Around 550 delegates gathered in Derry~Londonderry for the EBN 22nd annual congress last week. An unusual congress, a congress which made a difference, as it was proudly announced and rightly claimed by NORIBIC who was co-organising the event with EBN. And indeed, the general event was quite innovative, inspiring and mostly refreshing.
The list of impressive keynote speakers on Thursday’s sessions - from inspiring Steve Wozniak, humorous Sir Tim Smit, quite provocative and questioning Benjamin Southworth to smart Richard Florida, entrepreneurial Patrick Vlaskowitz, visionary Minister Foster and policy-maker David Harmon! - added a new flavor to this EBN Congress! This was completed by the refreshing breaks ensured by local artists who gave to the whole set place and time for our minds to flow smoothly into a different mood. The mood for connecting with our inner self, the one that says be proud of your culture, be true to yourself and struggle for your ideas even and mostly in hostile environments, "do not let negative people kill your dream” as declared by Tim Smit! Use new technologies and progress to change the world and your connection to people.
Connection to new people and locations around the world using different business models was precisely the theme of Wednesday afternoon session which introduced business support and incubators networks from the US, Brazil, Taiwan, China, Israel, Russia but also good practices from Europe, precisely from Ireland, France, Netherlands and Italy, on how to make business international cooperation and coaching for the benefit of small companies willing to realize their dream of going abroad. There again, we witnessed through very informal and pragmatic question-answers sessions that with adequate mentoring and support, through appropriate connections with people and business support organisations who trust you and believe in your ideas, your dream can come true.
In this context EBN defined the new phase of the Soft Landing Club which is to capacity the BICs managers on how to coach and mentor start-ups and client companies when designing an internationalization strategy, hold them by the hand while implementing that strategy and help to relocate either through the development of joint-ventures or sister companies in a different location than the initial one (Europe or beyond).
The event was also very much entrepreneurial, with testimonials from some successful start-ups and fast growing early-stage firms, such as Soundwave (music data analytics), Akimbo (social network apps), and the three DigiBIC laureates, Social Impact Tracker, Lion Systems and ENEA. The final winner of the overall DIGIBICs is ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) - in the Research Institute Category – and its color and underwater 3D laser scanners.
On the Friday, various workshops focusing on the role of BICs and similar support organizations in digital, social and cultural innovation; on the commitment of entities such as Invest NI to lead businesses through EU and R&D innovation programmes – gave the opportunity to participants to listen to different practitioners and companies who testified how they succeeded in finding partners and funding to develop their business.
As usual, the EBN congress gala dinner was a must with the discovery of what the host territory can offer as best in terms of culture and music. The gala was honored by the presence of the founders of the BIC movement in Northern Ireland, Peter Gallagher and of course John Hume, the peace Nobel Prize winner. Another way to remind the importance of building local vibrant community-based ecosystems, bringing jobs, wealth, and peace!
Last but not least, and in order to strengthen the EBN relationship with regional authorities across and around Europe, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed during the closing ceremony between the EBN President Alvaro Simon and the Secretary General of the Assembly of European Regions, Pascal Goergen.