Better Incubation is a project by LIAISE

EU Award for Gender Equality Champions | First Edition

This new award is the European Commission’s initiative to recognise and celebrate the outstanding results achieved in the implementation of gender equality by academic and research organisations.

The application process to this first edition of the EU Award for Gender Equality Champions is now open. Deadline for applications is 13 October 2022 at 17.00 (CET).

The EU Award for (Academic) Gender Equality Champions aims to

The prize also intends to raise public awareness of the importance of addressing gender equality in academic and research organisations through institutional change and incentivise a high degree of commitment to implementing inclusive gender equality plans.

The prize will create a community of champions which can inspire other academic and research organisations to become gender equality champions themselves.

The European Research Executive Agency (REA) manages the prize and its winners are selected by an independent expert jury for each prize category.

There are 3 prize categories:

Sustainable Gender Equality Champions | Organisations that can demonstrate a significant and sustained record of activity and a high level of achievement through the implementation of their Gender Equality Plan. Apply now

Newcomer Gender Equality Champions | Organisations that have recently started implementing a Gender Equality Plan and can demonstrate the most progress in its implementation and achieved results. Apply now

Inclusive Gender Equality Champions | Organisations that have developed the most innovative inclusive Gender Equality Plan addressing intersections with other social categories such as ethnicity, social origin, sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBTI+) or disability. Apply now

Applicants (universities, higher education institutions, and research performing organisations -public or private – established in an EU country or a Horizon Europe Associated Country) can only apply to 1 of these 3 categories.

Each prize winner will receive €100,000.

There will be 2 winners in the prize category Sustainable Gender Equality Champions, 1 winner in the prize category Newcomer Gender Equality Champions, and 1 winner in the prize category Inclusive Gender Equality Champions.

Check out all the information about the call, the eligibility and award criteria here 



If you are an entrepreneur with an innovative solution to a social or environmental challenge and you are ready to scale it nationally or internationally, join the Better Incubation Contest to grow your impact with a wide community of business intermediaries, investors and other entrepreneurs.

About the contest

Organised by the European Business and Innovation Centre Network (EBN), Impact Hub and the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA), the Better Incubation Contest 2022 | Scaling Impact aims at selecting the 3 most scalable solutions to social and environmental challenges developed by impact ventures led or founded by entrepreneurs belonging to one of the Better Incubation target groups: women, seniors, people with disabilities, migrants and refugees, youth. 

Better Incubation is a 2-year programme (2021 – 2022) funded by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation. The aim of Better Incubation is to foster inclusive and social entrepreneurship in Europe by mobilising and empowering Business Support Organisations (BSOs) to effectively help the social enterprises and potential entrepreneurs from the so called underrepresented groups to grow their businesses. Read more here.


We are looking for innovative ventures with a clear social and/or environmental mission founded/co-founded and/or led /co-led by entrepreneurs representing one (or more) of the target groups Better Incubation programme is focussing on:  women, migrants or refugees, youth, seniors and people with disabilities.

We are looking for entrepreneurs addressing one or more Sustainable Development Goals and who are willing to explore growing and scaling their innovative solution either nationally or internationally with the support of Better Incubation network of networks: a unique community of EU|BICs (quality-certified business innovation centres), Impact Hubs and Investors for Impact committed to support innovative impact ventures in Europe and beyond. 

Three selected entrepreneurs will be matched with incubation experts that will accompany their scaling trajectory through remote coaching and mentoring sessions; will benefit from a full immersion week at an EU|BIC located in the targeted destination area; and will pitch their solution to an investors panel during the Better Incubation final event that will be held in Brussels on December 2nd, 2022 within the EVPA Impact Week. This event represents the premier event for the investing for impact community in Europe with more than 700+ social investors expected to join. The contest winners will be awarded with a free ticket to join the Impact Week and will have the unique chance to pitch on stage in front of social investors to bring their venture forward. Also travel expenses to Brussels for the contest winners will be covered.

The Better Incubation scaling support has a value of approximately 7000 €, this includes 15 hours of coaching in total from all three networks EBN, Impact Hub and EVPA experts, 1 week incubation programme, travel and accommodation costs to attend the Better Incubation events and the incubation programme in the targeted destination.

