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Projects  

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs: an interview with Marco Iacuitto

EYE

The Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Brussels is part of the Open-EYE consortium and has been managing and implementing the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs project (EYE) for many years now. Marco Iacuitto, Project Manager and head of the European Consultancy Office at the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce, has been interviewed by Assocamerestero, the Association of the Italian Chambers of Commerce Abroad, in order to better understand this programme and its opportunities.

Among the Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad, the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Brussels is one of the most active in the field of European funding programmes. The BICC has been participating in such programmes funded by the European Commission for many years now, and on several subjects like permanent learning, commercial relations with extra-EU Countries, and promotion of regional products. Among the projects realized during the years, we would like to highlight “Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs”, for which the Chamber of Commerce acted as Leader partner more than once.

We interviewed Marco Iacuitto, Project Manager and head of the European Consultancy Office at the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce, in order to better understand this programme and find out how it can impact, in a positive and negative way, an Italian Chamber of Commerce Abroad.

How did the involvement of the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme begin?

Our involvement in the programme began thanks to our partner, the University of Fulda.

As it often happens when writing a proposal for an European Call, the University asked us to join the consortium that was being established in order to present a project for the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, and we agreed with enthusiasm.

This happened in 2009, when the programme was still an in-progress reality being only at its 2nd cycle. Since then, the Chamber of Commerce has taken part in every annual edition of the programme, being Leader Partner for the 5° and 7° cycles; we will be Leader also during the 9° cycle.

What is the reason for this alternation in the role of leader partner?

A great collaboration arose between the University of Fulda and us, also beyond the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs project.

We could say we became loyal partners! In this specific case, we alternate in the role of leader partner in order to relieve the charge of work. In fact, the project’s leader bears the heaviest responsibilities, especially bureaucratic, including the financial and technical reporting and the management of the consortium. Therefore, to have an alternation in this role is more practical.

The Belgian-Italian Chamber has constantly participated in the programme, since the second cycle. How has the programme developed itself during these years?

Our Chamber gained a lot of experience during these years, which has also been acknowledged by the European Commission and EASME (Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, head of the programme on behalf of the Commission, n.d.r.).

As a confirmation to this, we have been asked to take part in a task force of the Intermediary Organizations (IO) of the Programme, aimed at identifying its critical points and proposing improvements.

The budget for Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs has been increased during the years, and the feeling is that the European Commission is relying upon that even more for the future.

What are the Chamber’s activities within the project?

Within Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, the role of the consortium members is to act as Intermediary Organizations (IO), allowing young or New Entrepreneurs (NE) to meet  Host Entrepreneurs (HE).

The European Commission provides the new entrepreneur with funds to be spent abroad for a fixed period of time during which she/he with will be able to acquire new skills, learning from a successful entrepreneur.

This means that our Chamber receives applications from new entrepreneurs based in Belgium who want to gain experience abroad. On the other hand, we also manage the applications from new European entrepreneurs who are looking for a host entrepreneur in Belgium.

The participation in this kind of projects does it mean to offer an additional service to your associates?

Certainly yes, but not mean only. The participation in Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs allows us to enter new networks, make new contacts useful to the Chamber also to promote the other services we offer, to increase the associates’ number and to better know our environment. Our Chamber worked hard to enhance contacts with local Chambers, incubators of enterprises, regional import-export offices and other realities in Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders. In fact, the project is an occasion to establish new relationships at different levels, start interesting territorial dynamics and increase the collaboration opportunities beyond the European funding programme.

From the Belgian entrepreneurs’ point of view, how do they react to your proposals to host new entrepreneurs?

I have to say that in Belgium we have always had positive reactions, probably because the Country is used to internationalization. In Italy it is often more difficult to persuade an entrepreneur to host another one, and around Europe the approach to the programme is very different. In Countries like Italy and Spain there are more new entrepreneurs who want to leave than host entrepreneurs willing to host.

And what about the new entrepreneurs? How do you reach them?

We utse all our communication channels, from our social media to our magazine “InfoItalie” and our website. Furthermore, we take advantage of events organized within our other activities, along with communication and spreading of results activities in the framework of European Projects. Moreover, we have to say that not only the Italians relocated abroad come to us (six months of residence in Belgium are enough to be considered new Belgian entrepreneurs), but also people of other nationalities, given the international vocation of the city of Brussels.

If we were to make a balance of costs and benefits of the project, what would the results be?

Our experience is surely positive, since taking part in the programme during these years gave us new opportunities and allowed us to considerably expand our network. However, we have to underline that the project’s activities require a daily hard commitment, from the management of the exchanges to the evaluation of the application until the more bureaucratic aspects of the administration of the relationship with the Commission. Our Chamber for example, in order to manage the huge amount of work, involved up to 4 resources in the management of the project’s activities.

Would you recommend that other Chambers took part in one of these projects?

Absolutely yes. The Intermediary Organizations of a project like Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs conducts activities which are perfectly in line with the activities and priorities of an Italian Chamber of Commerce Abroad. Furthermore, the project activities might be source of countless opportunities of collaboration and they surely have a positive impact on the Chamber itself. Two Chambers have already decided to participate and we hope that also others will follow their example. The Italian Chambers of Commerce in Thessaloniki (Greece) and in Lyon (France) are involved for the 8° cycle, which began the 1st of February 2016 and will last until the 31st of January 2018. I invite the interested Chambers to start gathering information in order to enter a consortium for the 9° cycle, since the call for proposals has already been published.

[and its deadline will be the 5 April 2016 (you can see the section “Open European calls” for additional information, n.d.r.).]

I am obviously available for the colleagues who are interested in the subject.

For further information:
Marco Iacuitto
European consultancy
Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
Website: www.erasmus-entrepreneurs.eu 

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