Engaging with the European Union after Brexit?

There are untapped benefits to be discovered so it is good to find out more – especially during uncertain times.

By Angele Giuliano, MD, AcrossLimits.

The EU will not come to you. It is up to you to reach out to them! If your clients or management are complaining about income or slow development (isn’t everyone?), you may well be able to propose an EU solution. Imagine how popular you could be if you enabled project growth? One phone call or email can make a difference.

EU can promote company growth – Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

When I give talks about the European Union, I normally see a variety of expressions on people’s faces – maybe some reflective of an unconscious bias: bored, angry, lost, blank.

The ‘happy and interested’ expression is not really the norm even though those who do engage can be positively transformed by the end of the discussion and taking. The saying ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’, speaks for itself. Moreover, there are many opportunities that help outside companies and organisations grow within the EU.

For many, the EU has always felt distant and unreachable, and Brexit helped cement the misconception that any benefits the EU might have offered UK organisations is now just a dream of the past.

Even before Brexit, most organisations, companies, SMEs, entrepreneurs, and countries would only hear about what the EU does through the filters of national media or local politicians, and this invariably paints an often bleak and bureaucratic vision which is far from reality. The truth is that the EU remains an untapped cornucopia of opportunities waiting to be exploited, and many of these benefits are still open to the UK, the only catch is that one needs to know where to look.

EU is open to engagement

Unfortunately, most organisations, public and private, fail to even try to engage with the European Union, believing that this will be an impossible feat. However, in over 20 years of working alongside the EU, I can personally and professionally vouch that the people working in these institutions are approachable, knowledgeable, and most importantly, open to engagement.

UK organisations have long been a staple of many collaborative efforts in the EU, and Brexit has not changed the willingness of many within Europe to continue working together wherever possible.

EU can be easy and beneficial

Part of my work, as a European ‘evangelist’ (as I have been called recently!) is to enable growth for SMEs, projects, consultants, organisations, and corporates.

Sometimes this takes the form of developing towns and villages on the edges of Europe to really start engaging with Brussels, and to get all the opportunities they can to help them grow economically and socially.

There are a lot of really great things happening but many of these are on an ‘opt in’ or ‘get in touch’ basis, and therefore require some effort on one’s part. However, it is not difficult to learn, and in my personal experience, once you start on this journey, then you realise how easy and beneficial it is to engage with the EU and you ask yourself ‘Why didn’t we do it before?’

Here is a short list of what the EU offers

1: Sales through Procurement Opportunities — every day the EU Official Journal publishes almost a thousand tenders for anything ranging from hospital equipment to foodstuffs. While many are open only to EU registered companies, through partnering up with the right consortia, these tendering opportunities can be accessible to UK companies as well — and yes, those are direct sales.

2: Business Partnerships and Networking – there are 27 great EU countries where you can find other businesses that want to partner and work together with you. There are also EU entities that help companies to find each other and work together — like the European Enterprise Network, which is open to UK organisations.

3: Open Markets — the ability to promote your company and products to all different EU markets by engaging with the different European entities that work both from the bottom up (like the Council of Regions) and top down (like different portals created by the European Commission) where it is possible to list your company.

4: First Mover Advantage — Take advantage of new upcoming directives and initiatives being created by the European Union and realigning your company’s business model to take advantage of that (like GDPR, Digital Single Market, Green New Deal, European Innovation Council etc). Adapting early to any changes in Europe can enable your company to exploit the potential of any emerging market opportunities, making your organisation more attractive for export deals and building meaningful business relations with any of the 27 member states.

5: Financial Support to business and product development — there are different grants (yes, funding finally!) that help you build and improve your product and service offerings, especially if research is still needed before a product or service is ready for market. The UK remains eligible for several funding programmes including Horizon Europe, the new €95.5 billion research, and innovation programme. Other funding opportunities that remain open to the UK include the Eureka programmes, Copernicus, and others.

Opportunities after Brexit

Clearly, whether it’s through direct sales from tendering, building business relations and partnerships in Europe, or securing funding through the many programmes still open to the UK, the road to the many potential benefits offered by the EU remains wide open to British organisations. One need only to make the effort to walk down that road, and where necessary to ask for help in navigating it.

Connect with the EU

Sadly, most of these opportunities are not taken up by many local entities within the EU, let alone in the UK. Connecting with the EU can bring potential growth and it must start with you reaching out to the EU rather than waiting for information to trickle down. It stands to reason that your competitors can race ahead with EU funding.

How to engage with the EU?

If you are motivated to learn what is happening, then there are a million open online sources to consult, direct from the horse’s mouth. All the EU bodies must publish what they are doing openly, so there will be information on a variety of websites, on Youtube channels, on Twitter etc. Start from www.europa.eu if you do not know where to go, or contact me for help.

Expand your potential and increase your opportunities; start engaging with the EU and with Europe today.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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