Why join the contest? 

The Better Incubation scaling support is aimed at helping the three finalists:

  • Articulate the social value proposition, identifying why and how the proposed solution addresses unmet needs in the chosen location.
  • Access to appropriate sector and local experts.
  • Assess the team competencies and consider how their business model will adapt to the new environment.
  • Understand investors’ perspective so they can develop a pitch for the Better Incubation final conference in Brussels and for potential partners in the targeted destination.

The Better Incubation Contest 2022 | Scaling Impact offers to the winners:

  • Networking: Three best finalists will be exposed to a wide network of BSOs (EBN, IHUB) and investors (EVPA) interested in supporting impact driven ventures during the Better Incubation events that will take place in Slovenia, 19-20 October 2022 and Better Incubation Final Conference on 2 December 2022. 
  • Mentoring & Coaching: Three best finalists will have access to a virtual 1:1 coaching programme provided by EVPA and Impact Hub experts (15 hours in total). 
  • Scaling – full immersion week: Three best finalists will be also eligible for one-week physical incubation provided by an EBN member – business support organisation in the target country. If interested, the winners can join the 2022 EBN Techcamp powered by Better Incubation (19-20 October 2022 – Sežana, Slovenia), where they can meet the incubators that will host them in the targeted country.
  • Pitching: The three finalists will be given an opportunity to present their business ideas at the Final Conference of the Better Incubation Project to be held in Brussels, 2 December 2022 within the EVPA Impact Week. 
  • Publicity: The three finalists will receive mentions in the Better Incubation and partner networks, including press releases, posts and social media. 

Call application

Better Incubation will offer scaling up services to three selected entrepreneurs willing to grow and scale their solutions to a wider national or international level. 

The call opens on June 21st, 2022, and closes on September 1st, 2022 (23.59 CET). 


The following information is requested:

  1. General information 
  2. Applicant Information (entrepreneur and venture)
  3. Solution description 
  4. Scalability
  5. Innovation
  6. Impact
  7. Motivation and Expectations

Check this document to see how the application form is structured and the required information for each section. 

Proposal Evaluation and Selection

All proposals submitted before the deadline will pass an eligibility check (see eligibility criteria). Proposals passing the eligibility check will be assessed through a transparent evaluation process that will be managed by EBN and led by internal and external experts.

If a solution scores high enough in the assessment criteria, reaching the minimum threshold, it is eligible for the scaling programme. 

This means that:

  1. Each entry meeting the eligibility criteria will be assessed by a minimum of 2 jury members.
  2. Based on the average of Jury members’ scores, we shortlist only the solutions that reach the threshold
  3. We rank them based on the scores they received and we invite the top 5 for an online interview with the jury panel during the week commencing the 12th September 2022. 
  4. Final rank will be elaborated and we will award the best three ones.

Communication between the Better Incubation team and applicants during the application assessment process will be carried out primarily via email. It is therefore recommended that applicants notify Better Incubation if they change the email address they apply with during the application process.  

Eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible to apply and participate, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Their companies must be founded by entrepreneurs from one of the following groups: women, people with disabilities, migrants or refugees, youth (18-29) or seniors (over 50).
  • Must have a clearly established social and/or environmental mission.
  • Must be an SME, startup company or a foundation that is a legal entity (legal person) such as a private law company, association or foundation, that is fully registered under the laws of a European Union Member State, or an EaSI Progress Axis associated country.
  • The venture must be already in existence for more than 1 year.

Assessment Criteria

One the eligibility check is performed, the Jury will review and evaluate the nominations using the following criteria and scoring:

  • Solution description > This criterion will assess the proposed solution in terms of how it will address the proposed challenge, on how it will implement the proposed solution, its feasibility and the involvement of stakeholders.  (15 points)
  1. Scalability >  This criterion assesses the scalability of the proposed solution, considering both the scaling up trajectory of an already existing product/service, and the future scalability of the solution. (15 points)
  2. Innovation dimension > This criterion assesses the innovative capacity of the proposed solution. (10 points)
  3. Impact > This criterion assesses how the solution is going to generate social impact (15 points)
  4. Motivation > This criterion assesses the elevator pitch submitted by the applicant -120 seconds. (10 points)

65/65 is the max scoring. The minimum threshold for accessing the programme is 35/65.

