The model proposed provides an innovative combination of the following six elements, each of which has been implemented successfully before, including by members of the team making the proposal:
- Management of a peer mentoring network with trained facilitators
- Organisation of the network so that small groups of companies from the same sectors across multiple member states meet each other regularly
- Provision of a programme of learning events designed in response to the needs of participating SME senior managers in managing and developing their business
- Access through the patron organisations to a network of specialist expertise and advice
- Training and mentoring of the senior managers in developing a plan to grow their company to the next level
- Award of an academic qualification from one of the participating HEIs for strategic plans that demonstrate substantial learning achievement.
Benefits for SME Participants
Participation in this project will offer the following benefits for SME participants:
- It will provide access to a range of expertise to experts from across six higher education institutions, eight industry organisations, as well as to the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Community relevant to their own sector.
- The network therefore provides companies with resources of expertise that they can access on an as-needed basis.
- This will help companies develop a wider and more current knowledge of the latest developments in technology and markets in their own sector at a time of rapid change.
- Each participant will be provided with a personal mentor to help guide them in developing the strategic plan for their own company.
- Participation will bring them into a network of companies across five other EU member states facing similar challenges, who can share their experiences with each other and provide each other with contacts to help with with their internationalization plans.
- The peer mentoring network provides a safe and confidential forum for managers to discuss the issues currently facing their companies.
- The overall impact of participation in the project will be to help companies to broaden their horizons and develop greater confidence in their plans to expand.
- The academic award available will be designed to provide a kite mark of quality for the strategic plan developed, which can be recognized by potential investors.
Peer mentoring has been demonstrated by experience to be the key element. The development of a strategic plan pushes the participants to embark on a well-informed journey of growth and expand their horizons.
14 organisations - six HEIs and eight organisations from industry - will act as patrons of the network. Each organisation will nominate a person to the Steering Group and also nominate two managers with to be trained in the role of Group Facilitator.
Types of Learning
The learning that participants engage in through the programme will take a number of forms, all of which are designed to be immediately relevant to the business needs of each participant.
Link to KICs
Each of the KICs organises training and knowledge activities that are of potential interest and support to the project participants in that sector in the pursuit of their business plans.
According to the European Gateway for Women’s Entrepreneurship (Wegate), women currently account for just 30% of start-up entrepreneurs across Europe. The proportion of women entrepreneurs in the sectors being addressed by this proposal is even lower
The purpose of the pilot, beyond the immediate impact of the project on the 140 SMEs, is to demonstrate the effectiveness of a new model of experiential learning on the job in higher education.