19 June 2018

The FIRES research project has filled the toolbox for a more entrepreneurial Europe

FIRES project logo

In seven steps, Europe can become more entrepreneurial. A scientific method, to be adapted for different regions, is the most important result of the FIRES project, which economist Mark Sanders, of Utrecht University, has led.

At the request of the European Union, a group of researchers from Utrecht University and from, among others, Belgium, Hungary, Sweden and Italy have studied entrepreneurship in Europe. How can countries or regions ensure that they create a more entrepreneurial society and that this is done in an inclusive, innovative and sustainable way? 

The abbreviation FIRES stands for "Financial and Institutional Reform for the Entrepreneurial Society". For three years and with 2.5 million subsidies from the EU, the research group carried out economic, historical, geographical and policy research in order to come up with concrete proposals.

The 7 step plan is summarised in this video
The FIRES-project introduces its seven step procedure for boosting an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

To arrive at this method, empirical research was done in different countries and stakeholder groups were involved. There are "policy briefs" written for different countries and on various topics like labour mobility, venture capital, knowledge creation and social entrepreneurship.

According to economist Mark Sanders, who initiated the project, Europe is "ready for a new narrative". Not only because of emerging competition from China and East Asia, but also to offer residents opportunities to develop themselves and to build a more inclusive society.

Economist Mark Sanders (Utrecht University) on the findings of the FIRES project
Mark Sanders (Utrecht University) initiated and led FIRES: Financial and Institutional Reforms to build an Entrepreneurial Society.

For Sanders it was the first time that he led a European research project of this caliber. What did it bring to Utrecht University? And which lessons will he take with him in his future work?

"This project brought to Utrecht yet another successfully coordinated and managed H2020 project. Content wise this project has greatly contributed to the further development of the research on entrepreneurship in general and the development of practical assessment tools for evaluating and monitoring the quality of entrepreneurial ecosystems specifically. The FIRES-project also nicely aligned with the Strategic Research Theme of Institutions for Open Societies as it drew inspiration from Karl Popper’s work from the outset."

Real World Research

De tijdlijn van FIRES
The timeline of the three-year FIRES project

"And finally, the FIRES-project was an exercise in multidisciplinary and real world research involving already researchers from three Utrecht faculties: history (Humanities), Geosciences and Law, Economics and Governance. The experiences in setting up such a multidisciplinary consortium built around a core of Utrecht University researchers can be a template for future projects initiated from the recently formed hubs in all strategic themes. Moreover, The FIRES-project has contributed to Utrecht University's reputation, also in Brussels, to being able to manage complex projects successfully. Utrecht University boasts excellent research and researchers, but also excellent and capable support staff that has helped to make the FIRES-project in the words of the Commission: "the best managed project they have seen in a long time".  

I hope that this group of researchers will continue to work together on future projects
Mike Robinson
Michael Robinson
Research Support Officer, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance

Mike Robinson and Martina Chýlková from the Research Support Office of the LEG Faculty have also done a lot of work for FIRES. Robinson: "Part of our roles is to project manage H2020 awards. FIRES was one of those. It was an incredibly well run project bringing together a diverse group of partners across Europe. Working with this group was a genuine pleasure and is reflective of the excellent leadership of the consortium by the Project lead, Mark Sanders. The project has been a huge success and it is my hope that this group of researchers continue to work together on future projects."


Considering Culture and History

There is no single recipe for more prosperity in Europe, emphasizes Erik Stam, Professor of Strategy, Organisation and Entrepreneurship, who led a group of FIRES scholars, exploring entrepreneurial ecosystems. Many places in Europe have their own strengths and pitfalls and we have to take into account the history and culture of regions.

Erik Stam, Professor of Strategy, organisation and entrepreneurship (Utrecht University) on FIRES
Erik Stam, together with colleagues, studied “entrepreneurial ecosystems” for the FIRES project.

Both Sanders and Stam emphasise that the real work is only just starting. The toolbox is filled and ready, policy makers must now use it.

The following resarchers from Utrecht University have worked on FIRES:

  • Niels Bosma (LEG)
  • Jeroen Content (LEG)
  • Selin Dilli (HUM)
  • Koen Frenken (GEO)
  • Lukas Held (GEO)
  • Andrea Hermann (GEO)
  • Jacob Jordaan (LEG)
  • Werner Liebregts (LEG)
  • Mark Sanders (LEG)
  • Hans Schenk (LEG)
  • Erik Stam (LEG)
  • Rens van Tilburg (LEG)
  • Gerarda Westerhuis (HUM)