ECONOMY

ASOEE leads drive to promote entrepreneurship in Greece

«If you try to explain to an American how the value added tax system works in the European Union, he/she will understand why entrepreneurship is not doing well in Europe,» the European Commission said in its recent «Green Paper on Entrepreneurship in Europe,» intended to kick-start a public dialogue. The first of the 10 suggestions it puts forward is the simplification and harmonization of procedures and rules for starting a new business. The Green Paper makes no bones about it: The EU must look to the USA as a model for improving entrepreneurship. It repeatedly notes that training is wanting in this respect; even if someone is a «born» businessman, they need training and guidance throughout, both at the start and later to ensure the survival of the business, the paper contends. In Greece, the effort behind the promotion of entrepreneurship has been mainly undertaken by the Athens University of Economics and Business (ASOEE). In fact, the institution has a long tradition in the subject, which is taught at both undergraduate and graduate level by professors Spyros Lioukas and Iordanis Ladopoulos. Their colleague, Grigoris Prastakos, directs the Graduate Program in Entrepreneurship, which is unique in Greece. The department also regularly organizes seminars and other activities to promote the subject. After the Education Ministry launched a competition for students in entrepreneurship, the ASOEE set up a nationwide network to promote the award-winning schemes, but which was also aimed at serving as a basis for cultivating innovative and pioneering entrepreneurial ideas and schemes as well as promoting business initiatives among young people. The network is comprised of 18 academic establishments and a number of agencies, such as the Federation of Greek Industries, the General Secretariat for Youth, the Organization for Vocational Education and Training and the Entrepreneurship Club. It also includes prominent business leaders who offer their services free. Other participants are agencies and individuals with special knowhow in the main sectors of economic activity. Professor Prastakos told Kathimerini the network is «a unique forum for cooperation,» extending throughout Greece. But ASOEE further targets the networking of academic establishments (universities, technical colleges and vocational schools), which «is lacking today. «Education in such issues is relatively recent throughout Europe,» says Prastakos. «For this reason, the development of training material, such as case studies, is still at an early stage. The network we have set up will be able to create and share materials and infrastructure throughout the country on all levels of education. It will also create channels for the exchange of entrepreneurial knowhow and encourage the linking of basic research with production. The project also targets support for business initiatives at local level and for this reason the network includes municipal authorities. «The ASOEE’s graduate entrepreneurship program – one of the five options in its graduate program in the decision-making sciences – taps innovative practices drawn from international experience. It is currently planning a series of seminars by visiting professors from the USA, with Thomas Schwartz speaking on ‘Entrepreneurship: From Creativity and Innovation to Business Strategy,’ George Vozikis on ‘Management of Family Enterprises’ and Haralambos Vlahoutsikos lecturing on ‘The Development of Entrepreneurial Activity in the Balkan and Black Sea Region.’ Also, ASOEE’s Management Science Laboratory is participating in an international scheme aimed at fostering research contacts and creating a best practice center in the field of entrepreneurship; one of its important targets is the diffusion of knowledge from academic institutions to enterprises,’ says Prastakos.