As we approach the end of the first two years of the Data Set project, I want to take the opportunity to reflect on the journey that we’ve been on and what we have accomplished.


Back in 2018, a group of partners from across Europe came together and submitted an application to the EU Erasmus+ programme for funds to deliver the Data Set project. Having considered the EU’s commitment to the digitalization of the economy, where it is stated that “data-driven business models are the engine of Europe’s growth, industrial transformation and job creation”, the Data Set partners recognised that micro and SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses, still lag behind in digital technologies. If the economy is to flourish, micro and SMEs, must develop data skills or risk being uncompetitive. So the lead partner, East Belfast Enterprise from Northern Ireland, joined with Canice Consulting from Northern Ireland, Momentum Marketing Services from Ireland, Teknisk Erhvervsskole Center in Denmark, University Industry Innovation Network in the Netherlands and University of Alcala in Spain and submitted the project application to Erasmus+.


On 4th October 2018 the journey began in earnest with the initial partner meeting held in Belfast, UK. The project plan was set out, responsibilities for each partner confirmed and a plan of action agreed. It has been some journey since!


We’ve been on a roller coaster of highs and lows as we’ve adapted and changed the course of the project to accommodate the withdrawal of our Danish partner due to challenges with internal resourcing and then we were hit by the  COVID-19 global pandemic, which prevented any face to face meetings or events. These were certainly challenges, but I must pay tribute to our partners who rose to every challenge and found ways to keep the project momentum, which has enabled us to deliver excellent results and deliver on the objectives that were set for the project from the outset.


So what has been achieved and what have we learnt?


In our research we found that data is often misunderstood, underused and feared by many entrepreneurs and small business owners. Terms like “Big Data”, Smart Data” can be a barrier, where entrepreneurs associate data with big business, large departments of technical wizards crunching numbers, but don’t see the relevance of data to their businesses.


Through our project we have tried to help SME managers and entrepreneurs to realise that they don’t need to be advanced data analysts to learn how to grow their smart data capacity and we have developed resources to help early stage entrepreneurs and business students to learn how to build data skills into their business plans from the get go, to help capitalize on market opportunities.


We have produced three intellectual outputs to equip entrepreneurship educators with resources to teach data skills and to engage with enterprise and economic development stakeholders emphasising the need to integrate data skills into their interventions to stimulate and drive economic growth.


We have created and published these intellectual outputs on a dedicated website , where I would like to encourage you to go an download the resources free of charge.


The development of each output involved all partners researching, designing and sharing intellectual property to create the final published resource.


Our colleagues in the Republic of Ireland, Momentum Marketing Services led the work on output 1, which has developed and published “The Vocational Education Training Guide to Data Skills Development”, a publication that introduces the main tenets of data skills education to VET professionals, sharing best practice ideas for teaching data skills to entrepreneurs.


Our second output was led by the University of Alcala where we have produced a curriculum, trainers’ guide and suite of interactive online learning materials to enable teachers and trainers to enhance entrepreneurs’ data skills in classroom and small group training.


Our third resource is an interactive on-line resource, the Data SET Online Course which can be accessed and used by entrepreneurs at all stages of entrepreneurial activity to learn and put data skills into practice.


I mentioned some of the challenges that we have faced during the project which required us to innovate and alter the methodology to deliver some of the final results. The departure of our Danish partner and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that we were unable to complete the teaching/learning activities and had to launch the project internationally via an on-line event. Despite the challenges, the launch was a great success and attended by over 130 attendees, who heard presentations from our project partners about the resources that we have created, as well as presentations from entrepreneurs and industry leaders.


This is our final ezine, but it isn’t the end of the project. We will continue to liaise and publish information via our website and hope that you will find some real benefit in the resources that we have created to help SMEs and entrepreneurs to make better use of Data for to stimulate business growth.