures within 2020 :

• 2.200 new jobs

266 M EUR in revenues in the involved entrepreneurs and SMEs


Which partners are working on this?
  • Business Development Centre North Denmark

The Thematic objective addressed within the Policy Instrument selected would be nr. “03 - Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)”. Within this objective there are several Investment priorities, being the most significant for FFWD EUROPE project :


3a – Promoting entrepreneurship, in particular by facilitating the economic exploitation of new ideas and fostering the creation of new firms, including through business incubators.


The priority 3a, aims to develop a comprehensive plan to support entrepreneurship, encourage growth and job creation. Foster entrepreneur local government: promoting entrepreneurship, identifying niches and self-employment, infrastructure development to accommodate business. Moreover try to promote self-employment through the speeding up of procedures and the elimination of bureaucratic obstacles. Promotion and implementation of financing instruments for entrepreneurs and SMEs and make a work of protection and monitoring of business projects in order to avoid the failure. 


Although the policy specifically mentions actions for supporting SME’s and entrepreneurs no actions are detailed within the Operational Programme and only some punctual initiatives are being developed within the field of acceleration and fundraising measures, mainly implemented by the Regional Development Agency. The policy should design a consistent strategy, including different and well-planned actions and involving different regional actors.


Which partners are working on this?
  • Murcia Business Innovation Center (BIC Murcia)

Under the Investment Priority 2 of the EDIOP Economic Development and Innovation Operational Programme the policy instrument entitled to ”Development of the competitiveness of enterprises having no/not sufficient access to funding sources through improved access of enterprises to external funding” is addressed. This policy instrument aims to ensure the sustainability of the economy, it is important to boost enterprise performance and competitiveness. The development of the competitiveness of businesses with no/not sufficient access to funding sources must be stimulated also by improving their fund-raising options. It will be achieved by a) providing the resources necessary for the investments and operation of viable enterprises at costs of funds that can be reimbursed with appropriate business management and b) by developing enterprises to make them able to obtain funds from the actors of the financial market. The current policy instrument is only setting directions on what to achieve as a final outcome (increase of net revenues of SME sales), but provides no tailored development pathway to better improve the capacity of enterprises to exhibit external financing opportunities. Consequently, enterprises should be provided by assistance on getting engaged in acceleration services, access to finance as well as the internationalization aspects of enterprises. Deep dive in interregional good policy making practices will contribute to this process.

Which partners are working on this?
  • IFKA Public Benefit NonProfit Ltd. for the Development of the Industry

The action – that is part of the “Employment” priority of the ROP ESF - is composed by an ex ante (promote the entrepreneurship culture, stimulate the creation of new businesses, take charge of potential entrepreneurs, verify their actual interest in the creation of businesses, plan and delivery of tailor made accompanying paths that will help them in transforming their ideas into a real business plan) and ex post set of tools (qualified mentoring/coaching services offered to new entrepreneurs, accompanying the first steps of the start ups) to boost the entrepreneurship in Piedmont region. A specific measure is devoted to the support provided to innovative enterprises. Moreover, the program provides financial incentives for new businesses.

The ESF – through ROP- finances this action since 2003. It has been managed at sub-regional level and we run since the beginning all the activities and services delivered to enterprises and would be entrepreneurs. The measure supported in 10 years 1489 start up on our territory (provincial level). These enterprises demonstrated to be stronger than the other ones (they survive and grow more than the others). We, together with the Regional Government, will manage and implement the policy instrument until 2020.

The instrument should improve its capacity to strengthening the dialogue and interlinkages among the innovative SMEs and key actors of the acceleration chain, in particular with private investors / equity.


Which partners are working on this?
  • Metropolitan City of Turin

The National Development Programme 2014–2020 has been drafted with a view to mobilising the State resources for the improvement of Lithuania’s innovativeness and development of a competitive economy. The assessment criteria of the objectives and targets of this Programme are connected to the implementation of instruments related to ERDF.

Target 3 of the first objective of the Programme aims to provide assistance for innovative businesses with a specific focus on rapid growth enterprises with a help of business accelerators.

Target 1 of the second objective of the Programme claims the importance of the promotion of investments in activities of high value, venture capital is stressed as highly contributive to the development of innovative enterprises. Overall Programme emphasizes international aspects in acceleration of innovation processes in Lithuania.

The Action Plan of the Programme identifies that the financing for business acceleration measures and promotion of venture capital is foreseen. However, the assessment criteria of the Program concentrates to final outcomes of identified actions (e.g. number of active SMEs) and do not evaluate a potential of initiating actions which can bring a sustained promotion for rapid growth enterprises and long-term perspective business support tools. Financing is set to episodic actions which don’t have continuity potential.


Which partners are working on this?
  • Kaunas Science and Technology Park

ROP is the financial instrument for 2014-2020 in Podlaskie Voivodeship Development Strategy 2020. Within 10 priority axes this instrument aims at regional sustainable growth. Economic growth should be supported especially by influencing SMEs development. In the frame of ROP, this issue is foreseen in 2 priorities: Activity 1.3 Supporting investments in enterprises, Investment priority 3c: Supporting of creation and development and extending of advanced capabilities in the scope of products and services development and Activity 1.4 Promotion of entrepreneurship and improvement of investment attractiveness, IP 3a: Promotion of economic usage of new ideas and supporting of creation of new companies also by incubators. ROP offers direct support to SMEs by funds and loans addressed to innovative solutions, focuses on cooperation between enterprises and B+R sector. No support is addressed in innovative solutions and products internalization. Start-ups are targeted; support is offered by incubating scheme. Between incubation and direct financing of innovative investments there is a gap for accelerators, which proved to be and engine for fast growth of companies and which is not included in ROP. This new tool proved to bring an important value in enhancing fast growth. ROP includes funding options by seed funds and similar instrument but only after ex ante evaluation. The instrument targeted should be improved in the new perspective taking into account new directions and solutions.


Which partners are working on this?
  • Podlaska Regional Development Foundation