1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) play a crucial role in reaching the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy1. Whereas they are considered as crucial engines for growth and job creation, their competitiveness is affected by a limited exploitation of international opportunities and innovation prospects in the Single Market and beyond.
In June 2008, the European Commission adopted the ‘Small Business Act’ for Europe (SBA), recognising the central importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU economy. Principle I of the SBA sets out to ‘create an environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive and entrepreneurship is rewarded’. As a concrete follow-up to this aim, the Commission launched the pilot project ‘ERASMUS for Young Entrepreneurs’ in 2008. It operates mainly on the basis of call for proposals whereby Intermediary Organisations (IOs) are selected to manage the programme locally. After several calls for proposals of this nature the programme, which showed promising results, the action was turned into a more consolidated programme, under the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme. In 2014, the Council and the European Parliament adopted the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME)2, that includes the mobility of new entrepreneurs among the Actions to Promote Entrepreneurship. The COSME Programme aims to promote growth and to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises in the European Union.
The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises3 (hereinafter referred to as "EASME" or the "Agency") is entrusted by the European Commission with the implementation, inter alia, of parts of the COSME programme.
In this respect, this call for proposals, managed by EASME, implements partially the COSME Work Programme 2019.4
1.2. Policy Context
This call for proposals is based on Article 4(1) (d) of the COSME Regulation which is the Programme's Specific Objective "to promote entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture." It aims at continuing the action "Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs" in order to foster entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture across the EU. More specifically, according to its Article 12 "Actions to promote entrepreneurship", the Commission may take actions such as mobility programmes for new entrepreneurs to improve their ability to develop their entrepreneurial know-how, skills and attitudes and to improve their technological capacity and enterprise management.
1 COM (2010)2020 final of 3 March 2010 “Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”.
2 Regulation (EU) No 1287/2013 of 11 December 2013 (Official Journal of the European Union L 347/33 of 20.12.2013).
3 EASME was set up by Commission Implementing Decision 2013/771/EU of 17 December 2013 establishing the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and repealing Decisions 2004/20/EC and 2007/372/EC (Official Journal of the European Union L 341/73 of 18.12.2013).
4 Commission Implementing Decision C(2018) 8098 of 5.12.2018 on the financing of the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the adoption of the work programme for 2019.
2. OBJECTIVE(S) – THEME(S) – ACTIVITIES – OUTPUTS
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a cross-border mobility programme which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other Participating Countries.
The general objective of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme is to enhance entrepreneurship, develop the international outlook and competitiveness of European SMEs and foster potential start-up entrepreneurs and newly-established micro and small enterprises in the Participating Countries.
The purpose of this call for proposals is to select Intermediary Organisations (IOs) to implement the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme at local level. They will, in particular, recruit the entrepreneurs and assist them to benefit from the programme. This call for proposals will therefore support actions of organisations enhancing and facilitating the mobility of new entrepreneurs, and is not intended for entrepreneurs willing to participate in an exchange in this programme.
The specific objectives are:
1. To provide on-the-job-training for new entrepreneurs with established host entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized enterprises abroad in the COSME Participating Countries in order to facilitate a successful start-up, and development of their business ideas;
2. To foster sharing of experience and information between entrepreneurs on the obstacles and challenges of starting up and developing their businesses;
3. To enhance market access and identification of potential partners for new and established businesses in other EU and COSME Participating Countries;
4. To support networking between entrepreneurs from different COSME Participating Countries by building on knowledge and experience from other COSME Participating Countries.
The Intermediary Organisations will aspire high quality standards so as to deliver the following expected output for this call for proposals:
Further develop a network of new entrepreneurs (NEs), host entrepreneurs (HEs) and Intermediary Organisations (IOs)
Enabling new entrepreneurs to work alongside and learn from a host entrepreneur in another COSME Participating Country
Support the creation of new businesses, joint ventures and spin-off companies and foster cross-border business cooperation
The Intermediary Organisations (IOs) will act as Local Contact Points for the implementation of the programme. They will be required to cooperate with all other organisations and authorities involved in the mobility programme, enabling new entrepreneurs to take part in the planned mobility activities. They will receive support from the existing Support Office (SO), which helps with the coordination and management of the programme across Participating Countries.
The IOs will help new entrepreneurs from Participating Countries enrich their experience, deepen their knowledge and expand their network by spending periods in enterprises run by experienced entrepreneurs in other COSME Participating Countries.
This is to be done in line with the programme implementing methods as stipulated in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Implementation Manual for Intermediary Organisations (Quality Manual)5 – Annex 1 to this call - which includes information on the IT management tool database6.
2.2. Themes and Priorities 2.2.1 Activities
In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives the IOs will engage in all below mentioned activities that will be implemented via grant agreements.
The activities to be implemented under this call for proposals, including the rules to be respected and procedures to follow, are detailed in the Quality Manual. The document thoroughly describes the tasks to be performed by Intermediary Organisations: it includes the eligibility criteria of entrepreneurs, the procedures for registration of entrepreneurs to the programme and building of relationships, as well as the responsibilities of the different actors involved, including deadlines to be respected. It also outlines the roles of the Support Office7, the European Commission and the EASME.
As a minimum requirement, the IOs' proposals are expected to describe all of the following activities in detail, in accordance with the provisions of the Quality Manual (Annex 1):
Work Packages (WPs):
Management of the programme, networking and reporting
(h) management, quality control and evaluation
(i) active networking
1) cooperation with EYE network
2) specific networking activities8 (including alumni activities)
(j) reporting (including on impact)
5 Above all Annex 1 has been updated in comparison to previous calls to allow for the full coverage of all COSME Participating Countries. Throughout this document, the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Implementation Manual for Intermediary Organisations will be referred to as “Quality Manual (Annex 1)”.
6 The Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs IT tool is to be used by all selected Intermediary Organisations in order to manage registration and matching of entrepreneurs as well as execution of the relationship process between new and host entrepreneurs. Every Intermediary Organisation implementing EYE projects will have access to this tool. Further details are available in the above mentioned "Quality Manual".
7 The role of the Support Office is to ensure coordination and coherence of activities handled by the IOs. It helps them to develop high quality exchanges of entrepreneurs. Its main tasks are to promote the programme at EU and European level, to provide guidance and support to IOs, especially in daily operations, monitor activities of the Intermediary Organisations, manage the central website, develop training material and foster networking/cooperation among the IOs.
8 In a period until approximately end of 2019 the FPA member of the Network of IOs will, together with the EC/EASME/SO,define the programme’s future strategy for alumni activities. In the meanwhile, all EYE projects are encouraged to propose and implement their own approaches.
Promotion of the programme and recruitment of entrepreneurs
(a) promotion of the programme (b) enrolment of entrepreneurs
(c) assessing applications from NEs and HEs (d) building relationships
(e) management of grant agreements, commitments and financial assistance
(f) preparation of the exchange
(g) follow up of the exchanges, including induction training
a) Promotion of the programme (WP2)9
Applicants must describe the proposed communication and promotion measures to effectively raise awareness, disseminate information on the mobility scheme and reach a maximum number of potential candidates. Communication activities must in particular target relevant business organisations and other bodies supporting businesses and start-ups, as well as other target audiences as appropriate. Applicants must demonstrate that they have appropriate access to entrepreneurs. These activities have to be focused so as to ensure that the entrepreneurs who will subsequently apply to the programme will qualify for it and will show good motivation and commitment. For instance, new entrepreneurs must have at least the firm intention to set up a business to enrol for the programme. Also, potential participants need to understand that the exchanges organised under the scheme are not internships.
The EU co-financing of the project must also be clearly visible. The applicants will at least include a link to the programme’s website on their respective websites, and the European Union logo in their communication tools for the programme. Other means of awareness-raising are also encouraged. For more details how to use the EU logo please refer to: https://ec.europa.eu/easme/en/communication-toolkit
b) Enrolment of entrepreneurs (WP2)
Applicants need to explain how they will engage entrepreneurs to participate in the programme, and the specific channels and efforts they will use for this purpose. Applicants must be well aware of the challenge of this task, as barriers can be expected from entrepreneurs who could potentially benefit from the programme: it can be a challenge for a young entrepreneur to venture abroad, all the more so if he has just started a new business. Host entrepreneurs may have the perception not to have the time, or underestimate the benefits they could derive from the exchange with the new entrepreneur.
The proposal has to contain enough information about access to and contacts with entrepreneurs, that the applicants have, whether this access is direct or indirect (via their own or other networks), and the kind of relationships they maintain, giving figures where possible.
c) Assessing applications from NEs and HEs (WP3)
9 The programme activities are listed in order of usual workflow starting with the promotion of the programme and enrolment of entrepreneurs and ending with reporting.
