Enterprise Europe Network

Small firm lights the way with EU funding

Guided by the Enterprise Europe Network, Ozara led an EU-funded pilot training project for disabled individuals in the ceramics sector.

Pottery

Through the ACTrain project, Ozara and its European partners developed more than 40 computer-based lessons on designing pottery. The training was aimed at individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, as well as blind and partially sighted. Lessons included audio descriptions and interactive videos featuring subtitles or sign-language interpretation.

In its search for funding Ozara turned to the Enterprise Europe Network, based in the Chamber of Craft and Small Business in Ljubljana. With more than 3000 experts on the ground in more than 50 countries, the Network is ideally placed to help small businesses tap into EU funding programmes and connect them with the right partners.

"Ozara wanted to develop innovative ICT basic training in ceramic design for people with sensory impairments," says Network expert Larisa Vodeb. "Learners would just need a computer, and no additional hardware or software, so the solution could be rolled out worldwide. Unfortunately, the client's earlier applications for EU funding for this idea had proved unsuccessful."

After identifying the EU's Leonardo da Vinci programme as the right one for Ozara, Network expert Larisa Vodeb helped the company identify potential partners. She also put together a proposal that included a logo framework and project title.

"Throughout the process and calling on her experience with similar EU projects, Larisa gave us practical advice, tips and suggestions," notes Alen Kočivnik, Ozara's managing director. "She was available to us all the time, and even the last Sunday before deadline we spent the whole day fine-tuning the text and preparing the budget."

The hard work paid off. Six months after submitting the new application, Ozara received a green light to launch its project. ACTrain ran successfully from 2010 to 2013.

"For the first time, our company was able to lead a European project with partners in Greece, Italy and Austria, thanks to the Enterprise Europe Network," Kočivnik says with pride. He adds that Larisa also helped the company in the process of drafting the project's interim and final reports.

It is hoped that the ACTrain training programme will be made available to disabled people worldwide via any computer. "This project demonstrates the huge and hidden potential of people who are not as fortunate as most of us are in terms of health," says Vodeb. "It is truly inspiring to see what disabled people can achieve if they receive just a tiny bit of understanding and support."

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