A Tale of 10 Regions - EU|BICs stories of Digitalisation, Agility, Human Connection, & Impact-Driven
CAST network and EBN recently published a joint-study on the impact of Covid-19 on business support organisations. The study surveyed 62 business support organisations (BSOs) on the operational and financial challenges and the potential opportunities that rose from this crisis. We present you with the highlights of the stories that emerged during the study. They provide a unique window into how support organisations respond in times of crisis. You can read the full report here.
Digital backbones for the team
'Being in a hotbed of a geopolitical situation in the East Mediterranean, Lebanon has faced several crises' comments Ramy Boujwadeh, Deputy General Manager at Berytech. In October 2019, riots caused economic and social instability. In March 2020, Covid-19 broke out and a lockdown implemented. In August 2020, a blast hit Beirut and caused over 200 deaths, 6,000 injured and (in)direct damage to 190,000 businesses, including Berytech. Despite the instability, the private sector is still thriving, it adapts, and companies tend to work across the world. Berytech's early and decisive response to the crisis in 2019, meant they were ahead of the curve once in 2020.
'One thing we introduced from early on was crisis management. This was very important to stabilise the community'.
'When the uprising started, we had to reorganise the team. Our priority was our team’s safety, considering the riots and roadblocks. We onboarded them on the different virtual tools and made sure they knew how to use them properly. (...) We followed up with team members who were worried about their poor internet connection and a lack of decent space to work and supplied them with all the equipment they needed to work well – headsets, internet connection boosters'.
Virtual business communities: empowering entrepreneurs
EU|BIC University of Warwick Science Park became the first organisation of their region to start a support hub:
'This was a comprehensive information platform to help businesses navigate through specific support and financial aid that would be available for them. This page quickly became one of the most popular sections on our website(s)',
recalls Dirk Schafer, SME Engagement Lead at the University of Warwick Science Park.'We put a special emphasis on keeping our clients and tenants informed, sharing learnings from our ecosystem that would help many companies with the knowledge required to navigate this difficult situation'.
Business model innovation: A commitment to growth, not just survival
Not only during the pandemic, but in its aftermath, Warwick Science Park emphasised agility in the business model as key for success. 'We have always worked with our clients to develop sustainable and resilient business models, but in the pandemic, we particularly focused on this aspect'. EU|BIC CEEI Asturias emphasised the same need for agility. With an optimistic perspective, it conceived 'the AVANTE programme embodying a great commitment to business-model innovation. A commitment to growth, not just survival in this period where many certainties disappeared. We assisted companies to identify solutions and new opportunities, even if in other sectors, to make their business model scalable, establishing new value-chains and connections with a new ecosystem. Our Avanters, twelve professionals of reference and with expertise in various sectors, helped many companies adjust' tells Cristina Fanjul, Managing Director at CEEI Asturias and Vice-president of EBN.
'Agility is the new name of the game,' says Jorge Pimenta, Project Manager at EU|BIC Instituto Pedro Nunes (IPN).'In these changing times, companies need to redesign themselves to take advantage of behavioural changes, using technology to respond to the new paradigm: Remote/ Digital. EU|BICs play an important role in empowering entrepreneurs and corporates to develop new business models that seize these opportunities even in the face of legal restrictions, fears and uncertainties'.
Pivoting: tourism startups access new markets
From Ireland, Helena Deane, Project Executive at EU|BIC WestBIC describes the specific story of Mobility Mojo, the world’s first self-audit toolkit for hotel accessibility, with a smart and easy online publication feature. It is 'Designed for hotels to meet the growing demands of the Senior and Accessible Tourism Markets. With the hotel industry severely devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic (…) Access to this market was severely curtailed so Mobility Mojo adapted and developed a ‘Hygiene Audit’ toolkit to help hotels display their checklist including photos in a standardised way on their website within hours of audit completion. As hotels add hygiene improvements to their checklist, their reputation and trust also improve. (…) By repurposing their technology, Mobility Mojo wants to remove the fear and anxiety by helping hotels highlight their hygiene procedures and give customers the confidence to travel again and support the rebuilding of the tourism industry'.
