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Elisabeth Köstinger, AT

MEP

The sea 2011 honours outstanding sustainable entrepreneurial projects. How do you see this initiative – and what does sustainable entrepreneurship mean to you personally?

The sea is a unique and noteworthy project. The award underlines the importance of sustainability and innovation in entrepreneurial thought and action, as well as the fact that these two concepts not only complement each other, but are also highly compatible.
However, sustainable entrepreneurship does not only entail simple, short-term reactions; instead, it requires long-term, structural action and thinking on several levels. It’s not about implementing existing ideas, but about forging new paths, setting a progressive course and actively participating in shaping the future.

Politics, industry, society – who should be driving force for the development of sustainable entrepreneurship, especially in the European context?

There is no single driving force. Rather, it is the cooperation between politics, industry and society that pushes sustainable entrepreneurship. The concept of sustainable action and thought originates in society, is developed further in politics and industry, and manifests itself. The same applies at the European level. The European Parliament – the chamber of the people at EU level – has passed countless resolutions in favour of sustainable entrepreneurship and will continue to do so.

What is being done at the EU level to ensure that sustainable entrepreneurship gets more attention? To what extent can you personally make a contribution?

With small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as its main target, the EU’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) supports innovation activities, provides better access to finance and delivers business support services. The CIP runs from 2007 to 2013 with an overall budget of 3.6 billion euros, which also benefit sustainable entrepreneurship. Further, the seventh research framework programme is promoting the development of SMEs. 1.3 billion euros have been allocated to this area – especially research – with the aim of providing support to European SMEs with regard to their competitiveness, innovation and sustainability.
In order to ensure the continued financing of these support programmes, the MEPs negotiate an increase in the EU budget every year with the member states. The budget for 2012 will see an increase of almost two percent. This money goes directly into the support programmes.

And lastly, a personal question: Which is the most memorable SE project you’ve ever heard of – and why?

Much emphasis is placed on sustainability and innovation in the agricultural sector. One prime example is the innovation prize of the young farming community of Austria (Österreichische Jungbauernschaft – Bauernbund Jugend), which encourages this approach. Money prizes are awarded to the most innovative and sustainable projects in various categories such as the renewable energy category. Last year this prize went to an organic vegetable farmer who produces the power for his entire business by means of his own compost biogas plant. He produces 680,000kW annually for the heating of his greenhouses. And the whole region benefits from this, as he purchases 90 percent of the material he needs in the region.