Posted on April 21, 2020
Javier Echarri, CEO of The European Business and Innovation Centre Network (EBN) writes for Berytech on the occasion of World Creativity and Innovation Day, celebrated on April 21 each year. Berytech has been a member of EBN since 2006.
EBN is celebrating 35 years supporting innovation. It is a story that started in the early Eighties, with a group of bankers and industry leaders from several EU countries. This group saw a solution in the Business and Innovation Centers which would boost economic growth in all regions by supporting innovation through the creation, development, and acceleration of startups and scaleups. 35 years later, the network still remains focused on this goal.
We live in a world of constant change, where new ideas appear rapidly, the rate of creation of new companies is as high as ever, and yet the rate of consolidation of startups and scaleups is still very low. Most countries and institutions are aware of this fact and a plethora of initiatives have been launched to combat this. As a consequence, startups and scaleups have been left with a difficult to navigate map of support options. European Business and Innovation Centers (EU|BICs) guide startups and scaleups through the options in their local ecosystem by supporting them in a number of capacities in their areas of operation through a customized delivery of professional support and incubation services.
In Lebanon, EBN boasts the expertise of Berytech. They joined the network back in 2001 and was the first Lebanese organization to undergo the EU|BIC Accreditation process in 2006. Since its initiation into the network, Berytech has engaged in many of the community’s activities and events, consistently contributing impeccable expertise and know-how.
EBN and the EU|BICs also have a key role as active contacts with other relevant professionals. Business Angels, investors, corporates, and advisors, as well as private and public initiatives are all partners of EBN and the EU|BICs in supporting entrepreneurs, startups and scaleups. Enlarging connections with these other partner organizations is more than a need. Creating synergies that can harness the know-how from experts in different fields and countries is in the DNA of EBN since its inception – and these connections are built for the benefit of the entrepreneurs.
The current pandemic (COVID-19) is going to hit new entrepreneurs, startups, and scaleups particularly hard. Their resilience is going to be tested to the limit however, there are also opportunities. EU|BICs help startups and scaleups to remain focused, deal with the difficult and complex situations, and look at the opportunities that this new environment is generating.
It is still too soon to evaluate the impact of the pandemic, which very much depends on how long our economies are slowed down and on how long lockdowns and social distancing must be maintained. As the European Commission seems to indicate, this could even be greater than the 2009 Great Recession. Nevertheless, it is precisely in this new world of reduced travelling and direct contact where the trust built through the network is going to be key to find, select, and approach partners for the startups and scaleups. And it is our collective responsibility to make it work for the entrepreneurs and companies we support.
Many of our members have adapted quickly, modifying their services and already taking a very active approach in supporting their startups to overcome this economic challenge. As example, Berytech, who we already highlighted earlier, is offering the possibility of producing prototypes to fight the coronavirus in their FabLab.
Other similar initiatives have come from our EU|BICs all across Europe. In Cyprus, Cyric is organizing a Hackathon to gather solutions, meanwhile many other EU|BICs in Spain, France, and Ireland, to name just a few, have begun to provide online services to startups. You can find these initiatives from EBN members on this link and on social media using #EBNvsCoVID19.
One of the major challenges ahead is obtaining funding. In this new environment, investors are re-evaluating the market perspectives for each of their current and new investments. Demonstrating that these startups and scaleups have understood this change in environment and are not only adapting their products and services but also their structure and processes is crucial and EU|BICs can support in this adaptation.
Yet finding additional sources of funds is also important. EBN is supporting the already exceptional work done by the EU|BICs locally with its network initiatives. An immediate one is the EBN-EBAN joint initiative to have companies from the whole EBN network e-pitch to Business Angels from EBAN network. Two editions are already planned (Mondays for Innovation) and more will follow.
On this World Creativity and Innovation Day, we have to praise the role of entrepreneurs, startups, and scaleups who will help us overcome the economic challenges of the coming months and most importantly, define the way we will live in the world post-COVID. And our job is to support these entrepreneurs.
About the author
Javier Echarri joined EBN as its CEO in 2017 and has since then contributed to opening the network to all other stakeholders in the innovation market.
Javier’s background is investment in early and growth stages. He managed the Invest Europe (Private Equity and Venture Capital Association) for 11 years, was managing director of a growth capital firm for four years, and remains actively involved in the Basque Region’s business angel community which he helped set up. Javier combined the investment activity with his interest in impact investing, and has been Board member of the European Venture Philanthropy Association for 8 years, among other initiatives.
Berytech has been a member of EBN since 2001, a network of around 140 quality-certified European business and innovation centers, incubators, accelerators and other support organizations, and approximately 100 Associate Members that support the development and growth of innovative entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs.
Berytech was the first in the region to receive EU accreditation as a Business Innovation Center in 2006. EU|BICs are clearly recognizable via the EU|BIC trademark, which certifies their compliance to a set of standards known as the EU|BIC Quality Mark Criteria, the only quality system recognized by the European Union. Each year, Berytech is audited on its programs and delivery to maintain such an accreditation.