Rethinking the physical
'Regarding [CEEI Asturias] business model” details Cristina Fanjul, “activities that use physical spaces will need to be reconsidered, introducing concepts of flexibility that guarantee safety. At the same time, we will continue our digital transformation process, continuously adapting our methodologies and services to clients with blended models in mind that combine face-to-face and remote activity'. To Jorge Pimenta,
'as BSO you need to set the example. As market conditions change, you can adapt and pivot your processes. 2021 will be a challenging year. Although offices will still be half-vacant, opportunities will be around'.
Mónika Alíz Mészáros, Founder, Owner and Managing Director of Hungarian based EU|BIC associate Intellexi Ltd found opportunities in implementing digital technologies in all areas of business:
'the benefits are clear. (...) [Digital uptake] meant a Middle Eastern partner found us and started potential cooperation. We were able to understand the specific business climate of their country, negotiation styles, pricing strategies and so on... We were also able to work with the partner on materials thanks to the cloud system and exchange ideas thanks to digital meeting apps'.
Making the most out of a crisis is a mantra that Cyprus-based EU|BIC CyRIC and many other EU|BICs can relate. CyRIC was involved in the development of Myrtis, a fully functional early-warning-system that integrates data from various sources, training AI models, to forecast and alert in case of infectious diseases [outbreak]. 'Along with our partner, Aretaeio Hospital (AIK), we also collaborated closely on the delivery of high-quality medical supplies using our small-scale fab lab and 3d printing infrastructure. We managed to produce a cost-efficient, precision-engineered mechanical ventilator, designed to meet the requirements of doctors at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19', reported Dr Panayiotis Philimis, Managing Director at CyRIC and Moyses Moyseos, Operations Manager at Gravity Incubator.
A call for impact-oriented solutions
EU|BIC JIC (South Moravian Innovation Centre) and EU|BIC accent Inkubator (Austria) decided to focus on impact-solution for another crisis. 'JIC decided to be an active player in 'Sustainability as a business opportunity' has been the key driver for JIC in the second half of 2020', recounts Jindrich Weiss, Chief Services Officer at JIC,
'we launched a new service in the area of the circular economy. In 2021, we would like to bring the concrete public societal challenges to our start-ups and SMEs, stimulating them to create new solutions together. We will need to work closely with the public authorities from our city and region and empower them to formulate the grand challenges'.
For Julia Uhlik at accent Inkubator, 'start-ups had the opportunity to reflect on their societal and environmental impact during the pandemic. This is favoured as companies had to re-discuss and re-arrange their business models together with the support of the incubator. While using a business model canvas, the incubator could provide impact-related stimulation along the way and help the start-ups to embed them in the newly found setting. (…) Today, only nine months after the beginning of the pandemic, social and environmental impact is perceived as a system-changing concept. What was once a step-by-step approach and fragmented is now examined with a more holistic view. Going for social and environmental goals implies that companies must adopt the perspective of focus-on-everybody rather than us-first – as one of our supported social entrepreneurs put it'.
EU|BICs setting the example in sustainability
'Our own EU|BIC is on the path to transforming its facilities in a sustainable model', according to Álvaro Simón de Blas, CEO of BIC Euronova (the EU|BIC in Málaga) and President of ANCES, 'Firstly, green energy production will be adopted to cope with the needs of consumers. With solar panels installed in our roof and parking lot, we will cover 78% of our energy consumption needs. We will also set up an electro fuel access for electric cars recharge. Secondly, protocols for recycling waste disposal, mechanisms to save water waste and LED illumination will be established'.
EU|BICs showed that standing still while the world is changing is not an option.
EU|BICs demonstrated an ability to listen, understand and react quickly to the needs of innovators and entrepreneurs who are seeking to find more sustainable solutions with their businesses and in connection with their social environment',
Laura Lecci, EBN CEO, 'Adapting will remain a challenge for the coming months, even years. [But] our strong connectedness among regions and the connections we build count more than ever. By being part of the same family of innovation leaders, the network is reassuring and fosters trust. Trust in the qualified support provided by EBN EU|BICs and their partner organisations. Trust in belonging to the same international community sharing the same values'.
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