One year into the Programme there are a lot of results emerging from the ACE Project. Following the programme launch and the open call for candidates, the project is in full swing. To date, 75 companies from across Europe are being supported in gaining access to new European markets by mentors from 12 of Europe’s leading incubators.
Launched in September 2013, ACE is a tailor-made acceleration programme – the ACE programme - to deliver targeted cross-border services to highly innovative ICT entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs with the potential to rapidly grow their businesses in international markets. Coordinated by the pan-European network of EU Business and Innovation Centres (BICs), EBN, ACE involves 15 partners (leading incubators, clusters, living labs and accelerators) from 11 European countries - UK, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic).
Support to companies includes, among other services: hands-on assistance in finding partners and clients; living lab validation in other countries; office space; introductions to investors, and; coaching on pitching for transnational investment.
ACE is Selecting!
The ACE call for candidates was opened in December 2013 with the first cut off at 28 February 2014 through the F6S platform. This first round gathered 275+ applications from start-ups and SMEs across Europe, 75 of which are now midway through their tailor-made ACE Programme. The selection process was carried out by the ACE partners, who assessed companies’ innovativeness, international growth potential and motivation and capacity to participate in the programme.
In March 2014, selected companies were assigned an experienced mentor in their own (or nearest ACE partner) country. This ‘local’ mentor analysed their internationalisation strengths and weaknesses, developed an individual internationalisation action plan and designed an internationalisation support team and package of support measures with ACE partners in the companies’ target markets.
On 29 April 2014, ACE companies, mentors, investors and other potential partners converged at the ACE Summit in Brussels. Attended by over 400 participants, the Summit was the first occasion for the ACE companies, mentors and investors to meet each other and discuss how to work together to take their businesses global.
At the ACE summit, the companies had the opportunity to complete investor readiness training and pitch directly to a panel of cross border investors. One-to-one meetings were organised for each company in advance with mentors from other countries who provided practical advice on entering new markets from introductions to potential clients to ‘soft landing’ supports.
Internationalisation Action Plans
Following the meetings at the ACE Summit in Brussels, the mentors worked closely with the companies to elaborate their Internationalisation Action Plans. The customised internationalisation support programmes discussed and agreed upon so far include the implementation of some 300 individual support measures on the ground.
The measures implemented are customised for each participating company to address their specific internationalisation goals and challenges, as identified by the participants with the support of their local mentors. Keeping in mind the target audience of early stage ICT companies and their fast-evolving needs and priorities, the programme runs as a flexible and open support scheme.
The autumn and winter will see the roll-out of a calendar of cross-border investment events organised in partnership with the ACE sister initiative European Investor Gate (EIG) such as: investment readiness training, e-pitches and collaboration with other initiatives to bring ACE companies closer to access to finance and investment. Stay tuned to hear more about our companies’ progress. Read some of our success stories here and stay up to date on our partners’ and companies’ activities through our Twitter feed.
ACE is funded under Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration.