Did you know that chewing gum contains plastic, oil and many chemical additives? Does not sound too healthy, right? Luckily there is a solution. In the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project CERIecon, two young, inspired ladies started an entrepreneurial journey to launch their start-up: ‘Alpengummi’ by developing a ‘natural chewing gum’ that only uses natural ingredients like bee wax and tree resin.
Alpengummi received the opportunity to be trained and coached in one of CERIecon’s Playparks. But what exactly is a Playpark? CERIecon started back in 2016 to set up regional innovation ecosystems in seven central Europe regions, which were named Playparks. Together, these regional innovation ecosystems in Cracow (PL), Bratislava (SK), Vienna (AT), Brno (CZ), Stuttgart (DE), Verona (IT) and Rijeka (HR) form one transnational network. This network interlinks the regional Playparks in order to improve international skills and to emphasize the project’s transnational character. The original aim of the CERIecon project was to contribute to a change in the way entrepreneurs are inspired, trained and supported. Now, that CERIecon has ended, the partnership is convinced that the project has achieved a lot. More than 150 business ideas of start-ups/young SMEs - amongst them Alpengummi - have been trained according to the innovative approach of the Playpark methodology which was developed at the regional Playparks. You might ask yourself now: ‘Isn’t this just another start-up incubator?’
The answer is no. Clearly, CERIecon was and is more. When CERIecon was developed, we realised that many young people with brilliant ideas – who could contribute considerably to make cities and regions in central Europe better places to work and live – had a limited entrepreneurial culture, mind-set as well as entrepreneurial skills and competences. Often, their business idea was just a very early stage idea which needed support and help to grow; but there was no adequate place where these young start-ups/SMEs could find support for their idea, where they could ‘play’ with it in an experimental and supported way.
CERIecon was built to close this gap. Within the project, the partnership wanted to offer not only coaching and support to the young entrepreneurs but to help them to develop – or even to find – their business idea through our ‘early bird approach’. We wanted to provide them an ecosystem where their ideas could grow just like tender little plants. After three years of project implementation there are more success stories than just the one from Alpengummi. CERIecon supported many diverse and innovative business ideas: a wheelchair swing, a lifesaving bracelet, fertiliser made out of coffee grounds or a programming school for people with migrant backgrounds are only some of the many examples. And Alpengummi? They started selling their ‘natural chewing gum’ in Austrian supermarkets in May 2019.
7 REGIONAL ESMART STRATEGIES FOR REG. INNOVATION ECOSYSTEMS IN CE REGIONS
7 regional pilot actions for innovation ecosystems implementation in PP regions (= 7 Playparks)
TRAINING METHODOLOGY AND MATERIALS FOR THE TRAINEES IN THE PLAYPARKS
21 regional training and support programmes for trainees in the regional Playparks
1 ESMART STRATEGY FOR A TRANSNATIONAL NETWORK OF INNOVATION ECOSYSTEMS IN CE REGIONS
development of a transnational network of the Playparks
TRAINING METHODOLOGY AND MATERIALS FOR THE PLAYPARK STAFF
21 transnational Playpark exchanges
3 Playpark Finals being the highlight of the regional trainings
Download here outputs from the CERIecon project (please click on the files below)
Target group indicator
7 regional Playparks
21 regional trainings implemented
214 start-ups/young entrepreneurs trained
1 TRANSNATIONAL PLAYPARK NETWORK
21 transnational Playpark exchanges implemented
2731 people trained in total
103 jobs created (FTE) based on project achievements
46 institutions applying new and/or improved tools and services
2731 trained persons in the frame of the project
10 563 909 € funds leveraged based on project achievements
57 institutions adopting new and/or improved strategies and action plans
stakeholder involvement was quite challenging throughout the project lifetime but the hard work of trying to involve them is visible in the results of the project
KEEPING THE START-UPS IN THE COHORT TRAINING PROGRAMME IN SOME CASES WAS DIFFICULT (DROP-OUTS), BUT THE INTENSE COACHING AND TAILOR-MADE MENTORING WAS THE MAIN FACTOR TO KEEP THEM IN THE PLAYPARK PROGRAMMES
TRANSNATIONAL COOPERATION AND NETWORK WAS THE BIGGEST ADDED VALUE FOR BOTH - PROJECT PARTNERS AND PLAYPARK 'MEMBERS'
establishment of a regional/transnational start-up network where the start-ups can exchange knowledge is essential for start-up growth and success - as well as the opportunity to have free access to a physical space where young entrepreneurs can work and network