SMEs and access to Finance in Western Balkans

Small and medium size enterprises play a crucial role in private sector development, busting innovations and accelerating the economic growth in developed and developing countries. SMEs in developing countries are particularly valuable since they develop new sectors and revitalize the stagnant ones, such as services, trade, and manufacturing. New businesses’ efficiency is comparatively higher than the big companies’ efficiency and therefore, they contribute more for employment rate` growth and market competition. At the beginning, SMEs faced with lack of sources for financing their growth. Since they do not have any financial history, conventional paths such as bank loans and issuance of securities are not available opportunities. Thus, the alternative financial sources such as venture capital and private equity should fulfill this gap. The Western Balkan and Central Eastern European (CEE) countries are still in a transitional stage. During this transitional period they have made substantial improvements in corporate governance, enterprise restructuring, and financial sector operations. This region attracts the international private equity investments, although not all of them are equally attractive. Currently, there is a major shift of focus from “traditional” VC and PE countries towards emerging regions. Emerging countries attract investors by exceptional growth opportunities that require substantial funding. This shift is also supported by the aftermath of the financial crisis that strongly affected the established VC and PE markets. It is sometimes argued that exceptional growth in emerging markets fuels future VC and PE activity, and that the whole business model needs to be redesigned. With relatively low labour costs and easy access to European markets, the region has attracted significant direct investment in recent years. Most of this investment has come from Europe, with the euro area accounting for about 70% of the total stock of inward direct investment in the region. Italy is a major investor within the region, especially in Albania where it accounts for 80% of the total (consistent with the strong trade links between the two countries) but also in Montenegro. Greece also has significant investments in Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia. As in other emerging European economies, direct investment in the region generally peaked a year or two prior to the Lehman crisis and then fell sharply. Inward investment flows have begun to recover but remain below their pre-crisis peak levels. In the region the focus should be put as well on boosting ideas, creating entrepreneurial behavior, improve transparency and make quality projects. Educational institutions must revise their academic programs and concentrate more on providing entrepreneurial education. Also, the government should stimulate academic and corporate R&D because the innovations are a major driving force for economic growth. Companies’ should improve employee’s knowledge and skills through continuous training and seminars. Only high trained and educated employees can increase companies’ productivity and profitability. Improved skills and knowledge will generate new ideas and projects, which will also attract the venture capital investments. Finally, promotion of VC industry is needed in order to enlighten the institutional investors and companies on alternative investment opportunities, and on alternative sources of finance. For more info refer to the NEXT COUNTRY OUTLOOK – 1/22/2014 By Anita Tregner-Mlinaric, META Group Small and medium size enterprises play a crucial role in private sector development, busting innovations and accelerating the economic growth in developed and developing countries. SMEs in developing countries are particularly valuable since they develop new sectors and revitalize the stagnant ones, such as services, trade, and manufacturing. New businesses’ efficiency is comparatively higher than the big companies’ efficiency and therefore, they contribute more for employment rate` growth and market competition. At the beginning, SMEs faced with lack of sources for financing their growth. Since they do not have any financial history, conventional paths such as bank loans and issuance of securities are not available opportunities. Thus, the alternative financial sources such as venture capital and private equity should fulfill this gap. The Western Balkan and Central Eastern European (CEE) countries are still in a transitional stage. During this transitional period they have made substantial improvements in corporate governance, enterprise restructuring, and financial sector operations. This region attracts the international private equity investments, although not all of them are equally attractive. Currently, there is a major shift of focus from “traditional” VC and PE countries towards emerging regions. Emerging countries attract investors by exceptional growth opportunities that require substantial funding. This shift is also supported by the aftermath of the financial crisis that strongly affected the established VC and PE markets. It is sometimes argued that exceptional growth in emerging markets fuels future VC and PE activity, and that the whole business model needs to be redesigned. With relatively low labour costs and easy access to European markets, the region has attracted significant direct investment in recent years. Most of this investment has come from Europe, with the euro area accounting for about 70% of the total stock of inward direct investment in the region. Italy is a major investor within the region, especially in Albania where it accounts for 80% of the total (consistent with the strong trade links between the two countries) but also in Montenegro. Greece also has significant investments in Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia. As in other emerging European economies, direct investment in the region generally peaked a year or two prior to the Lehman crisis and then fell sharply. Inward investment flows have begun to recover but remain below their pre-crisis peak levels. In the region the focus should be put as well on boosting ideas, creating entrepreneurial behavior, improve transparency and make quality projects. Educational institutions must revise their academic programs and concentrate more on providing entrepreneurial education. Also, the government should stimulate academic and corporate R&D because the innovations are a major driving force for economic growth. Companies’ should improve employee’s knowledge and skills through continuous training and seminars. Only high trained and educated employees can increase companies’ productivity and profitability. Improved skills and knowledge will generate new ideas and projects, which will also attract the venture capital investments. Finally, promotion of VC industry is needed in order to enlighten the institutional investors and companies on alternative investment opportunities, and on alternative sources of finance. For more info refer to the NEXT COUNTRY OUTLOOK – 1/22/2014 By Anita Tregner-Mlinaric, META Group

