Public-private partnerships for Europe’s SMEs

By Lisa Boch-Andersen

Micro, small and medium-sized businesses are the stars of this week, as Europe is celebrating SME Week! Various events across Europe are discussing how to best encourage entrepreneurship, as well as how the EU, national, regional and local authorities are supporting SMEs.

We have said it many times before, small businesses and entrepreneurs play a critical role in supporting the European economy, employing 87 million people across the region. These entrepreneurs have made a great contribution to Europe’s welfare, jobs, innovation and competitiveness, and therefore both large companies and the public authorities need to find the best way to help them grow.

Microsoft has a longstanding history of supporting Europe’s SMEs, either through programs like BizSpark, Microsoft Ventures, or simply by providing software platforms that the SMEs can build on. Another great way to support these innovative businesses and entrepreneurs is actually through private-public partnerships. How many of you heard of the Microsoft Innovation Centers (MIC)? The MICs are in over 100 locations worldwide and they embody partnerships with local governments, universities and industry partners.

The Microsoft Innovation Center in Brussels is a private-public partnership between the Brussels Region and private partners like Microsoft, whose goal is to sustain the development of the IT sector in the Brussels region with a specific focus on SaaS and cloud technologies. Since launch, the MIC welcomed more than 6,000 visitors, supported more than one hundred SMEs and helped creating jobs in the region of Brussels via various trainings, entrepreneurship seminars, coaching sessions and innovation support.

With an objective of 50 jobs enabled a year, the MIC aims at:

  • Creating a positive context for IT innovation, by sharing knowledge and connecting key IT players in the Brussels Region
  • Enhancing the understating around new emerging technologies via conferences and certification seminars
  • Encourage effective applied innovation by launching ‘call for projects’ related to business opportunities
  • Supporting IT startups launch with 2 boost camps a year specifically targeted to the IT sector and the sharing of IT business best practices

Two great examples of programs run by the Microsoft Innovation Center in Brussels, are the Boostcamp and the IT camp. The Boostcamp is a 4-month program organized by the MIC aiming to help entrepreneurs from the ICT sector to accelerate the start of their business. It includes a series of trainings, workshops and conferences on IT, communication, marketing, business model development, and the art of pitching. The 6th edition started on the 10th of September and will last until December 2014, gathering sixteen entrepreneurs from the region of Brussels. Check out some of the past Boostcamp winners include miMedication and Oh-Chef. The MIC also organizes on a regular basis, free IT trainings/camp, on tech trends like cloud computing, mobility, and big data. This week they are hosting an Azure camp, teaching developers from startups and SMEs how to take leverage the cloud and develop a variety of apps. During these sessions, our experts will showcase how to build websites, mobile applications, and enterprise-class applications.

If you’re an entrepreneur or if you would like to boost your business, the doors are open at the Microsoft Innovation Center at Rue Montoyer 51, 1000 Brussels! Let us know what you think about how we can best support Europe’s businesses and entrepreneurs – tweet us at @MSEurope.

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