Support Systems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Transformation

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Duration: 36 months

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A paradigm change in support systems for entrepreneurship to effectively stimulate eco-innovation

Eco-innovation is increasingly considered to be the key to Europe’s future competitiveness within the framework of sustainable development. For innovation that both creates business opportunities as well as benefitting the environment by preventing or reducing their impact, or by optimising the use of resources, sustainable entrepreneurship and green start-ups are a driving force.

Against this background and based on the state of the art in research, the project “SHIFT” will focus on public and intermediary support systems for sustainable entrepreneurship. The project will study the support of sustainable entrepreneurship over the course of the entrepreneurial life cycle and with regard to different sector contexts (emerging, growing and mature industries). SHIFT will focus on support systems for start-ups and innovative SMEs in order to boost the development and implementation of eco-innovation.

The key hypothesis of the project is that public and intermediary support systems need a paradigm change in order to provide effective support for sustainable entrepreneurship. Thus, the guiding question for the project is: In which regard and how do support systems for entrepreneurship have to be changed in order to effectively support the generation and implementation of eco-innovation?

The overall aim of the project is:
a) to improve the understanding in which regard and how public and intermediary support systems for entrepreneurship have to be changed in order to boost the development and implementation of eco-innovation,
b) to make realistic recommendations for policy makers and important actors of the support system like universities, incubators, business development organisations, financial institutions etc. to implement a paradigm change in their supporting schemes.

The project will focus on the state of the art and the development (paradigm change) of support systems in three European countries (Finland, Germany, Sweden) and the system linkages to the EU level. When searching for best practice examples and doing case studies on these, the project will have a global scope, thus it will consider best practice examples from all over the world, giving special attention to countries with a high developed support system for entrepreneurship (e. g. the U.S., Australia, Taiwan etc.).
Conclusions and transfer strategies will focus on the respective three European countries (Finland, Germany and Sweden) and on the EU level. It will also be considered what other EU countries might learn from a paradigm shift in support systems in Finland, Germany and Sweden.

SHIFT will analyse key fields and actors of the support system for start-ups and the development of new business fields. These comprise universities (entrepreneurship education, technology transfer etc.), incubators, business development organisations, experts supporting start-ups as well as incumbent companies in product and system design for sustainability, the collaboration of start-ups and incumbent companies in innovation networks as will as public funding programmes and financial institutions.

The project will comprise nine working packages. The first package will develop the theoretical foundation and conceptual framework for the project. It will deal with the role of sustainable entrepreneurship in the “great transformation” of the European economy towards becoming a green, competitive economy and will develop a systemic perspective. Working packages 2 to 7 will analyse key fields and actors of the support system for entrepreneurship. In working package 8 the results of the previous research work will be integrated in a systems perspective, and a holistic model for a paradigm shift of support systems for entrepreneurship to boost the development and implementation of eco-innovation will be developed. The final working package 9 will draw conclusions and formulate realistic recommendations for policy makers and relevant actors of the support system. It also comprises various transfer activities like workshops with relevant target groups, conferences and publications.

If granted funding, this project will be the first to explore adapted support systems for sustainable entrepreneurship intended to boost eco-innovation. The thorough investigation of the situation in three EU member states (Finland, Germany and Sweden) will allow for a better understanding of national specifics of support systems as well as similarities and possibilities for transfer at EU level. The 3 country consortium with a multi-disciplinary background will allow for better access both to the research communities of the individual countries as well as relevant business actors (e. g. incubators, business development organisations, design communities, financial institutions etc.).

SHIFT will identify system triggers and pressure points where eco-innovation can lever positive impacts, and create more inter-disciplinary perspectives in order to effect eco-innovation and shift business’ and society’s understanding in the importance of eco-innovation in Europe.

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