EU funding helped German firm CRM float new ideas, thanks to the Enterprise Europe Network.
There are beauty secrets hidden in seaweed, according to Dr Peter Krost. The biologist set up his CRM company in Kiel, a small German town on the edge of the Baltic Sea. He and his partner Dr Levent Piker grow organic algae and use their extracts in cosmetic products.
"We wanted to develop a method of aquaculture that was environmentally friendly but which could also result in good quality, marketable goods," Dr Krost explains. But even though the cultivated seaweed is completely organic they could not be labelled as such.
To fill this gap, CRM launched a project to develop a method to create ecological certification for products from organic aquaculture.
CRM wanted to apply for funding for this idea under the EU's environment fund, the Life+ programme. But preparing a proposal, finding suitable partners and dealing with the paperwork was daunting for a small business with just 12 employees.
The company found a lifeline in its local Enterprise Europe Network branch, based in Kiel's Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein (IB.SH), which provides SMEs with a range of support services including, for example, advice and information on EU funding, R&D programmes and the EU Single Market; support for project application and implementation and advice on how to boost SME innovation capabilities.
With regard to CRM, network experts Cornelia Pankratz and Annegret Meyer-Kock advised on the company's funding application and helped secure local co-funding. To Dr Krost's delight, CRM's proposal was successful. The resulting project, ECOSMA, has since implemented a process for the ecological certification of products from sustainable and organic aquaculture. The project was recognised as one of the best LIFE+ projects at the European Commission's Green Week 2013.
And, CRM's success continues. IB.SH is currently advising the company on the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. As a result of this support, CRM is currently planning a proposal in 'Blue Growth', which concerns marine and maritime research.
Word-of-mouth marketing helps to promote the benefits that the IB.SH brings to SMEs and by default, also demonstrates the added value of the Enterprise Europe Network. In the case of CRM, Network expert, Mareike Siewert says that "Our clients are our best advocates. CRM, with its successful application and project, will share its experience and thus encourage other regional enterprises to apply for EU funding." In this way, the Enterprise Europe Network, and those it serves, is going from strength to strength.