The Commission has developed the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs online IT tool whereby NEs and HEs apply for the scheme. It will be necessary to screen applications and advise candidates to ensure a high quality of registrations and, in particular, to gauge how committed the applicant NEs are to setting up a business (entrepreneurial motivation, business plan). For the HEs, IOs will assess their willingness to mentor an NE, engage in the exchange (this is not a mere internship for the new entrepreneur), and to derive positive benefit for themselves from the collaboration. Applicants must describe how they will check the quality and ensure the eligibility of applications. The proposals need to include the necessary provisions for the maintenance of the portfolio of entrepreneurs, periodic validation of interest and updating of the profiles. IOs shall assess, manage and follow-up on applications both from entrepreneurs from within and outside their target groups (e.g. from spontaneous applications), even if their activity is targeted to specific groups (e.g. women entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurship, region). Equally, IOs must not allow any discrimination for reasons of sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features or membership of a national minority. Furthermore, applicants also need to demonstrate full respect of data protection rules.
d) Building relationships (WP3)
The process of successfully matching NEs and HEs is a key element of the mobility scheme and it is implemented by using the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs online IT tool. The so-called "matching" process will be considered successful if it leads to a ‘successful relationship’ as defined in the Quality Manual (Annex 1).
Intermediary Organisations are invited to describe how they plan to identify the best matches, support contacts and monitor relationships before and during the stay abroad. Intermediary Organisations also need to describe if and how they intend to help NEs gain access to sources of financial assistance to cover costs related to a stay with an HE (indicating such sources where possible, and providing details of them) other than the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs grant, and how they intend to advise NEs on such sources.
e) Management of grant agreements, commitments and financial assistance (WP4)
There are two written commitments NEs have to engage: 1) Once the agreed relationship between NE and HE has been approved by all parties involved, the IOs concerned have to ensure that the relevant actors (NE, HE, IOs) sign the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Commitment in accordance with the provisions of the Quality Manual. 2) The NE and his/her IO must sign an agreement specifying the tasks that will be carried out during the exchange, responsibilities, financial conditions and legal implications. Applicants need to describe how they will arrange this in an efficient and effective way, allowing for potential amendments and the handling of payments and reports.
The purpose of the financial assistance provided to NEs is to support the cost of their stay abroad. The IO that has accepted the NE must give the NE financial assistance from the EU contribution, provided that the relationship between NE and HE has been approved in the programme's IT tool. The IO will be responsible for sound management of this financial assistance, including payment arrangements to NEs. Further details will need to be given in the agreement mentioned above.10
10 The financial support to third parties (NEs) does not necessarily cover all the costs that might occur for a new entrepreneur. It is considered to be a contribution.
The European Commission has set the monthly amounts of financial support per country in the table provided as Annex 1 to the Quality Manual.
The application must describe how they intend to organise the management and control of this financial support in an effective and efficient way, including avoidance of any financial abuse.
f) Preparation of the exchange (WP4)
In relation to the information and induction trainings to be provided by IOs, the application must present how many and when those activities will be undertaken. Applicants must also deliver information on the mobility scheme and important EU-related business subjects, such as the Internal Market, European law issues (in particular regarding business and contract law) and support services including inter alia the Enterprise Europe Network and SOLVIT.
g) Follow up of the exchange (WP4)
IOs must offer local and remote assistance to both visiting NEs during stays with HEs as well as to HEs themselves. The proposal must specify the services the consortium intends to offer to NEs visiting their HEs with a particular focus on addressing practical questions (housing, transport, insurance, etc.), the modalities they will implement to follow up the exchanges and the mechanisms to be put in place to avoid problems and potential conflicts.
h) Management, quality control and evaluation (WP1)
Applicants, and the project coordinator in particular, should describe:
- How they will undertake the management of the project, especially the role of coordinator
- The measures they will take to ensure that high quality standards are applied by all consortium partners, how they will monitor the achievement of objectives and take appropriate corrective measures such as redistribution of objectives and budget, while ensuring compliance with the Erasmus for Entrepreneurs rules and procedures. The main risks that might be encountered and the corresponding mitigating measures should also be described.
i) Active networking (WP1)
1) Cooperation with EYE network
The application needs to demonstrate the consortium's commitment to actively network with the other IOs from other EYE consortia, which will include taking part in six Networking meetings in Brussels (or possibly other locations in the COSME Participating Countries) during the period of the grant agreement. Regional cooperation of IOs has to be envisaged as well, e.g. with regard to promotion activities.
Active cooperation prior to, during and after those meetings is expected from all Intermediary Organisations. This will include, among others, cooperation regarding the design of Network Meetings' agenda as well as having an active role in moderating thematic sessions/workshops, presenting good practices, and supporting the exchange of know-how between IOs, where applicable and based on experienced gained.
