hub.brussels launches its plan to support the region’s entrepreneurs
How can we respond to the future challenges arising from the coronavirus crisis? To best support companies emerging from lockdown, the Brussels Agency for Business Support has adapted its 2020 action plan, by redefining its vision and objectives in a 6-month “restart and redeployment plan”, based around 4 key areas.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the hub.brussels teams have rallied around Brussels-based entrepreneurs to help them get through this difficult time.
These actions include establishing an emergency support service for businesses affected by COVID-19, coordinated by hub.brussels.
When lockdown was lifted, the hub.brussels teams created a new version of their Agency, responding to the specific needs of entrepreneurs.
As Isabelle Grippa, CEO of hub.brussels, explains:
hub.brussels could not continue as before. With the support of the ministerial cabinets, hub.brussels has co-constructed the refocusing of its activities to deploy in the very short and medium term specific one-off actions to support entrepreneurs in line with hub.brussels’ vision and ambitions in terms of economic redeployment.
From emergency to economic transition
For Barbara Trachte, Secretary of State for the economic transition:
This crisis has also made many people aware of the need to change the way in which our economy functions. Our companies need to be capable of taking into account the impact of their activity on people and the environment. hub.brussels is contributing to this paradigm shift by making the economy a driver of positive social change for the people of Brussels. The economy should serve the people and not the other way round.
A transition based on four key areas
1) Universality: Expand access to our services
All potential and current entrepreneurs and startups in Brussels need answers to their questions, especially during this time of crisis.
This is why hub.brussels plans to consolidate access to “first port of call” information services and raise awareness about entrepreneurship, in order to reach out to all audiences and be more universal. It will do so by expanding the role of the 1819 service on the ground, and adapting its content (transfer, takeovers, crisis management, etc.) and communication channels (webinars).
To reinforce this “universal” approach, hub.brussels will also work in the community, at the beating heart of the region’s entrepreneurial sphere – the municipalities and districts – by forging links with business associations.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, many companies are facing major cashflow problems, which, in the long term, will prevent them from continuing to trade. hub.brussels therefore plans to hold two interactive workshop series, each consisting of 15 hours of workshops, as well as an evening where companies can present takeover information packs to potential buyers.
Currently, few accountants are able to assist with takeovers of companies. During the crisis, a record number of accountants have contacted 1819 about this matter. It will therefore organise training sessions on support mechanisms in Brussels and the issues surrounding transfers and takeovers.
1819 advisors have highlighted the demand for first port of call services to provide advice on concerns related to the crisis. We believe short videos are the most appropriate medium, as they can be widely shared on social media and websites, which have higher than usual visitor numbers during lockdown. We have therefore decided to make around twenty 2 minute videos. These will provide real, practical advice, directly applicable to the specific situations of various crisis-hit businesses.
1819 plans to offer entrepreneurs the chance to access information and expert advice in various fields, in order to adapt to this new normal as successfully as possible and make the right decisions to avoid bankruptcy. It will do so via a series of online training sessions.
The 1819 Academy offers its partners around twenty webinars to help them respond to the unique situation we are facing, and support their own beneficiaries in their recovery.
Enhanced contact with hospitality businesses
Post lockdown, we will contact business in the hospitality sector and provide them with a “handbook” written by 1819. The handbook contains information on all the support the Region offers the sector, as well as the most frequently asked questions 1819 receives from this industry. This initiative will launch in late June 2020.
2) Accessibility: Reduce inequality in entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is a means of individual emancipation and must be accessible to all. This is why hub.brussels is taking action to support people hit by the crisis who face numerous barriers to entrepreneurship. The agency offers them specific support.
Retail & Hospitality: Shop in Brussels
The hub.brussels research team will collate data gathered during lockdown to create an updated survey of the commercial fabric of Brussels (25,000 premises). As the last update dates from Winter 2020, this new inventory will offer a fairly accurate picture of the impact of lockdown on the commercial vacancy rate.
The survey will identify the most affected districts, as well as the types of businesses that have suffered the greatest impact. This quantitative information will inform decision makers when planning measures to support businesses.
Retail & Hospitality: Help to trade online
During lockdown, over 1000 entrepreneurs in Brussels have participated in 5 webinars on the subject of e-commerce. Organised by 1819, in collaboration with the International and Retail departments of hub.brussels, they aimed to help Brussels-based entrepreneurs start selling online or grow their online business.
Due to their success, these webinars are now available on 1819.brussels.
hub.brussels will also help business associations with their digital communications, through personalised tutorials and support. The aim is to provide these associations with the best advice so they can help their members do business online.
Female entrepreneurs: Study of the impact of the crisis on women entrepreneurs
hub.brussels plans to measure the impact of the crisis on businesses in Brussels run by woman. This study will help them tailor their actions and provide support to this more economically vulnerable community. Carried out in collaboration of the hub.brussels Innovation department, it will focus on the specific difficulties and obstacles women entrepreneurs in Brussels face today, as well as their needs.
Female entrepreneurs:Project Rebound
Project “Rebound” is mainly focused on supporting female entrepreneurs. It will take the form of a 3-month support programme modelled on the Women in Tech Accelerator co-organised by hub.brussels and Women in Business in 2019. This programme will launch in the month of October and aims to offer female entrepreneurs the support and expert guidance they need to adapt their business.
This new accelerator is free and will take place partially online and partially face to face. It is based on 3 pillars:
- strengthening skills
Looking for a job: Strengthening of our collaboration with specific support structures (ACE, Actiris, etc.)