Competition timeline 

Timetable and deadlines
Contest launch  21 June 2022 
Applications due 1 September 2022 23:59 CET
Evaluation  2 September –  23 September2022
3 Finalists announced week commencing 26 September 2022
Mentoring and Coaching  September- November 2022
Incubation (1 week)  September – November 2022

Winners can also join the “Techcamp 2022 |Better Incubation” taking place in Sezana, Slovenia the 19-20 October 2022 where they will connect with the EU|BIC that will host them in the targeted destination

Pitching session(s) 1-2 December 2022 (Better Incubation Final Event at EVPA Impact Week)

Useful information

International Conference for Sharing Best Practices: Economic and Social Integration of Refugees and Asylum Seekers through Social Entrepreneurship

The work and experience gathered through the Better Incubation Community of Practice on migrants and refugees was featured on the International Conference for Sharing Best Practices: Economic and Social Integration of Refugees and Asylum Seekers through Social Entrepreneurship, held on 10 March – 11 March 2022.

The exchange event organised by University of Bologna under the Interreg-Adrion REInSER project, brought together scholars and practitioners across Europe to discuss inspiring initiatives of refugees integration through social entrepreneurship and to enrich the debate on some of the most relevant issues surrounding this topic.

The Better Incubation project consortium (EBN, Impact Hub and EVPA) was represented by Lucia Radu from Impact Hub who shared  the main findings from the project at the Policy and Practice roundtable “Experiencing Social Entrepreneurship by/for refugees”. She introduced best practices explored by the Better Incubation and its thematic Community of Practice on how to better integrate migrants and refugees into the society through the entrepreneurship and what are the key barriers these entrepreneurs face in the process.

The key challenges include competing priorities, diversity of participants considering their backgrounds and countries of origins, language barriers, difficulties to reach the target groups and recruit them in the incubation programmes. The diverse approaches how these challenges can be addressed by the business incubators through adjusted services and support were also discussed.

Innovation for More Inclusive Urban Spaces: the Case of MiFriendly Cities

From December 2021 through April 2022, twenty business incubators from EBN and IHUB networks, working in the five thematic Communities of practice, have incubated more than 115 enterpreneurs  from under-represented communities  across 14 different European countries.

In  the upcoming weeks, the series of blogs created by Impact Hub will give you a closer look at stories of business incubators helping vulnerable entrepreneurs such as women, youth, migrants and refugees, seniors and people with disabilities to embark on their entrepreneurial journey. 


Innovation for More Inclusive Urban Spaces: the Case of MiFriendly Cities

With over 100 languages spoken daily within its borders, the West Midlands is considered to be the most diverse and heavily urbanised area in the United Kingdom, outside of London. For the same reason, it is also believed to be the second most diverse region in Europe. As one might imagine, all this diversity brings with it an untapped resource of skills and ideas.

Untapping the potential of diverse communities

In October 2017, the European Union’s Urban Innovative Actions fund awarded €4,2 million to Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton for a 3-year initiative called MiFriendly Cities. The project looked to develop innovative, community-led and sustainable approaches to enhance the contribution of refugees and migrants across the region.

In a nutshell, the aim of MiFriendly Cities was to build stronger communities and promote innovation for more inclusive urban spaces. How? By encouraging employers, health services and the wider public to come together and drive change at both city and regional level. While some of the developed activities were tailored to specific groups, the overall programme involved a broad range of residents in the region, including the ones who define themselves as ‘migrants’.

In the context of the Better Incubation’s Communities of Practice targeted at understanding migrants’ challenges to entrepreneurship and leveraging learnings from successful inclusive experiences, MiFriendly Cities was appointed as an inspiring best practice that supports vulnerable entrepreneurs in the European region. Promoted by Impact Hub along with partners, Better Incubation is an Europe-based initiative dedicated to achieving systemic change through enhancing Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and tools towards a more diverse entrepreneurship environment.