What to present to an investor

For a business idea or research result to be succesfully exploited, the entrepreneur or the research team must have more than just an innovative technology, strong business concept, and powerful plan. They must be able to effectively present what their investment opportunity is. The “Investor Presentation” is key for obtaining funding and/or launching a company. Entrepreneurs may be looking for equity funding to move their start-up or business to the next level. Researchers may be chasing private funding. What to present to investors helps to collect and shape the information needed for any presentation to an equity investor.

how to present your idea in 2 minutes

An elevator pitch is the essence of your business plan or exploitation concept. Not lasting any more than one or two minutes, or the length of an elevator ride, a pitch should be compelling, well-conceived, and very well-rehearsed. This tool helps to collect and shape the information needed for any presentation to anybody you want to engage with, including an equity investor.

Triple Helix Association – Webinar programme – 2014-2015

The Triple Helix Association is launching its inaugural series of webinars We are delighted to announce our first series of webinar programmes which we are launching this Autumn. The webinar programme will focus on emergent topics in the triple helix interface and is designed to promote practical discussion within THA membership community and beyond. We plan to hold 6 webinars a year starting in November 2014. The first webinars in the series will focus on the topics we identified from our discussions with THA members and include expert talks on:
  1. From the ivory tower to the Entrepreneurial University – 4th NOVEMBER 2014, 6 PM CET
  2. University Rankings, the Triple Helix Model and Webometrics: Opening Pandora’s Box – 20th FEBRUARY 2015
  3. Critical success factors in University-Industry partnership – APRIL 2015
  4. Academic freedom and proprietary knowledge – JUNE 2015
  5. Developing innovation ecosystems in the Triple Helix context – SEPTEMBER 2015
  6. Coming soon
Each webinar talk will be hosted by an academic and a practitioner to give participants a balanced perspective on the topic. We anticipate a great demand for the series and urge you to reserve your place promptly. The webinar schedule and speakers will be announced shortly – watch this space! The annual webinar programme is FREE to the THA organisational members. Individual members can participate FREE in the first 3 webinars. To access the entire program individual members can either subscribe a new regular organizational membership (200€) or upgrade their membership to the organizational level by sending an email to: mlaura.fornaci@triplehelixassociation.org Non-members are welcome to join the webinars by joining our Association For additional information: info@triplehelixassociation.org

“IT sector in Montenegro – current state and development preconditions”, Budva from September 29th to 3rd October 2014

Chamber of Economy of Montenegro is going to organize the event devoted to NEXT Project implementation under the title ‘’IT sector in Montenegro – current state and development preconditions” from September 29th to 3rd October 2014. The event is to be held within the regional Fair of informatics achievements INFOFEST 2014, hotel “Maestral”-Miločer, in Budva, which traditionally assembles the leading ICT companies originated from the whole Mediterranean area, with the highest registered participation of IT enterprises from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, BiH and Albania. The bilateral meetings of regional companies will be organized on September 30th and on October 1st . On the exhibition stand of Chamber of Economy which is going to be open and interactive from September 29th to 3rd October, the leading 22 Montenegrin IT companies that registered for the event will promote their results in creating products with incorporated higher technological level and advancement of services they provided. The presentation devoted to analysis of current state and development perspectives of IT sector in Montenegro is planned for September 30th. The event is organized within the Fair of informatics achievements INFOFEST 2014 because IPA projects that are directed to technology transfer and innovations as NEXT Project is, represent the logical orientation for those IT companies whose market survival depends on preparedness to adopt lacking knowledge and skills. Having in mind the current declining competitiveness of domestic IT companies after the decade of growth, B2B meetings will be used to shift the negative tendencies through opting for regional cooperation, clusters, tight specialization which produces higher added value, economy of volume and joint applying for EU funds.

Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs

NPM-25-2014-1 (Horizon 2020 dedicated SME Instrument – Phase 1 2014)

Link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/topics/2539-nmp-25-2014-1.html#tab1 Eligible Countries: EU Member States, The Countries Associated to Horizon 2020, Developing countries as in the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2014_2015/annexes/h2020-wp1415-annex-a-countries-rules_en.pdf Eligible partners:  At least one SME . Only applications from for-profit SMEs established in EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 2020. Main objective: Enhancing profitability and growth performance of SMEs by combining and transferring new and existing knowledge into innovative, disruptive and competitive solutions seizing European and global business opportunities. Market uptake and distribution of innovations tackling the commercial uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials and advanced production technologies in a sustainable way. Increase of private investment in innovation, notably leverage of private co-investor and/or follow-up investments. The expected impact should be clearly described in qualitative and quantitative terms (e.g. on turnover, employment, market seize, IP management, sales, return on investment and profit).

Disruptive Innovation Scheme (implemented through the SME instrument) Identifier: ICT-37-2014-1

Work Programme: Type: Call for Proposals Link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/topics/2538-ict-37-2014-1.html#tab2 Eligible Countries: For the SME Instrument only applications from SMEs established in EU Members States or countries associated to Horizon 2020 as in the following link(not from developing countries): http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2014_2015/annexes/h2020-wp1415-annex-a-countries-rules_en.pdf Eligible partners: At least one SME. Only applications from for-profit SMEs established in EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 20204; No concurrent submission or implementation with another phase 1 or phase 2 project. Main objective: The challenge is to provide support to a large set of early stage high risk innovative SMEs in the ICT sector. Focus will be on SME proposing innovative ICT concept, product and service applying new sets of rules, values and models which ultimately disrupt existing markets. The objective of the Open Disruptive Innovation (ODI) is threefold: Nurture promising innovative and disruptive ideas; Support their prototyping, validation and demonstration in real world conditions; Help for wider deployment or market uptake. Proposed projects should have a potential for disruptive innovation and fast market up-take in ICT. In particular it will be interesting for entrepreneurs and young innovative companies that are looking for swift support to their innovative ideas. The ODI objective will support the validation, fast prototyping and demonstration of disruptive innovation bearing a strong EU dimension. Financed actions: In phase 1, a feasibility study shall be developed verifying the technological/practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies). The activities could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management, innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept and the like to establish a solid high-potential innovation proposal aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during phase 1 and addressed during phase 2 to increase the return in investment in innovation activities. EU contribution per project: 50,000.00 € Sub-call indicative budget: 4.50 € million Type of financing: reimbursement in form of lump sum Deadline: 2014-09-24 17:00:00 (Brussels local time)

SME Instrument (Space) Identifier: H2020-SPACE-2014-1

Work Programme: Link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/topics/2537-space-sme-2014-1.html 

Eligible Countries: For the SME Instrument only applications from SMEs established in EU Members States or countries associated to Horizon 2020 as in the following link (not from developing countries): http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2014_2015/annexes/h2020-wp1415-annex-a-countries-rules_en.pdf

Eligible partners: At least one SME. Only applications from for-profit SMEs established in EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 20204; No concurrent submission or implementation with another phase 1 or phase 2 project.

Main objective: The specific challenge of the actions envisaged under this call could cover any aspect of the Specific Programme for Space (Horizon 2020 Framework programme and Specific programme). However, it is considered that actions in the areas of applications, especially in connection to the flagship programmes Galileo and Copernicus, spinning-in (i.e. application of terrestrial solutions to challenges in space) and the development of certain critical technologies could be adequately suited for this call

Financed actions: In phase 1, a feasibility study shall be developed verifying the technological/practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies). The activities could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management, innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept and the like to establish a solid high-potential innovation proposal aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during phase 1 and addressed during phase 2 to increase the return in investment in innovation activities.

EU contribution per project: 50,000.00 € Sub-call indicative budget: 0.85 € million Type of financing: reimbursement in form of lump sum Deadline: 2014-09-24 17:00:00 (Brussels local time)

Horizon 2020 dedicated SME Instrument – Phase 1 2014 Identifier: H2020-SMEINST-1-2014

Work Programme: Innovation in SMEs (Activities transversal to Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges pillars) Type: Call for Proposals Deadline Date 17-12-2014 17:00:00 (Brussels local time) Intermediate deadlines(s) 18-06-2014 17:00:00 (Brussels local time) 24-09-2014 17:00:00 (Brussels local time) Budget €25,102,000 Status Open OJ reference OJ C361/9 of 11 December 2013 Link:http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/calls/h2020-smeinst-1-2014.html