In addition to the health and financial crises, we are experiencing a major social crisis. Thousands of people are at risk of losing their jobs and finding themselves in a labour market with limited prospects. Jobseekers may consider starting a business as a potential alternative to salaried employment.
This initiative will include a series of “Create Your Job” workshops, to introduce people to the entrepreneurial sphere in Brussels, focusing on the mechanisms in place to limit risks. There will also be “crisis” trend watching sessions – what are the growth sectors during this time of crisis, what are the shortage occupations? – and information sessions aimed at intermediaries (employment counsellors, local projects, etc.).
Looking for a job: Strengthening the Agency presence at the Cité des métiers employment office
hub.brussels plans to strengthen its partnerships with Actiris in order to reach more jobseekers. The Agency will physically reach out to them, through a regular presence in the various districts.
The first step will be to establish a permanent presence in the Cité des métiers in Saint-Josse. How to become an entrepreneur? How to train for entrepreneurship? 1819 is working locally to be closer to jobseekers and raise their awareness of entrepreneurship.
Exports: Programme for new exporters
At times of crisis, it is more important than ever to diversify your markets in order to guarantee sales. Through various marketing campaigns and by showcasing the services aimed at new exporters, hub.brussels hopes to inspire its users to export to Europe.
This initiative aims to grow the number of Brussels-based exporters registered with hub.brussels and increase the number of companies accessing support to start exporting (or export outside the European Union for the first time).
Exports: Renewed focus on European missions
Each year, hub.brussels organises visits to several international trade fairs. Some of these events have been cancelled, while others are taking place in distant locations with limited accessibility.
We have therefore selected new trade fairs in Europe.
These include (virtual and physical) trade missions to Smart City Expo in Barcelona and Web Summit in Lisbon, where hub.brussels will have a stand for Brussels-based companies in November 2020.
3) Appeal: Reinventing the appeal of Brussels
“The crisis also impacts on Brussels as a destination”, notes Pascal Smet, Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Foreign Trade, who adds: “hub.brussels must help make Brussels an attractive place by attracting new investors who will impact positively on Brussels and by boosting the Region’s appeal as a tourist destination”.
hub.brussels therefore aims to enhance the appeal of Brussels on many levels.
Brussels, the ideal gateway to the European single market
To make an impression on foreign investors, hub.brussels plans a series of original actions to highlight the unique opportunity to invest in Europe that Brussels offers.
In India, for example, hub.brussels will embark on an Invest roadshow in December. With an electric rickshaw, they will follow the “Quadrilateral Highway”, the longest road in India, which stretches for over 6000 km. Along the way, 10 seminars will take place in various cities (Chennai, BLR, Mumbai, Jaipur, Delhi, Kanpur, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar, Vizag, and Hyderabad).
In Boston, hub.brussels will partner with the Financial Times to organise a conference on AI and big data in life sciences in October 2020.
And to reach out to investors based in North America, a series of 10 short videos broadcast between May and December will see experts present the opportunities that Brussels offers when launching a product on the European market, both in regulatory and operational terms. They will also feature testimonials by American companies that have already successfully crossed the Atlantic.
Extending the remit of the ECAs to include tourism and image.
As part of an integrated policy to enhance the influence of the Brussels Region, the four-way partnership between hub.brussels, visit.brussels, Brussels International and the Brussels Commissioner for Europe and international organisations are joining forces in international projects. The hub.brussels Economic and Commercial Attachés play a key role in coordinating individual and joint initiatives on the ground, alongside the tourism attachés from visit.brussels.
Brussels houses (Milan and Berlin)
In iconic city centre locations, the Brussels houses aim to enhance the visibility of the Region internationally. They will serve as a springboard for the Brussels ecosystem, in terms of tourism, the economy, the arts, creative industries, culture and education. These Brussels houses will bring together a large number of partners from the region, who will use them for networking events, working breakfasts, training sessions on tourism and the economy, and workshops to promote the region’s expertise.
The hub.brussels ECAs and visit.brussels tourism attachés will coordinate all activities taking place in these Brussels houses. The first are set to open in Milan and Berlin.
4) Transition: Striving for a positive impact
The vision guiding the review of the hub.brussels action plan would not be complete without the fourth focus: transition.
hub.brussels had already taken substantial steps towards its own transition before the crisis. This unprecedented situation has only reinforced our belief that a paradigm shift is urgently needed.
hub.brussels has accelerated its transition so it is better placed to help entrepreneurs seize this opportunity to rethink how they do business.
“This review of Agency activities is just the first step in hub.brussels’ transition. Internally, we have begun reflecting on our next roadmap, a plan of action that will gradually and ambitiously integrate the challenges of the transition into all the services hub.brussels offers. This transition roadmap will integrate contributions from our partners and should be complete by Spring 2021. “ explains Isabelle Grippa, CEO of hub.brussels.
hub.brussels has set itself the task of promoting an economy with a positive environmental impact, while also improving the social impact of companiesby putting people back at the heart of the economy.
A transition backed by the government of Brussels
Last Tuesday, the government of Brussels presented the first measures in its restart and redeployment plan. These include strengthening the hub.brussels teams to extend the universal “first port of call” information service for entrepreneurs, 1819, and develop support programmes for large enterprises in 2020 and 2021.
An additional budget has been allocated to hub.brussels to develop a series of international initiatives, launch a marketing campaign to attract foreign investors and create a one-stop shop in Brussels to support them. There is also an increase in the support available to new exporters.
The overall budget is around 3.5 million euros for 2020-2021.