GoSmart BSR strengthens cross-border collaboration among SMEs from Valga (Estonia) and Valka (Latvia) municipalities

More than 30 entrepreneurs, united by the Valga County Business Club in Estonia, visited the industrial zone in Valka, Latvia, where they met with Latvian manufacturer “PepiRer” Ltd. and “efn Nord” Ltd. The visit was organized by Valga Municipality within the framework of the GoSmart BSR project, as one of the main objectives of it is strengthening cross-border innovation cooperation among companies. Before mentioned is supported by innovation brokers, and both brokers – from Latvia and Estonia – also participated in the visit.

The Valga County Business Club has 55 entrepreneurs from the Valga, Otepää and Tirva regions, and they organize various training and visits to companies and officials. It is the club’s interest to strengthen cross-border co-operation with Latvian entrepreneurs, and joint activities have already been carried out with business clubs based in Vidzeme.

Estonian businessmen were very interested to visit Latvian companies, and although both Latvian companies are located very close to the state border, this was the first time to be there. According to Ilona Platonova, representative of Vidzeme Planning Region, who participated in the field trip, “Estonian businessmen were really surprised to find out how modern the production facilities are in the companies located nearby, which employ more than 400 people.” Many of the visitors were surprised not only by the large number of jobs, but also by the new products created directly in Valka – including the IGLU products for children. Just as surprisingly, productivity at “PepiRer” Ltd. already has all the workstations equipped with IT solutions that allow them to evaluate the performance of each batch or workday immediately after completion – whether the cost price was in line with plan, whether any mistakes were made and changes needed in future production. Almost all the equipment, regardless of the country of production, has to be upgraded by local professionals after purchase to ensure that the equipment is suitable for any specific conditions.

In search of further cooperation, guests were brought to premises, which could potentially include a café and grocery store. The potential tenant of the premises is not yet found. One of the success factors could be that some companies plan to pay lunch vouchers to their employees. Currently there is an opportunity not only for Estonian but also for Latvian entrepreneurs, who find this business topical and can supplement the existing range of services.

As the cooperation visit program continued, Imants Steins, Chairman of the Board of “PepiRer: Ltd., together with Jana Putnina, a representative of Valka Municipality, introduced the participants with support measures for entrepreneurs, which the municipality provides, including through EU funds.

“It is important to continue organizing such visits, because the companies themselves do not undertake to visit other companies in the neighbouring country, but in this way they can gain new contacts, explore opportunities for cooperation. In such a unique place as Valka and Valga, which is one city in two countries, it is important to know what the neighbours are doing, ” says Laura Gredzens, a representative of Valga municipality and an innovation broker.

Entrepreneurs were very grateful to the project team for the opportunity to take part in the trip, to get inspired and to share ideas at the dinner table. Innovation brokers in the Vidzeme Planning Region and Valga Municipality will continue to work on a number of potential collaborative ideas that have emerged during the day to further enhance business cooperation between the two countries and regions.