Leeds small business project hailed most inspiring in Europe

A collaboration to get small businesses into new European markets quickly and efficiently – led in the UK by Leeds Beckett University – has been recognised as 2018’s most creative and inspiring entrepreneurial initiative in Europe.

The North Sea Lean Landing project was presented with the Grand Jury Prize in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA), run by the European Commission, which was presented at the 2018 SME Assembly conference, held this year in Austria.

This is a special prize chosen by the EEPA jury from 56 national projects competing at a European level.

Janet Mulcrone, Business Development Manager at Leeds Beckett University, said: “It is fabulous to have won the award. This project has enabled us to form really strong relationships with our North Sea partners and to grow our reputation overseas for our collaborative working with SMEs.

“We feel privileged to be working as part of the project, which is challenging traditional methods of exporting to make it quick and lean. It has been fantastic to be able to offer this to local and regional SMEs and see the successes so far. It is a very innovative project and great to see it get this recognition.”

The North Sea Region Lean Landing project is funded by Interreg Europe, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-funded programme helping regional and local governments across Europe to develop and deliver better policy. The main objective behind the initiative is for small businesses to be able to test whether their products or services can be sold in foreign markets.

The three-year project – which is now in its final year – designed, developed and implemented a rapid export scheme for early stage businesses from all sectors of industry across six North European countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Holland and the UK – and eleven partner organisations, with Leeds Beckett University being the lead UK partner.

Throughout the project, Leeds Beckett has hosted international businesses at its University Business Centre in Leeds – giving them access to UK-based SMEs in their industry sector to collaborate and make valuable contacts.

Earlier this year, Leeds Beckett sent three UK companies to Copenhagen, with 100% of their travel costs funded as part of the programme.

One of the companies involved was Candle Digital, an SME based within Leeds Beckett’s University Business Centre in Halifax, specialising in online learning.

Candle Digital already had partnerships within North America, China and Europe, and the Lean Landing programme was a gateway to them developing new partnerships in the North Sea Region. They were able to attend Tech BBQ, a prominent Denmark tech summit which connects more than 4,000 entrepreneurs, investors and start-ups.

Andy Jack, Director at Candle Digital (pictured top right, with Co-Director Mark Langdale), said: “We were delighted to be given the opportunity to attend Tech BBQ, providing us with key insights into the Nordic tech scene. We were able to connect with potential customers and collaborative partners which we would not have been able to do otherwise.

“The Copenhagen scene is particularly vibrant so it was a fantastic opportunity to tap into this and expand our network. As a result of our Copenhagen visit, we have several key partnerships in the pipeline and are excited to develop these further.”

Jury member Kristin Schreiber, Director for SME Policy and the COSME Programme DG GROW, at the European Commission, said: “The jury considers Lean Landing to be highly innovative with an original approach through use of incubators across different countries. The project demonstrates a high degree of participation and engagement for a wide range of stakeholders and has developed an innovative and lasting soft landing network for micro SMEs in six countries.”