MiFriendly Cities: Approach and Methodology

To reach their goal, the innovative programme of activities delivered by MiFriendly Cities focused on five main themes. For the first one – jobs -, a network called ‘Migration Friendly Employers’ was created. The Network’s aim was mainly centered in strengthening the workforce of the West Midlands by creating a robust infrastructure which offers ongoing support and increases contact between communities in the workplace.

The second axis, skills, aimed at identifying skills gaps in the region and creating pathways towards further education and employment opportunities for refugees and migrants. They put together an innovative training programme that could benefit all communities and acknowledged the region’s aspirations to become the centre for advanced manufacturing in Europe.

Similarly, by supporting local and refugee and migrant entrepreneurs to start new businesses, MiFriendly Cities hoped to expand job opportunities and strengthen the wider economy. The region also faces many social challenges – in areas such as housing and healthcare – they wanted to meet these challenges by nurturing and funding creative grassroots projects, which are aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone.


By combining these three fields of action, the project envisioned to empower refugees and migrants to aid in driving the economic success of the region by creating new job and work placement opportunities, engaging with employers about hiring from within this community, and highlighting the skills and passion of everyone in our cities.

Additionally, MiFriendly Cities also focused on supporting refugees and migrants active participation in the civil society and encouraging them to use their voices – to spread a message, share a story, or simply to get to know other people in their city. To build the confidence to do so, the migrants’ comprehension of their legal, civil and political rights was considered an important factor for the program as well.

Finally, by promoting the values and knowledge of effective community building and encouraging innovation for more inclusive urban spaces, the project looked to invest in the future of the region, and inspire cities across Europe to also become the MiFriendly Cities of the future.

Highlights from the wrap up 

By the end of 2020, MiFriendly Cities had invested €80,000 in migrant social entrepreneurs, 28 projects were pitched for seed funding and 16 social enterprises were registered as businesses. If that was not good enough, with support of the programme, an initial of 45 jobs were created, more than 40 migrants and refugees were trained, and 2,361 beneficiaries were supported. To date, 44% of the involved social enterprises have been able to adapt and continue throughout the lockdown with many more planning for an uncertain future.

Author of this post: Impact Hub 

Better Incubation Inclusive Entrepreneurship Workshop Series

Discover how to make your incubation services more inclusive and supportive of entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups.

The transition to an inclusive and green economy is gaining momentum. To build a better future, one that’s good for people and the planet, we need better business. Now is the time to bring your services closer to the whole of society.

If you have responsibility for designing and implementing entrepreneur incubation services or support programs, this curated series of online events will help you identify ways to modify your offerings for people from groups underrepresented in the enterprise sector.

Come together with practitioners, social entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and leading impact sector organisations to be:

  • Inspired by a range of best practices and insights related to specific underrepresented groups
  • Connected with like-minded peers, with whom you can learn from and collaborate with
  • Enabled to modify your services with knowledge and methodologies you can implement your teams

We start the workshop series with an exploration of common cultural and structural barriers facing groups underrepresented in the enterprise sector, taking a more intersectional perspective before moving on to deep dives on specific groups, offering inspiration and guidance based on actions and methodologies already successfully implemented on the ground across Europe, to support implementation of inclusive practice.

Introduction to Inclusive Entrepreneurship Inclusive Entrepreneurship Deep Dives 
Migrants and refugees Women Youth Seniors People with disabilities
29 March 20 April 10 May 31 May 22 June 12 July
10am-12pm CET 10am-12.30pm CET 10am-12.30pm CET 10am-12.30pm CET 10am-12.30pm CET 10am-12.30pm CET


Who should you expect?

Introduction to Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Join a panel of impact sector leaders to explore cross-cutting barriers to underrepresented groups in the enterprise sector, and participate in a discussion about what has been and can be done to change things for the better and to create a just and inclusive economy. You will also connect with and learn from peers from other business support organisations.

Panel: Max Bulakovskiy, Policy Analyst, OECD; Tatiana Glad, Executive Director, Impact Hub Network; Shannon Pfohman, Policy & Advocacy Director, Caritas Europa.

Inclusive Entrepreneurship Deep Dives

The next five workshops will each focus on a specific underrepresented group – Migrants & refugees; Women; Youth; Seniors; People with disabilities. Each workshop will create a safe and supportive space to offer inspiration and guidance for business support organisations, based on actions and methodologies already successfully implemented on the ground across Europe, to support implementation of inclusive practice.

