Danube Energy+ project tackles the need for change in regional ecosystems to support Young Innovators (YIs) in transforming their disruptive ideas into ventures. Project’s general objective is to create an enabling environment, which will support YIs to pioneer a change in the energy efficiency area by setting up highly innovative start-ups in the Danube macro-region. At the same time, it improves the competences of key regional stakeholders, particularly relevant public administrations, through intensive learning interactions with YIs.
Project’ partners (PPs)
- InnoEnergy GmbH, Germany
- Cleantech Bulgaria Foundation, Bulgaria
- ABC Accelerator, Slovenia
- Civitta, Slovakia
- PowerHUB/E-Klaster, Czech Republic
- Optimizacja, Croatia
- Startup Transilvania Center, Romania
- SEE ICT, Serbia
- Initiative Center, Uktaine
Associate project' partners (ASPs)
- Sofia Tech Park JSC, Bulgaria
- Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency, Slovakia
- Slovene Enterprise Fund, Slovenia
- DEVELOPMENT AGENCY ZAGREB - TPZ Ltd., Croatia
- Regional Development Agency of Pardubice Region, Czech Republic
- iTech Transylvania Cluster part of Romanian Association for Electronic Industry and Software – Transilvania Branch, Romania
- Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Serbia
to boost Young Innovators towards Successful Ventures Training Scheme
To prove impact, create good practice example and enable direct experience and learning interactions among ecosystem actors, Danube Energy+ ecosystem Package including the Danube Energy+ Tool, was piloted in 9 regions. The underlying aim of the Tool Pilot was to support ecosystem actors´ knowledge in creating sustainable enabling environment for boosting YIs into starting ventures, prove tool´s Impact and also directly boost knowledge and will of participating Young Innovators in the Pilot.
It set out the planned duration (4 weeks), the number and duration of sessions per week (3 half-days), and its location (at the project partners premises or at Regional Alliance members offices). It was planned that learning materials and mentors will guide YIs through various parts of the learning scheme and help them gain relevant competences in the following: business / challenges in energy efficiency, competition, customer/market validation, business skills including marketing/sales, business modelling, team setting up and legal start-up issues. The learning methods to be used were both individual and team activities.
The training scheme, originally planned to start in early March 2020 for all PPS, was adapted to the circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic in the world at the time. The training methodology has changed from face-to-face to online mode, for some partners virtually overnight. All partners have postponed the Scheme in order to adapt. The move online has also necessitated adaptation of the planned hours of the training. The implementation went ahead, but not at the same time for all partners as originally planned. 6 out of 9 PPs have finished the Training Scheme before summer, while 3 (Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine) implemented it in the autumn. The report covers all the implementation data for all partners.
Within the Training Scheme, 66 project ideas were selected in the fields of environment (19), energy efficiency (13), circular economy (9), renewable energy (4), cleaner electricity (3), transport and energy (2) and other related fields. In many cases, these ideas were connected to more than a single young innovator. The ideas were in the middle of technology-driven vs. user-driven innovation.
Average YIs that has benefitted from the Training Scheme is male, employed, 27 years old. Gender distribution of the YIs is heavily skewed towards the males: 65% of all YIs were male and 28% female. Their occupational statuses are employed (31,25%), students (27,75%), or self-employed (15%). Others reported a combination of statuses of were out of work.
The training scheme took place in the duration of at least 40 hours and has consisted of online lectures, 1 on 1 mentoring, and homework. All schemes concluded with a demo day. The differences in the implementation of the program were mainly in the duration and the emphasis put on the several modules. The Tool (developed in previous reporting period (RP) recommended 3 learning blocks: Problem discovery and Idea generation; Business Model Development; Sales and Pitching.
In-depth analysis of the Training Scheme, based on the YIs feedback questionnaire analysis, shows that the YIs assess the knowledge gained in the Scheme as excellent. They have learnt about idea generation, business development and pitching and sales skills. The programme fulfilled their expectations.
The YIs are slightly less confident they can now get an minimum viable product - MVP (average assessment is 4,3 out of 5). The main concerns of the YIs seem to be fitness of their ideas for market, having a good team and securing resources (the latter got the lowest grade, 3,68 out of 5).
The mentors have communicated clearly and stimulated further interest in the topic. Programme organization is assessed as excellent (4,63 out of 5). The programme fulfilled the YIs expectations (4,25). The attendance has been as good as the circumstances allowed: two thirds of participants were present for over 75% of the Training Modules.
Overall, the YIs are now able to carry out the project in question and are willing to start a start- up. This is especially valid for males (average grade 4,63 out of 5, compared to 4,00 for females). The out of work and self-employed persons report the highest preparedness to undertake a new venture, followed by employed persons (there is little difference), while the student population repots the lowest level of preparedness. It is important to note that we have only analyzed the statements of intention, which are not necessarily linked to outcomes. It would be interesting to see after some time, how many of YIs have established a venture.
Therefore, we deem the Training Scheme a resounding success in difficult times. Nonetheless, we acknowledge that the personal, physical workshops would have given the YIs different additional value. In the words of one of our YIs: “It was interesting to participate online but I still prefer in person lectures” (female student from Bulgaria, 22).