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Entrepreneurship in the EU: tools for growth and support

As it has been widely pointed out, economic growth and employment in Europe depend on its ability to support business growth. In this context entrepreneurship, essential for the creation of new companies and opening up new markets by promoting new skills, was naturally identified as a relevant field of action by the European Union. Considering all of this, the EU has named among its objectives to encourage people to become entrepreneurs and make it easier to create and expand business.

The Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan is the Commission’s response to this challenge. Conceived as an action plan to free the entrepreneurial potential in Europe, removing existing barriers and revolutionize the entrepreneurship culture in the EU, it intends to facilitate the creation of new businesses and to create a more favourable environment for prosperity and growth for entrepreneurs. As part of its objectives, a large number of initiatives have been developed since its publication in 2013 with a view to its promotion and development.

Among the various European initiatives recently promoted with a greater practical interest as far as entrepreneurs are concerned, the COSME programme, in particular the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs stands out.

Aiming to boost mentoring and the sharing of experience in running an SME, the European exchange program for entrepreneurs takes inspiration from one of the EU’s most successful programmes, the student exchange programme ERASMUS. This cross-border program focus on giving new entrepreneurs, or those who wish to become one, the opportunity to acquire knowledge to manage small businesses, along with experienced entrepreneurs in another country participating in the program. The exchange of experiences occurs during the stay with the experienced entrepreneur, allowing the new entrepreneurs to acquire the specific skills needed to run a small business. The host entrepreneur benefits from new perspectives about his or her business and has the opportunity to cooperate with foreign partners or acquire knowledge about new markets.

The stay is partially funded by the European Union. Whether you are a new entrepreneur or a seasoned entrepreneur, the program may provide a strong added value to your business: the possible benefits include exchange of knowledge and experiences, networking opportunities throughout Europe, access to new business relationships or overseas markets.

Who can participate?

– New entrepreneurs who plan to seriously create their own business or have already started one in the last three years.

– Experienced entrepreneurs who own or manage an SME in one of the participating countries.

The Commission also provides support and information to entrepreneurs and SMEs through a set of online tools, mainly focused on removing legal and bureaucratic barriers to doing business in Europe:

– The business portal Your Europe – a practical guide to doing business in Europe, which aims to provide entrepreneurs with information and interactive services to help them expand their businesses abroad (;

– The Enterprise Europe Network that aims to bring the essential information for market access for SMEs and entrepreneurs in order to overcome legal obstacles and find potential business partners throughout Europe (;

– The SME Internationalisation Portal that provides information about foreign markets and aims to help European companies to internationalize their activities, (;

– The Access to Finance portal, which helps SMEs find funding supported by the EU, namely through the range of financial instruments it promotes (

Many of these actions are coordinated by DG Growth, the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, but there are also initiatives promoted by structural and cohesion funds in their respective countries, while other occur in the education domain in cooperation with Member States’ authorities.

Aiming at creating an effective entrepreneurship culture among Europeans by creating a more business-friendly environment, it remains to be seen whether future actions, especially by the highly anticipated Juncker Plan will bring about a new surge of innovative and competitive companies in the EU. 

Joana Dias
Magellan, association for the representation of Portuguese interests abroad