You will learn from subject matter experts, social entrepreneurs with lived experiences of the challenges being explored, and business support organisations leading the way in developing and delivering inclusive incubation services. Line-ups for each workshop will be announced soon.


Who is this workshop series for?

These workshops are designed to support people with responsibility for designing and implementing entrepreneur incubation services or support programs, for example program or service managers.  If you work for an organisation that provides business support to entrepreneurs, and you are interested in how you can develop new or modify existing services to make them more inclusive, then these workshops are for you!

There will be a range of experience in the room, from people with years of experience supporting people from underrepresented groups to grow their businesses, to people who are only just starting to think about how they can make their offerings more inclusive of social entrepreneurs and people from underrepresented groups. Some may be building a service from scratch while others will be modifying existing programmes. 

Please note that the workshop content is based on European practice, perspectives and knowledge. However, if you work for a business support organisation operating outside of Europe, you are still very much welcome to participate and hopefully find value in the space created.


What is Better Incubation?

Better Incubation is a 2-year programme (2021 – 2023) funded by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation, and is led by three network organisations: The European Business and Innovation Centre Network, Impact Hub and the European Venture Philanthropy Association.

The aim of Better Incubation is to foster inclusive and social entrepreneurship in Europe by mobilising and empowering Business Support Organisations (BSOs) with capacities to effectively help the social enterprises and potential entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups to grow their businesses. Read more here.


How can you participate?

Please sign up here for as many sessions as you wish!

After completing the sign up for, you will receive joining details enabling you to register for the workshops that are of interest to you. 

If you have any questions about this workshop series please reach out to:

Collection of Best Practices in Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Programmes published

Better Incubation: Collection of Best Practices in Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Programmes features 10 case studies from Impact Hub, EBN and other partner organisations to showcase different programmatic approaches on how to support vulnerable entrepreneurs.

The document took inspiration from the work carried out by the Better Incubation Communities of practice through the process of collecting the best practices, tools and resources related to each of the five target groups – women, migrants and refugees, youth, seniors and people with disabilities.

Our aspiration is to offer some practical insights for business support organisations, NGOs, local/national policymakers, funders and other stakeholders, to be applied in the design and implementation of inclusive incubation and support programmes, strategies and policies.

Collection of Best Practices in Inclusive Entrepreneurship




Invitation to participate in the online survey on entrepreneurship incubation

The University of Bologna would like to invite practitioners, coaches, mentors and programme managers working with the incubation programmes across Europe, especially in Italy, France, and the Netherlands to share their experience and feedback regarding services/competences to serve entrepreneurs.

You are invited to provide your input through the online survey available at TAKE THE SURVEY.

The survey is conducted within a European project called MIG.EN.CUBE – fostering MIGrant ENtrepreneurship inCUBation in Europe, aiming at understanding the approaches and methodologies that work best in serving migrant entrepreneurs and the gaps in the competences in incubators/accelerators in this area of expertise.

Better Incubation Communities of Practice / Sandilya: Building the Pillars for Migrants Inclusion Through Social Innovation

How to make the field of entrepreneurship more inclusive to groups that have been historically and systematically left behind, namely migrants and refugees, people with disability, seniors, women and youth? Together with members of the European Business & Innovation Centre Network (EBN), the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) and Caritas organizations, Impact Hub gathered experts and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups in a series of virtual working sessions – Communities of Practice – to debate, exchange, investigate, plan, prototype and evaluate the activities in the field of inclusive entrepreneurship.

Throughout our Better Incubation working sessions, we were inspired to delve deeper into the participants’ diverse stories and to learn more about the “whats”, “whys” and “hows” behind their efforts to build inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems. One of the entrepreneurs who greatly sparked our curiosity was Hrishabh Sandilya.

Sandilya considers himself to be “a multipotentialite and systems-thinker” and is committed to a more resilient future, where there’s social, climate and gender justice for all. Premised on the pillars of sustainability, economic empowerment through entrepreneurship and socio-cultural integration, Sandilya’s incredible work at Project Phoenix is dedicated to providing social innovation training for refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers on European grounds.

