More entrepreneurs are needed to boost growth and employment, the European Commission said yesterday (9 January) in unveiling an action plan to "revolutionise entrepreneurial culture in Europe".
The Entrepreneurship 2020 Act, launched by the Commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani, stresses the role of education and training to nurture new generations of entrepreneurs.
Measures to help entrepreneurs will target specific societal groups, such as young people, women, seniors, migrants and the unemployed.
Tajani said the Commission seeks to make entrepreneurship "an attractive and accessible prospect" for Europeans.
"Above all we are talking about getting across a strong political message on the part of the EU Commission. As part of the re-launch of the industrial policy we want to focus on entrepreneurs, come up with new ideas and new ways of looking at entrepreneurship," Tajani said at a news conference.
The Commission's communication aims to improve access to finance, reduce bureaucracy, and encourage second chances for bankruptcies that occur due to late payments.
"We have tried to come up with a proposal to remove obstacles to allow our economy to grow and therefore to effectively fight the crisis," the Italian commissioner said.
Getting more people interested in becoming entrepreneurs shouldn't be the biggest obstacle. Almost four out of 10 Europeans would like to be their own boss if they could, according to a Eurobarometer survey.
If this potential were realised, the Commission believes that millions of new businesses could be added to the almost 21 million small and medium-sized enterprises in the EU.
Better access to finance
However, access to finance continues to be one of the most significant constraints for entrepreneurs, especially in the early stages of their businesses.
The Commission wants to back programmes aimed at developing a market for microfinance, and make resources for microfinancing available to member states and regions.
Through the development of an EU regime for venues specialised in the trading of share and bonds issued by SMEs, the Commission also wants to facilitate a direct access for SMEs to the capital market.
"There will be direct access for SMEs to capital markets for shares and bonds which are directly aimed at SMEs so that they have access to a market of financial instruments. We are not talking about local exchanges for SMEs, but a step in that direction with what we can call mini-shares and mini-bonds," Tajani told reporters.
The 27 EU states are urged to amend national legislation to facilitate new alternative forms of financing for start-ups. They are also invited to make use of EU structural funds to set up microfinance support schemes.
Tajani said he hopes that in the next EU budget (2014-2020), there will be €80 billion for innovation and research and €2.4 billion from the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs project for SMEs to utilise money.
Entrepreneurial education for students
Tajani stressed that the EU also wants in particular lessons of entrepreneurship introduced in schools in all countries.
The Commission is currently working with the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development on guidelines so that lessons and training on entrepreneurship can be introduced in universities and how students can get work experience in companies.
Studies have shown that between 15% and 20% of students who participate in a mini-company programme in secondary school will later start their own company. This figure is about three to five times of that of the general population.