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The European Commission's Enterprise Directorate has launched PAXIS, the Pilot Action of Excellence for Innovative Start-ups to promote regional (or infra-regional) initiatives that have a proven track record in creating and developing innovative start-up companies.

The idea for the pilot action grew out of the First European Forum for Innovative Companies held in Vienna in 1998 which drew up some proposals to encourage innovation and to support the creation of start-up companies. They fall within the Fifth Framework Programme's horizontal programme for the promotion of innovation and encouragement of the participation of SMEs. The pilot action is designed to look at mechanisms to facilitate the setting up and development of innovative companies. It has two main objectives: to identify and network economic areas which have created ideal environments for start-up and spin-off companies; and to support projects which validate and promote novel strategies for the encouragement of the creation of innovative firms.

In particular, 15 innovative economic areas in Europe clustered into 4 thematic networks and fulfilling the criteria set up by the Commission have been selected. Initially they will work to describe their methodologies and then look at ways of sharing their experience with others.

KREO : Oxford (GB), Karlsruhe (DE), Lyon-Grenoble (FR) and Emilia-Romagna (IT)
HIGHEST : Alpes-Maritimes (FR), Helsinki region (FI), Torino (IT) and Southern Sweden (SE)
SPRING : Stockholm (SE), Cambridge (GB), Stuttgart (DE) and Madrid (ES)
PANEL : Munich (DE), Milan (IT) and Barcelona (ES)

These selected regions will become members of a network, a "club of excellence", whose role will be to identify existing resources and competencies, to transfer this knowledge, and to exchange and disseminate good practices for promoting innovation throughout the Member States. Members of the club will form a 'European showcase of innovation' which will have a substantial impact and knock-on effect for all EU regions, encouraging economic areas to implement similar initiatives adapted to their local conditions.

The pilot action also supports 24 specific validation projects (18 months duration) to test and transfer innovative strategies for the creation of innovative enterprises, undertaken by consortia of universities, research organisations and public sector bodies.

Finally, the Pilot Action contains a series of accompanying measures designed to support the network of excellence. These tasks include organising promotional events, creating a web site, a newsletter and arranging an 'Innovation Policy Interface' which is designed to maximise the lessons to be learned from the network and individual projects by means of a series of expert panels, visiting schemes, workshops and benchmarking exercises. Notably, under the forthcoming French presidency, the European Commission is organising the Second Forum for Innovative Enterprises in Lyon on the 20 November 2000 (the First Forum was held in Vienna in November 1998). It is anticipated to attract over 500 participants allowing entrepreneurs to give feedback on the policies, be they local, national or European-wide, which are to be put in place |to help Europe achieve a knowledge and innovation-based society. The event is directed towards all those connected with innovation, both on the business side and on the research side.

For further information, please contact:
European Commission
DG Enterprise
Innovation Help Desk
L-2920 Luxembourg
Fax: +352 4301 32084
E-mail: (email removed)
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