Innovative startup born from participating in MobiliseSME
Earlier this year, we gave you a preview in one of our posts about the professional collaboration through MobiliseSME between the Belgian organisation EUAbout (Sending Company) and the Italian cooperative Melograno Vita (Host Company).
Paolo Sospiro (director of EUAbout) and Mauro Picardo (representative of Melograno Vita) tell us about their 6-month experience after their passage through the MobiliseSME programme with this short interview:
– Hello, Paolo. Please, tell us a bit about your company and your professional path. Why did you decide to participate in MobiliseSME?
EUAbout is an Umbrella Organisation set up in 2016 by experts specialised on economics, public procurement, political issues and European projects realisation.
As a EU project management and consulting company, EUAbout offers support in terms of monitoring and evaluation of policies and measures applied, policy recommendation, analysis of EU, national and regional policies and measures, and support for new grants, among others.
We have a decade of experience in dealing with projects related to: waste management, water management, smart cities, PropTech, transports, climate change, green buildings, sustainable agriculture.
I decided to participate in this programme with the aim of expanding my company’s network of customers, focusing on entering into the Italian agri-industry system and improving knowledge on specific pomegranate organic and circular economic production systems.
– How about you, Mauro? Please, tell us about your company and how you found out about the MobiliseSME programme.
Melograno Vita is a cooperative based in Pesaro (Italy) which represents more than 40 agricultural firms specialised on the production of pomegranate fruit.
The main aim of the cooperative is to buy the pomegranate fruits from its members and produce an organic pomegranate fruit based on a circular economy business model. This means that the production process foresees that part of the pomegranate fruit is sold as fresh fruit to large-scale retail trade.
The majority of the fruits are used to produce the juice while the residual is used to produce bio packaging and cosmetic products.
I am the person in charge of running the cooperative and to set up partnerships with suppliers and clients.
Since 2019, Melograno Vita is supported by EUAbout on business development and finding access to public funds in terms of grant and/or loan. EUAbout suggested participating in this pilot programme in order to get direct support to the development of the cooperative.
We both analysed the programme and we thought that it might be really useful to enhance the cooperation between us, as well as to improve the work already done and go beyond it.
For these reasons, we decided to be part of MobiliseSME.
– From a business point of view, how did the collaboration with the Host Company contribute to your company, Paolo? Would you repeat the MobiliseSME experience?
At the end of the path, EUAbout achieved almost all the goals initially set:
· Improving the business model and business plan;
· Align business model and business plan to organic and circular economy in line with the EU Green Deal strategy;
· Screening EU call for proposal;
· Applying for EU calls;
· Open up EU single market to the company thus developing a commercialization strategy and plan.
It was definitely a learning experience that allowed both of our companies to grow.
During the project, we decided that Melograno Vita needs a startup to run the R&D activities required for the innovative aspects of the production and transformation of the pomegranate.
Therefore, we analysed the context, the pros and cons, and finally set up an innovative startup and registered it. This will give the new company many opportunities under the national law which supports the world of innovative startups.
The startup has submitted two new projects at both national and regional level, winning the latter and strengthening the partnership with Marche Polytechnic University and Siprem International, in order to continue research activities on products to be offered to its customers.
– Mauro, please, briefly describe the matchmaking process and the preparation of activities with Paolo. How did the process go?
As mentioned before, EUAbout and us already cooperate on the development of EU, regional and/or regional projects.
Particularly, we worked in the preparation of the former SME Instrument programme. However, the partnership was strictly to work on a specific project proposal instead of a broad cooperation in order to improve the mission, the vision, the business model and the strategy of the cooperative.
Therefore, MobiliseSME allows us to exploit in the best possible way our partnership.
– How do you think this collaboration contributed to your companies and personal development? Would you recommend participating in MobiliseSME?
Thanks to the time spent on the preparation of the project and of the activities, we were able to exploit such a short time in the best way possible.
This means that EUAbout spent the first period to analyse the state of the art of Melograno Vita and its members, while developing a new business plan. It also made a continued screening of the EU, national and regional calls and we submitted together different proposals.
Finally, we decided to set up an innovative start up to run the R&D activities for the cooperative.
We are glad of the results achieved and we would recommend participating in MobiliseSME to as many SMEs as possible. We will also be glad to repeat this kind of experience.
– Do you plan to continue the collaboration after the experience with the MobiliseSME programme?
We will collaborate more than we used to do before, because the cooperation led us to another dimension of business and perspectives, as well as to profitable results, allowing Melograno Vita to win a project and EUAbout to enter new markets.
At the moment, we are still improving the business plan and its implementation for the new startup (Melograno Biotech) and we are planning to review the new strategy and plan in accordance with the results achieved.
Therefore, EUAbout, Melograno Vita and Melograno Biotech will work together in the near future.
Particularly, EUAbout will support Melograno Vita, Melograno Biotech and the members of the cooperative on European affairs, on the development of the farm to fork strategy and its implementation, on new business lines, market research and, finally, on how to improve the relationship between the members and the cooperative.
In short, finding new sources of funding in order to improve the production and processing chain.
– Last but not least, did you improve your knowledge of mobility of workers within the EU after your participation in MobilisSME? Which role had the Local Contact Points in sharing this information?
This programme has allowed us to deepen our knowledge about cross-border mobility of workers and training offers promoted by the EU; to get in touch with different working realities and learn about new market sectors; and to establish a fruitful exchange of information between us.
The Local Contact Points have a fundamental role, as they represent the main channels of information for this type of opportunity. Thus, we are grateful to Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg and Forum AIC for their support during our participation in MobiliseSME.
We also consider it would be interesting to intensify the opportunities for meetings between the information centres and companies potentially interested in participating in this type of programmes, through the organisation of more events (even in virtual mode).