Poor access to business expertise and networks is a challenge for SMEs and entrepreneurs across the Northern Periphery and Arctic region. BizMentors International is a recently launched European-wide project which see’s five EU regions come together to create a transnational business mentoring solution. The initiative is a three-year project co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery and Artic Programme (NPA), with a total budget in the region of €1.3m.
While an established mentoring support system exists in all the partner regions, many fail to meet the criteria to qualify for mentoring support, the mentors lack a working knowledge of specific areas of expertise or the funding model is unsustainable. The Bizmentors model, developed by SCCUL Enterprises (Ireland), has been proven to support individuals and businesses in a small dispersed community setting in Galway since 2012. It relies on the local support of established businesspeople (Mentors) to provide free guidance to those seeking it (Mentees) in a structured and low-cost way.
To test the new model, the partnership will focus on the Agri-Food sector. Having identified 587 existing Agri-Food businesses in the partner regions during the preparatory phase, the project will support end users to take advantage of the unique natural capital, innovation capacity and markets that remains untapped in the region.
The mentoring model developed will be piloted in each region participating in the project. The output from these pilots will inform future transferability to other business sectors and countries (not just in the NPA region). To support this, a transnational Best Practice Handbook (BPH) will be produced to inform decision makers seeking to implement effective, low cost and inclusive mentoring solutions in other regions. The project aims to innovate the model using an online interactive system and expand BizMentors in the NPA Region, making expertise accessible to all enterprises and entrepreneurs.
- Provide online barrier-free, brokered access to business expertise across dispersed communities in the project partner regions
- Provide community-based peer to peer mentoring support to entrepreneurs and businesses in the Agri-Food sector that is structured, free, managed centrally online and transferable across other sectors
- Develop a sustainable and transferable toolkit and Best Practice Handbook (BPH) to complement existing models and policy frameworks in the partner regions for diversification and growth of businesses in the Agri-Food sector
Project activities will include:
- Developing & piloting a mentoring model which will suit each region participating in the project, and ensure its transferability to other business sectors, and other countries (not just in the NPA region), and focusing on a specific business sector (processing/refinement of natural resources) in the partner countries.
- An interactive, accessible, inclusive platform for all businesses will be developed, which will compliment and supplement existing mentoring support offerings.
- To support this, a transnational best practice business model handbook will be developed that can be used to address challenges in different countries.