The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Ascendis, a training and consulting company, today launched IncubatorX SME, a programme through which companies in Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia can engage with top entrepreneurs and consultants, who will support them in turning their ideas into innovative products and services.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with revenues below 50 million euros from these countries can apply on the XbyAscendis website between 1 February and 28 February 2022. More than 100 SMEs are expected to apply to the programme, out of which up to 20 companies will be selected.
The selected SMEs will need to assign a dedicated team from their company to work on their ideas with Ascendis consultants and other entrepreneurs, in order to develop an innovative solution with direct impact on their business.
The three-phased programme, in English, will officially start on 15 March 2022. During the first phase, selected teams will speak with successful entrepreneurs and visit their companies. During the second phase, teams will participate in workshops and a hackathon, where they will learn to validate their business idea, build a viable business plan and prepare for incubation.
The third phase will consist of five to seven teams and run for 16 weeks, during which teams will continue to work on their business idea and benefit from mentoring, workshops and project management support. The result of their work should be a viable product, ready for launch at the end of the programme. Access to this incubation phase is based on jury selection.
Participation in the first two stages is free of charge and the third stage requires a participation fee of €784. The low participation costs are made possible by funding provided by the European Union (EU) under Horizon 2020. In 2019 the EBRD and the EU launched a funding framework that supports investment in research and innovation by SMEs in Romania, including by facilitating access to advice.
Mark Davis, EBRD Regional Director for Romania and Bulgaria, said: “Over the past three years, together with the EU, the EBRD has supported more than 50 advisory projects that have helped innovative companies in Romania to grow their business and become more competitive. Now we want to expand this support by offering companies in Romania and the region access to new instruments that stimulate innovation.”
Cornel Amariei, CEO and founder of .lumen and Ascendis consultant, said: “In recent years we have proven that innovation can also start in Romania. We have learned a lot along the way and we want to teach other companies how to turn the region’s inherent creativity into innovation, new products and services. Within the programme, we will teach SMEs to create first versions of innovative products or services.”
Founded 25 years ago, Ascendis currently has business lines in training, coaching, consulting, team building, “microlearning”, HR and Lean Six Sigma (LSS) certifications, wellbeing and digital marketing.
The EBRD is a leading investor in Romania. To date, the Bank has invested almost 9.5 billion euros in the country’s economy through 485 projects. Moreover, almost 1,000 Romanian SMEs have grown their business with the help of advisory projects supported by the EBRD.