A specific mentoring action could be proposed by the European Commission/EASME in view of allowing consortia to perform well. Such activity could be proposed in particular for the Lead organisations that will be new in the programme. Activities planned in this respect could be organised on the occasion of the Network Meetings, but could also take place beyond. Therefore, the applicant lead organisations should reflect this in their work plan and the budget of the proposal. Applicants are requested to plan for approximately 3 full days for such activity throughout the project duration, which could include both physical as well as virtual meetings (conferences via skype or other means).
Travel and accommodation costs will have to be covered by each participant. Sufficient budget must be foreseen to allow for the participation of all partners in the above activities, and in particular for the meetings mentioned in Section 3 "Timetable".
2) Specific thematic networking activities
As part of the evolution of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, the Commission/EASME has launched different Working Groups:
to develop a horizontal strategy towards setting up a network of Alumni (entrepreneurs who participated in EYE),
to improve the impact analysis of the matches between entrepreneurs (relationship follow-up activities),
to continue to help setting up priorities for the programme's IT tool development11.
The outcome of those discussions is to be used, once available, by all EYE projects.
With regard to future alumni strategies and impact analysis, the projects co-financed under this call for proposals will be requested to plan for their own activities.
j) Reporting (WP1)
The selected projects are expected to report regularly to the EASME (and the Support Office) on their activities, matching relationships, problems encountered, solutions implemented and resources spent. The applicants must describe how they intend to organise this reporting in an efficient and effective way, according to the provisions of the Quality Manual Annex 1) and in line with the provisions of the model grant agreement (modalities see Section 13 "Reporting Requirements").
2.2.2 “Quality Manual”
Further details regarding the above mentioned project activities are provided in the Quality Manual (Annex 1).
The updated Quality Manual is annexed to this call for proposals. It is the practical reference document with regards to how Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs projects should be implemented.
Appropriate outcomes of the activities listed in 2.2.1 could have an impact on future revisions of the Quality Manual.
2.3. Expected results
2.3.1 Expected results at programme level
The Erasmus Young Entrepreneurs initiative expects to achieve in total the following results by January 2023:
- Circa 1800 entrepreneurs matched;
- Circa 3000 entrepreneurs newly registered;
- Circa 120 Intermediary Organisations involved in the implementation of the programme; - At least 33 countries covered;
- Rate of successful exchanges above 90%.
2.3.2 Expected results at project level
The proposal must specify an indicative number of relationships/matches that the consortium intends to organise between new and host entrepreneurs during the implementation period of the grant agreement. The Quality Manual (Annex 1) explains how matches must be counted.12
Under this call for proposals, each proposal must provide for the following key outcome:
Match successfully at least 150 entrepreneurs, either as new or as host entrepreneurs.13
Offering assistance and support to NEs who are visiting a HE covered by the Intermediary
Organisation, including the financial assistance as referred to in 2.2.1 (e) above;
Participating in meetings in Brussels or other locations in the COSME Participating Countries as specified in Section 3 "Timetable".
The proposal must set intermediate targets per consortium and provide deliverables. The targets should be realistic and achievable.
3.1.Indicative timetable for the selection of the projects:
a) Deadline for submitting applications
11/07/2019 17:00 h Brussels time
b) Evaluation period*
July- October 2019
c) Information to applicants*
d) Signature of grant agreements*
e) Starting date of the action
3.2. Project implementation period:
The implementation period of the projects is set to 1/02/2020 to 31/01/2023 (36 months).14
12 Applicants should pay attention in their calculation not to confuse the terms "match" and "relationship". Both terms are used as synonyms in order to apply the logic of counting matches in the EYE IT tool (at IO and EP level). In case of a successful relationship/match, each of these entrepreneurs would count as one matched entrepreneur of any Intermediary Organisation involved in organising the business-relation, regardless whether it is an inter- or intra-consortium match. Further explanations are available in Quality Manual (see Annex 1).
13 Efforts: This reference is about the average efforts (in person-days) applicants should consider when submitting a proposal. Figures provided are based on (average) programme statistics gathered from the implementation of previous EYE projects and are provided for both experienced and unexperienced Intermediary Organisations in the EYE implementation. Those statistics are meant to provide applicants with some guidance on how to plan for a realistic proposal. Unexperienced EYE applicants need, on average, about 12 person-days in order to match an entrepreneur with another one (this covers all efforts across all work packages). Experienced EYE beneficiaries need, on average, about 8-9 person-days in order to match an entrepreneur.
