On 31 August, a cooperation day organised by Valga Municipality in cooperation with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund took place in Nakatu Guest House in Valga County, during which, thanks to the leadership of the moderator, Garri Raagmaa, answers were found to questions about the problems faced by entrepreneurs and how the municipality and government could contribute to solving them. Innovation Broker Laura Gredzens gave an overview about the project GoSmart & Excel BSR activities, reminded about the possibility to use innovation brokers help to find cooperation partners from abroad and shared information about Trans-S3 elaboration for the BSR.
Around 50 attendees participated on the cooperation day. The majority of participants were SME-s. In addition, research institutions, representatives of national and local government, business support organizations, schools and other associations were represented. For example, there were representatives from the wood, food and metal industry, food supplement manufacturers, tourism, agriculture, the engineering industry and the sewing industry. Innovation brokers’ aim was to find out what kind of push would SME-s need to make progress in their internationalisation and innovation projects. In addition to the discussion round, the aim of the event was to introduce various support measures for business development and innovation and provide new knowledge to entrepreneurs. For example, the Unemployment Insurance Fund organised a workshop to introduce entrepreneurs to different ways of improving internal communication and streamlining management.
The main aim of the round table was to gather the expectations and concerns of businesses, many of which overlapped and were waiting for longer-term solutions. The problems and expectations were quite similar in tone, but the most frequently mentioned were the need of reconstruction of municipality’s roads to ensure the required level of accessibility to businesses; the labour shortage in both industry and tourism; and the need to develop and provide support for internet access. Another point made was that support is also expected in terms of infrastructure, be it roads, water or electricity connections. These issues could certainly be tackled at both local and national level, for example by increasing cooperation with businesses and by mapping the situation in the long term and taking a strategic approach. In addition, the lack of local consumption of locally produced goods by local residents, the availability of materials and the huge increase in prices and, finally, the poor choice of commercial property were also highlighted as major problems. The problem could be solved by raising the profile and distinctiveness of local products and by creating new commercial space from existing buildings.
One aim of the event was to introduce the TIBS system. First innovation brokers’ meetings were held during the event and It was agreed on further meetings to map the interests of companies in internationalisation. The support measures put forward by the support organisations gave businesses an idea of the way forward and what developments could potentially be made. Speakers included business support organisations such as Enterprise Estonia (EAS), which offers grants in very different areas, Rural Development Foundation who is more focused on rural development, the Estonian Unemployment Fund who provide a wide range of training and grants. Tartu Science Park is based on consultancy and training,they organise a number of projects and events that help the company grow. Tartu 2024 -Tartu, together with Southern Estonia, has been selected as the European Capital of Culture 2024 and the Tartu 2024 project offers a good opportunity for SME-s to market themselves. Various companies that had already contributed to the development of their business as beneficiaries also spoke and the feedback provided enabled others to draw positive conclusions.
It was a useful day of cooperation, and businesses said that more such events are needed. A good opportunity for networking and gaining valuable information. Feedback was taken into account and new events for entrepreneurs are already being planned.