In order to build a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy as envisioned in the Europe 2020 growth strategy, SMEs must be fully engaged in the innovation process. In the ICT sector in particular, this means that they must be well prepared for internationalisation, having the strategy and resources in place to identify, develop and exploit new innovations, to move quickly to get these innovations to market and to have the financial backing in place to enable rapid scale up and growth in global markets. Recent reports have shown, however, that only 25% of European SMEs export and, in general, the smaller the SME the lower their prospects of engagement in any form of internationalisation or cross border activity.
The ACE project focuses on accelerating the rapid growth of innovative companies in the ICT sector through supporting innovative startups to go international, from company creation to launch. Connections with the international research community and the international investor community form essential elements of the project.
After a call for candidates, the 100 ICT companies in Europe with the highest growth potential were selected to participate in the ACE Acceleration Programme. These companies were assigned experienced local mentors who have been working with them individually, helping them to define internationalisation action plans and forming international support teams for their implementation. Even the unsuccessful candidates of this first phase have access to online tools to stimulate their international development and preparation for future cycles of the ACE programme. The ACE consortium, which consists of leaders in startup creation, growth and internationalisation from incubators, accelerators, clusters and living labs, has complementary skills that makes it well positioned to execute this ambitious programme with success.