SMEs with revenues below €50 million from Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia can apply on the XbyAscendis website between 1 February and 28 February 2022. More than 100 SMEs are expected to apply to IncubatorX SME, out of which up to 20 companies will be selected. The selected companies will work on their ideas together with Ascendis innovation experts.

The selected SMEs will need to assign a dedicated team from their company to work with Ascendis consultants and other entrepreneurs throughout the duration of the programme in order to develop an innovative solution with direct impact on their business.

The programme consists of 3 phases and will officially start on 15 March 2022. The programme language is English. In the first phase, selected teams will speak to successful entrepreneurs and visit their companies (virtually or, if the epidemiological context allows, in person). In the second phase, teams will participate in facilitated workshops and a hackathon, where they will learn to validate their business idea, build a viable business plan and prepare for incubation.

The third phase, incubation, will incorporate 5 to 7 teams and will run for 16 weeks, during which teams will continue to work on their business idea and will benefit from mentoring, workshops, and project management support. The result of their work should be a viable product ready for launch at the end of the programme. Access to the incubation phase is based on jury selection.

Participation in the first two stages is free of charge and the third stage requires a participation fee of €784. The low cost of participation in the programme is made possible by funding provided by the European Union under Horizon 2020. The EBRD and the European Union launched a funding framework in 2019 that supports investment in research and innovation by SMEs in Romania, including by facilitating access to advice.

Mark Davis, EBRD Regional Director for Romania and Bulgaria, said: «Over the past 3 years, together with the European Union, the EBRD has supported over 50 advisory projects that have helped innovative companies in Romania to grow their business and become more competitive. Now we want to expand this support by offering companies in Romania and the region access to new instruments that stimulate innovation.»

"In recent years we have proven that innovation can also start in Romania. We've learned a lot along the way, and we want to teach other companies how to turn the region's native creativity into innovation, into new products and services. Within the programme we will teach SMEs to create first versions of innovative products or services", says Cornel Amariei, CEO & founder of .lumen and Ascendis consultant.