This exciting project will allow SMEs to take advantage of the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) Programme. When an EU city is designed European Capital of Culture it receives EU funding and support for an entire year to organize events and activities within the city. Nevertheless, these events were underutilized by SMEs. This project aims to change that by engaging SMEs early in the European Capital of Culture events in order to trigger, strengthen and diversify local entrepreneurship by encouraging, ‘unconventionally’ cross-sectoral cooperations, clustering and networking, as well as internationalization between SMEs. This will be done mainly by aligning the SMEs with different elements of the events (phases, scope, themes). The current project is undergoing in five cities: Leeuwarden, Matera, Rijeka, Timisoara and Kaunas under the coordination of an expert team at the University of Eastern Finland, and with the involvement of twenty ‘Local Learning Labs.’.
Moreover, there is growing interest both from the part of the EU Commission and the participating cities in achieving an efficient use of local and EU resources and maximizing benefits from the ECoC. However, there are no concrete guidelines offered to ECoC hosts for the engagement and encouragement of local SMEs. Therefore, experiences will be shared also with the ECoC Programme to improve its guidelines for cities.