Marko Curavi?, head of unit at the European Commission's DG Enterprise and Industry, said the pilot phase had given "a good base from which to start and we want to make its impact bigger and permanent".
There is still time to improve the scheme before it moves to a new, permanent, legal basis, he said, adding that this new status would bring an increased budget.
Curavi? said 180,000 students per year take part in the Erasmus student exchange scheme so it is not unreasonable to aim to enroll "tens of thousands" of entrepreneurs.
Joanna Drake, director for promoting of SME competitiveness at the European Commission's DG Enterprise and Industry, said she is committed to putting EYE on a permanent footing.
It is, she said, an integral part of the Small Business Act and sits neatly with a number of the flagship programmes set out in the 'Europe 2020' strategy – specifically 'Youth on the Move', the 'Innovation Union' and the focus on sustainable job creation.
"Looking at 'Youth on the Move', the scheme fills a gap as there is nothing for people at the early stages of their careers," she noted.
Drake said it was important to spread the word about the programme, but added that additional resources for marketing might not be the only answer. "We need entrepreneurs to be ambassadors for the programme and it is also important that MEPs and regional authorities play a key role in communicating the success stories," Drake stated.
EYE Programme Coordinator Typhaine Beaupérin from Eurochambres – which acts as a support office for the intermediary organisations – said that the number of beneficiaries is growing and awareness of the scheme is increasing.
With the structure of the programme in place, the challenge now is to ''tackle the obstacles hindering its full development before any major expansion – notably widening the geographical coverage and finding more business owners willing to be hosts,'' she stated.
With Italy and Spain dominating the applications, more promotion is needed across the EU – especially to attract more experienced entrepreneurs, she told EURACTIV. Should these challenges be addressed, she believes the budget could ultimately match the €450 million allocated to its Erasmus student equivalent.
Arnaldo Abbruzzini, secretary-general of Eurochambres, said the scheme meets the need for greater mobility in Europe but warned that a number of flaws need to be ironed out.
Abbruzzini, who runs his own business, said he would not sign up as a host because there is no incentive. "We need a massive information campaign and to identify the reasons why host entrepreneurs would want to sign up. The benefit for the new entrepreneurs is clear, but it's limited for someone like me who would have to devote time and office space to the programme," he commented.
He backed the idea of changing the name to just 'Erasmus for Entrepreneurs' in order to encourage experienced businesspeople to get involved as mentors.
Fátima Mínguez, deputy director-general for SME policy at the Spanish Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Trade, said the concept behind EYE is sound but the results of the pilot phase were "very modest indeed".
Speaking in April 2010, she said there is a lot of room for improvement, adding that it was far too early to suggest that the programme has had any tangible impact.
"We need to professionalise the work done by intermediary organisations," she said, adding that member states would take ownership of the initiative if teething problems are addressed.
Luca Poli, an Italian surgeon who was a participant in the scheme, said the chance to learn from a Spanish businessperson was invaluable because local entrepreneurs are often unwilling to share sensitive commercial information.
He said he knew very little about running a company before he took part in the programme and now has his own private cosmetic clinic in Milan.
In an interview with EURACTIV in February 2010, Poli said the placement allowed him to test his ideas with an experienced entrepreneur and learn how to do things better. He learned invaluable things about communications, he said.
Annie King, who participated in the programme as a host entrepreneur, said the 'Europe 2020' strategy refers to sustainable businesses and this is an area on which the Commission should place more emphasis.
She said new entrepreneurs should be left to find suitable hosts themselves rather than relying on a complex system of intermediary business organisations who act as matchmakers.
Katia Marchesin, another host entrepreneur, said it gives businesspeople an opportunity to develop new business models and can serve as "a virtual bridge to other markets". It is a chance for companies to internationalise, she said.
Jack Malan from the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services, which conducted a review of the pilot programme, said new entrepreneurs tended to be more positive about it than host entrepreneurs.
Speaking in April 2010, he said it was too early to accurately measure the impact of the project but the early indications suggest it improves the quality of start-ups, although it does not seem to increase the number of new businesses.
"If 10,000 new entrepreneurs took part per annum – requiring ten times the resources – it could significantly increase competitiveness and growth," he said.
However, Malan stressed the need to raise awareness to generate more applications to the programme and to fill in some "geographical gaps" that emerged during the pilot phase.
In July 2009, former European Commissioner for Industry and Enterprise Günter Verheugen said he was glad to see the EYE programme taking off.
"Its objectives to help unlock business potential, reveal new opportunities and make better use of the internal market are more relevant than ever in the context of the current economic crisis," he commented.