Co-operative societies could soon play host to budding European entrepreneurs following a pilot scheme adopted by Co-operatives UK.

The umbrella group for the co-operative movement is taking part in 'Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs', through which 800 new entrepreneurs will spend up to six months in another European Union country to acquire the skills for managing and growing a small or medium-sized enterprise.

Co-operatives UK is working with Co-operatives Europe, as well as co-operatives in Sweden, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy, to get the scheme running and will encourage its 500-plus members, which include the John Lewis Partnership and The Co-operative Group, to take part. "I believe we are well placed to maximise the benefits of this project," said Dame Pauline Green, outgoing CEO of Co-operatives UK.

"Entrepreneurship is essential for economic growth and job creation. This project will help hundreds of young entrepreneurs develop their skills and experience.

"For co-operatives, which follow a set of principles that include 'co-operation among co-operatives' and 'the provision of education and training for members', this initiative has particular relevance."

The pilot scheme, which will run for 18 months, is funded by the European Commission and involves all 27 member states.