Compendium 2.2 Business support

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EQUAL’s work on business support contributes to what is already a major policy priority of the European Union. In 2000-2006, business advisory services and shared business services accounted for approximately one-third of the very large sums of money spent on supporting SMEs by the Structural Funds (split fairly evenly between pure advice and support involving some kind of business premises). Another third of the total was spent on grant aid, but this often forms a package with business advisory services. The advisory services often play a key role in the access to and allocation of the grant aid. This support continues, and in the period 2007-2013, business support services are specifically mentioned in the first two objectives of the ERDF regulations, and support for entrepreneurship is raised under two of the three priorities of the ESF regulations.

Since the late nineties this has led to a whole series of initiatives to document good practice in business services, to increase the synergy between the large number of existing projects and to improve quality, relevance and take-up. Improving the coherence and quality of the business support system is mentioned as a priority in the European Charter for Small Enterprises and its successive national reports. The Entrepreneurship Action Plan, which was implemented between 2004 and 2007 by the Enterprise DG, addressed the issue of inclusive entrepreneurship and held seminars on measures to encourage women and by ethnic minorities to go into business.

EQUAL’s work concerning business support can be broken down into the following six areas: