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Polish Presidency

Submitted by on 14 Apr 2011 – 14:23

Patrick Lambert, Director of the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation

As Poland prepares to take the reins of the EU Presidency, Europe is facing major challenges. Energy security, climate change and helping companies to ride out the economic downturn are at the top of the agenda.

There are no simple solutions to these issues. But our role at the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI) is to help companies and experts take small steps forward. We believe that providing funding or support for small ideas can have a big impact.

The European Commission has tasked the EACI with managing three EU funding programmes and a business support network for small- and medium-sized enterprises. The idea was that a smaller organisation made up of experts can increase efficiency and make the best use of resources. Our specialists also make sure that only the best projects and ideas are funded which lifts quality across Europe.

The Intelligent Energy – Europe programme supports multi-national projects which tackle ‘non-technological’ barriers to the wider uptake of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in Europe. The programme funds more than 500 European projects, each one made up of several partners. We manage some €700 million under this programme which runs until 2013.

One energy project that received funding monitors the photovoltaic market in the 12 member states which joined the EU since 2004, looking for best practice to make solar energy a reality in national policies and government schemes. The PV-NMS-NET project is led by the Warsaw University of Technology and provides an invaluable observatory for decision-makers in the field.

European governments are looking to green jobs to help improve their economies. The CIP Eco-innovation initiative creates businesses and employment by helping clever green ideas and products to reach the EU market. With nearly €200 million available from 2008 to 2013, the programme funds all forms of innovation that reduce environmental impact and/or optimise the use of resources.

One example is the WASTEred project, which promotes a product that the food industry can use to reduce the large amounts of sewage sludge generated in their wastewater treatment plants. Partners in Poland, Belgium, Germany and Spain have linked up to show the benefits and potential of the product.

Freight transport is another industry with huge potential for saving energy. The Marco Polo programme supports projects that shift freight transport from the road to sea, rail and inland waterways. This means fewer trucks on the road and so less congestion and pollution.

The DZRS project, for example, introduced a new a rail shuttle to replace the transport of goods by road between the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium and the Duisburg multimodal terminal in Germany. With an EU contribution of €1/2 million, this project managed to relieve  Belgian, Dutch and German roads of an equivalent of 37,000 lorries over a three-year period.

Marco Polo has funded more than 500 companies since 2003. The current programme will run until 2013 with a purse of some €400 million.

The Agency’s programmes largely benefit SMEs. We also manage the Enterprise Europe Network, the world’s largest business and technology support network for small companies. Made up of 600 strong players in the business and technology support communities operating in the EU and 21 third countries, the Network provides services to more than 2.5 million companies.

The Network counts 29 partner organisations in Poland. They’ve helped entrepreneurs as diverse as dentists, bakers, musicians and electronic engineers to reach new markets, find business or technology partners abroad and access EU funding.

As part of the Polish presidency, the Enterprise Europe Network will hold its Annual Conference in Warsaw in September. The conference will bring together close to 1,000 business and innovation advisers, along with entrepreneurs and other key players.

We expect the results and the small steps taken by all the projects funded under the programmes we manage will contribute to putting the EU on the path towards smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.

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