Providing support for business development

Business development support services aim to help entrepreneurs start a new business or improve the performance of their enterprise by enhancing their ability to compete in and access new markets. Support services include the following:

(1) Provision of information to entrepreneurs

The provision of information to entrepreneurs about where they can go to seek professional assistance – for example through websites and media campaigns, or through public employment services and other institutions such as chambers of commerce. The Initiative for Start-ups and Business Transfer (IFEX) implemented in the German State of Baden-Württemberg, for example, launches public awareness campaigns (both online and through face-to-face seminars) that target immigrant entrepreneurs, informing them about existing support programmes that could help them strengthen their business skills, build networks or address the barriers to business development they might face. 

(2) Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring develop entrepreneurial skills. While coaching focuses exclusively on honing skills, mentoring also aims at enhancing entrepreneurs’ personal development (OECD/EU, 2015). Under the Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs in Ireland, successful applicants are appointed a business mentor for 10 one-on-one sessions. Under the Commercial Advisors Scheme of the Maori Innovation Fund in New Zealand, Maori groups can contract commercial advisors to help their business development.

Key factors for the success of coaching and mentoring schemes are the following, as set out in OECD/EU (2015):

  • building trusting relationships with the mentor. For this reason, many initiatives seek coaches and mentors from the same business community as the target entrepreneur, or with previous experience working with them
  • ensuring a good match between the coach/mentor and the entrepreneur, by considering both individual and business characteristics
  • setting clear objectives of the relationship at the start, and tracking progress towards the goals
  • establishing a fixed duration for support, to avoid relationships of dependence
  • providing training to coaches and mentors to strengthen their ability to transfer knowledge, and improve their understanding of the specific barriers faced by entrepreneurs from disadvantaged groups.
(3) Professional business counselling or advice to entrepreneurs

Professional business counselling or advice to entrepreneurs is frequently part of broader support schemes, and a condition for receiving financial support. For example, the Innovation Fund for SMEs in China provides both financial and professional advisory support for SMEs that aim at engaging in innovative activities. Similarly, the programme for Encouraging R&D in Traditional Industries in Israel provides professional counselling in addition to grants to those firms in traditional industries that decide to engage in an R&D project.

(4) Assistance to access new markets

Assistance to access new markets, both nationally and abroad. For example, the Euroagri Foodchain programme promotes products and technologies developed by its participants through the EuroAgri FoodChain’s network, to ensure that they do not go unnoticed abroad. Centres for Creative Economy and Innovation in Korea provide assistance to business start-ups to help them find investors and enter the global market.

(5) Technology transfer assistance

The Envoy System in China, for instance, promotes the adoption of advanced technologies in agriculture, by providing technology demonstrations and technology training by experts, among other support services. A different example is furnished by the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Institute of Technology (Greece), which initiated a research collaboration with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN); the aim is to create a business incubator to diffuse CERN’s existing technologies to the region’s private sector. 

Initiative for start-ups and business transfer – Germany

2012-present

Objective: Foster immigrants’ entrepreneurship and their business success.

Target: Immigrant population (actual and potential entrepreneurs).

Instrument: Public awareness campaigns, including through information web pages and seminars; financial support for training and counselling initiatives for immigrant entrepreneurs provided by business chambers and other organisations.

Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs Programme – Ireland

2012-present

Objective: Provide female-led start-ups with critical early-stage funding to reach key commercial and technical milestones and launch new products internationally.

Target: Women entrepreneurs.

Instrument: Equity investment of up to EUR 50 000 for a 10% shareholding in the company for costs of developing a business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones, and non-financial support (counselling from a mentor).

Maori Innovation Fund (Te Pūnaha Hiringa) – New Zealand

2014-present

Objective: Help Maori collectives to increase their skills, knowledge and networks so they can realise the economic potential of their assets.

Target: Maori collectives.

Instrument: Financial support to contract a commercial advisor to provide professional business advice and mentoring; training in governance, management, strategic planning and other business skills.

Innovation Fund for SMEs – China

1999-present

Objective: Enhance the S&T and innovation capabilities of SMEs.

Target: SMEs nation-wide.

Instrument: Financial support (grants, loan interest subsidies for new product development and pilot production, and equity investments); and advisory services.

Encouraging R&D in Traditional Industries – Israel

2005-present

Objective: Encourage traditional industries to invest in R&D.

Target: Traditional industries as defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (including mining, rubber and plastic, food, beverages and tobacco, textile, leather products, paper, wood products).

Instrument: Grant of 50% from the approved budget for the R&D project and provision of professional counselling services.

EuroAgri Foodchain – Eureka countries

2012-2014

Objective: Increase the competitiveness and innovativeness of the European agri-food industry by supporting R&D projects.

Target: SMEs, large companies, research institutions and universities in the agri-food sectors that intend to introduce an innovation.

Instrument: Support varies depending on the case; it can include the provision of grants as well as advisory services, and promotion of products and technologies across countries.

Envoy System – China

2002-present

Objective: Allow for more innovation among rural populations by dispatching S&T specialists to the countryside and promoting innovative entrepreneurship in the rural areas.

Target: Farmers in rural areas.

Instrument: Qualified S&T specialists provide farmers with S&T services, including demonstrations of new technologies, training and personalised consulting.

Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation – Korea

2014-present

Objective: Promote business start-ups and innovation by small and medium-sized companies, and build conditions for innovation in different cities and provinces across the country.

Target: Small and medium-sized enterprises, and potential start-ups.

Instrument: Business consultation services for start-ups; creation of networks including SMEs and innovation actors; assistance in (among others) R&D and marketing.

References

OECD/EU (2015), The Missing Entrepreneurs 2015: Policies for Self-employment and Entrepreneurship, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264226418-en.