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Enterprise Europe Network and REACH and CLP
The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) involves nearly 600 organisations in 52 countries and is co-financed by the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme to provide both legal advice and business support to small companies. It is therefore a natural partner for ECHA's and the national competent authorities' outreach to downstream users and companies beyond the chemical sector. Closer cooperation with the Network is one of the measures to support small and medium sized companies (SMEs) outlined in the five year review of REACH.
ECHA takes part in the annual conferences of the Enterprise Europe Network, which review and award the best achievements of its members in providing support to SMEs. The services to help clients comply with EU legislation were in the spotlight of the latest meeting during the Cypriot Presidency in Paphos - with more than 650 delegates representing the Network.
ECHA organised a dedicated session which provided a platform to promote good practice among Network members in helping small companies to comply with REACH and CLP. Italy's example presented in this session encouraged other Network members to join in for a REACH and CLP network within the Enterprise Europe Network.
Matching legal requirements with business needs
Thanks to the Enterprise Europe Network companies can turn directly to their local chamber of industry or regional development agency for an update on the EU legislation that affects their business; get support to identify new business opportunities; and access EU funding or commercialise new technologies.
This integrated service can also help them turn legal obligations into business opportunities when it comes to the substitution of hazardous chemicals.
To tailor the services better to the needs of their clients, the Network partners in regions with a strong chemicals industry developed their own expertise on REACH and CLP and integrated this with other business support services.
In the French region of Lorraine, for example, client firms can use a free tool for compliance check of innovative products, which includes an assessment for REACH compliance.
When companies come up with questions on how to comply with REACH and CLP, the members of the Network signpost each other to draw on the best available expertise. It is only in France and in Italy so far that EEN partners developed direct co-operation with the national helpdesks.
|Paolo Guazzotti from Italy presented a new partnership between the national REACH and CLP helpdesk and the Italian Enterprise Europe Network. Image: Paolo Guazzotti.|
Going local - an example from Italy
"Our cooperation started a bit more than a year ago when the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, managing the national REACH Helpdesk invited us to join the REACH 2013 campaign," explains Paolo Guazzotti from Confindustria Piemonte.
"It was immediately clear that this provides a win-win opportunity for both sides: the national helpdesk, which operates from the capital, could reach out to local companies and provide a more widespread assistance, while colleagues from the EEN who assist companies could improve their knowledge and expertise on REACH and the quality of the services they provide locally".
He says that it was only a matter of a few months to sign a cooperation agreement, to have the EEN staff trained and to launch the territorial information desks (Sportelli Informativi Territoriali), which came into existence as a result of this cooperation.
The new local information desks cover the whole of Italy. They are managed by eight organisations representing all partners involved in the Italian EEN. This means 55 access points for companies through chambers of commerce, industry associations, regional agencies and other organisations fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.
To tailor the services to the needs of companies, the Ministry trained EEN staff on topics of direct relevance to SMEs, including SIEFs, cost sharing and registration fees, communication in the supply chain and the role of downstream users, substitution and authorisation, substances in articles, information sources at ECHA and more. Under the agreement, the Ministry offers training, updates and information material, which is distributed locally. The information desks provide first hand assistance and direct companies in need of more thorough legal advice to the national helpdesk. They also integrate REACH into their business support services, including technology audits and the substitution of hazardous substances.
This cooperation underpins the core services of the partners, so there are no additional costs for any of them.
"The EEN is led by the principle that when dealing with SMEs, no door is a wrong door," says Antonello Lapalorcia, Director of Industrial Policy and Competitiveness in the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, who initiated this cooperation.
According to him the setting up of local information desks is a good way to draw companies' attention to the importance of REACH and help them more easily discover what's in it for them.
Paolo Guazzotti speaks of another important gain for the Enterprise Europe Network: "The cooperation agreement had a good coverage in the national press and after reading about this new service, new client companies got in touch with us. These are companies that we may not have been able to reach otherwise."
For just more than a year, around 100 companies from all over Italy have been able to benefit from the new service – through events, expert meetings and individual services such as company visits, conformity checks and audits. In some cases, trained EEN staff from different regions worked together to assist companies in making contact with suppliers or production plants across regional or national borders.
"Having people trained together was a very effective way to create a cohesive group of motivated staff, for the ultimate benefit of companies," says Mr Guazzotti.
"We also facilitated good information exchange between local companies and local inspectors, ultimately making sure that the common goal is clear – having SMEs perform at their best, in a highly competitive environment," he concludes.
Client companies of Enterprise Europe Network are not always aware of the national REACH and CLP Helpdesks. A small chemical company in the Greek region of Thessaloniki turned to the local chamber of commerce seeking help to comply with CLP. "The EEN-Hellas staff (of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece) really helped to make the whole process run very smoothly and quickly," says Elena Palaiologou, a product manager in Macedonian Chemicals. This only confirms that the 'no wrong door principle' can be extended to other countries.
Text and interviews by Virginia Mercouri
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