Besides founding and leading Project Phoenix on the ground in Nicosia, Cyprus capital, he is also responsible for mentoring Project Phoenix’s fellows and volunteers. To learn more about Sandilya’s background, his journey and his plans to keep impacting the world in a positive and lasting way, check our conversation below:

Q: To get us started, how would you describe yourself in 3 words? 

A: I’d describe myself as a neophile who challenges existing systems.

Q: We definitely need more systems’ challengers like you to keep changing our world for the better. And talking about making this world a better place, what’s your purpose, both in the professional and personal spheres? How do you believe them to be aligned? 

Personally, I want to see a more just and equitable world, where we are more in sync with each other and nature, and a high level of trust within society. Professionally, I want to work towards that goal, specifically in the migrant-inclusion space, through systemic and sustainable solutions,  harnessing the power of social innovation.

Q: In getting acquainted with your work, when preparing for this interview, it seems to us that you’re doing a great job in making your purposes real and tangible with Project Phoenix. Could you tell us more about it? Why does it exist and how did it start? 

Project Phoenix is a migrant-led European NGO and social enterprise dedicated to systemic change of the inclusion ecosystem. It was founded by my colleague Michael Goecken in Belgium and I joined him as a Co-Founder and moved to Cyprus to set it up in mid-2019.

We are currently running a pilot project in Cyprus, where our programming involves an intensive fellowship program focused on entrepreneurship and skills development, the creation of innovative partnerships with other civil society groups for collective action, and solutions-based research and advocacy pillar that aims to influence policy for systems change.

Q: That’s amazing! When looking back on this inspiring two-year journey, what recent achievements with Project Phoenix would you say to be most proud of? 

A: There’s been a few, but the most satisfying ones involve co-creating with our fellows, empowering them and giving them agency. Helping our fellow Laetitia Tchakoute to launch her clothing label Aphrogee, has been a success we keep celebrating, as it goes from one strength to another.

Other recent big wins include finishing a transdisciplinary research study on the impact of COVID-19 on refugees in Cyprus and multiple iterations of online professional English skills and mentoring program for asylum seekers in Cyprus, led by ELT professionals in India.


Q: That’s very fruitful for such a short period of time, especially considering that the COVID-19 pandemic was taking place for most of it (and still is). Considering all that, what do you think were the biggest forces and drivers of your perseverance and success? 

A: The biggest drivers of our success have definitely been our incredible fellows, staff and volunteers (and extended network of partners, mentors and advisors). Without them, we wouldn’t exist!

As a new organisation, we’ve struggled for funding our entire existence (especially through the pandemic), but they’ve made it possible through their hard work, substituting funds for passion and skills. This has allowed us to have an outsized impact that many better-funded and better-staffed organisations would have failed to have.

Q: In the end, it’s been all about a resilient community driven by a common purpose. Now, when you look ahead, what are Project Phoenix’s goals for the upcoming year? What impact do you aim to make? 

A: Our goal over the next 12 months is to launch Constellation! our refugee social innovation lab in Nicosia, accelerate a few more fellow businesses and further the conversation in Cyprus on addressing migrant inclusion systemically – based on our research and experience with innovation.

Q: This systemic vision you have is really very important to generate real, sustainable and lasting social change. We wish you all the best in these next steps! And on the topic of next steps, we all know that entrepreneurship requires courage. What is courage to you? 

A: Courage, as an entrepreneur, is not losing that self-belief that led you to take that step in the first place. It involves trusting your instinct by doubling down on it through hard work when things don’t seem to be turning out the way they should.

Q: We couldn’t agree more with your words. Thank you very much for sharing your inspirational story and thoughts with us! To end this conversation on a high note, would you like to share what was your key takeaway from the first Community of Practice session? 

A: My key takeaway was that there are so many other great initiatives and allies out there doing the same important work. Connecting to them for inspiration and building on a vision together is what excites me about our Community of Practice.

Picture description: Hrishabh Sandilya and Laetitia Tchakoute at the launch of her clothing label Aphrogee.

Follow Hrishabh Sandilya and his impactful work at Project Phoenix on LinkedInInstagramFacebook or Twitter.

Author: ImpactHub, 

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