14 It is to be noted that the COSME Work Programme 2019 is co-financing also proposals selected via Specific Agreements (SGA) to cover a second operational period 1/02/2019-31/01/2022 for consortia having signed a
- Networking meetings: usually in February/March and September/October (6 per project duration);
- Mid-term review meetings (upon request of the EASME): approximately 15 months after the start of the action (the participation of all consortium partners will be required if the consortia are called for such meeting).
- Delivery of reports as specified in section 13. Reporting Requirements.
4. BUDGET A V AILABLE AND FUNDING OF PROJECTS
The following (mandatory) milestone activities are to be respected by all consortia: - Initial training: February 202015;
The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects is estimated at EUR 5.581.701,00 (five million five hundred eighty-one thousand seven hundred and one).
This amount could be increased if additional budgetary appropriations are made available.16 EASME expects to fund 7-10 (seven to ten) proposals.
EASME reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.
4.2. Funding per project (1/02/2020 to 31/01/2023)
The maximum grant per project will be EUR 750.000,00 (seven hundred fifty thousand).
5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
The following requirements must be complied with:
Applications must be submitted no later than the deadline for submitting applications referred to in section 3;
Applications must be submitted in writing, using the electronic system specified in section 16;
Framework Partnership Agreements 2016-2021 (COS-EYE-FPA-2016-4-01). Under the present call for proposals COS-EYE-2019-4-01 the project implementation period for selected proposals is set to 1/02/2020 to 31/01/2023.
15 This training is intended to make IOs familiar with the basic programme features and the functionalities of the EYE IT tool. It will be mandatory for all Intermediary Organisations new to the EYE programme and could be useful for those that have not participated in previous EYE projects.
16 Article 4 of the COSME work programme 2019, EC Decision C(2018) 8098 final, foresees the changes to the allocations to specific actions not exceeding 20% of the maximum contribution for the implementation of the programme for the year 2019.
Applications must be drafted in one of the EU official languages.
Failure to comply with those requirements will lead to the rejection of the application.
Incomplete applications may be considered inadmissible. This refers to the requested administrative data, the proposal description and requested grant amount, and any supporting documents specified in this call for proposals.
6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
6.1. Eligible applicants
Applicants must be legal entities forming a consortium. Applying entities may for instance
- Public entities responsible for or active in the fields of economic affairs, enterprise, business support or related issues,
- Chambers of commerce and industry, chambers of (handi)crafts or similar bodies, - Business support organisations, start-up centres, incubators, technology parks etc., - Business associations and business support networks,
- Public and private entities offering business support services,
- Institutes of (higher) education such as universities or institutes for vocational education and training.
Linked third parties, i.e. legal entities having a legal or capital link with applicants, which is neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation, may take part in the action as applicants in order to declare eligible costs.
Only applications from legal entities established in the following countries are eligible:
EU Member States;
countries participating in the COSME programme pursuant to Article 6 of the COSME Regulation18.
17 The list is non-exhaustive.
18 The following groups of countries are eligible for participation in COSME according to Article 6 COSME Regulation:
European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), in accordance with the conditions laid down in the EEA Agreement, and other European countries when agreements and procedures so allow;
acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in the Union's programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements and Association Council Decisions, or similar arrangements;
countries falling within the scope of the European neighbourhood policies, when agreements and procedures so allow and in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in the Union's programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements, Protocols to Association Agreements and Association Council Decisions.
The updated list of eligible third countries is available on the following webpage: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/cosme/index_en.htm. Proposals from applicants in Article 6 countries may be selected provided that, on the date of award, agreements have been signed setting out the arrangements for the participation of those countries in the programme.
Applicant consortia are encouraged to include legal entities from countries/regions that are not yet covered by the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme or that are underrepresented in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Network of Intermediary Organisations.19
6.2. Eligible consortia
This call aims at selecting consortia to implement the programme:
Consortia must be composed of at least 6 independent legal entities from at least 4 different COSME Participating Countries and include no more than 10 partners.20
Maximum 2 partners can be from the same country in one consortium.
It is not allowed that a partner participates in more than one proposal. Nevertheless, if this happens, the respective organisation will be excluded from all the proposals it applied. The respective consortia that will be affected by the exclusion of (a) partner(s) must still fulfil the eligibility criteria as stipulated in 6.1 and 6.2 in order to be considered eligible.21 In this respect, an explicit declaration will have to be submitted by the coordinator.
The coordinator and other partners must satisfy the same eligibility criteria.
By the date of the submission deadline of this call for proposals, legal entities implementing Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs as part of an EYE Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) are not eligible to apply.
EASME reserves the right to consider ineligible those proposals that do not respect the specific funding conditions mentioned in section 12.2.
6.3. For British applicants
Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article 34.3.1(b) of the grant agreement.