On the occasion of the third meeting of SME envoys in Brussels today, Vice President Antonio Tajani announced a series of new and updated initiatives to assist Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to go international. These include new European Commission projects to support clusters of SMEs in the sectors of clean technologies, renewable energy, bio-technology, and sports goods so SMEs can take full advantage of the strong growth in these sectors in Asia, Latin America, North America and Russia. The EU's China Intellectual Property Rights SME Helpdesk has broadened its range of interactive services and each year enables thousands of EU SMEs to secure and defend their intellectual property in this key market. Furthermore, more than 600 business support centres from the Enterprise Europe Network help SMEs to become successful in Europe and beyond. Finally organisers can register events to promote entrepreneurship during the European SME week in October 2012.
The new public procurement initiative (IP/12/268) will increase the incentives for the EU's trading partners to open up their public procurement markets to EU bidders, including SMEs. Proposed by the Commission on 21 March, it will ensure that EU companies of all sizes can compete with third country companies on a more equal footing. This initiative shall increase business opportunities for EU companies, both in the EU and internationally; boost the potential for SMEs to operate in a globalised economy and increase employment and promote innovation in the EU. In this context the SME envoys who met in Brussels for the third time (MEMO/12/53) discussed issues related to access improving SMEs access to markets.
European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, presenting these initiatives, stressed: "To promote growth and job creation in Europe, we need to remove obstacles for our small businesses to access growth markets abroad. We aim with these initiatives to provide SMEs with effective and concrete support so they can take full advantage of the opportunities of the new growth markets worldwide. At the same time, we must ensure that in a time of crisis we do not put unnecessary regulatory burden on our small businesses."
New initiatives to assist SMEs to go abroad
Improving performance of clusters
Clusters provide a fertile business environment for companies, especially SMEs, to collaborate with research institutions, suppliers, customers and competitors located in the same geographical area. There are a considerable number of clusters in Europe - over 1, 000 - and nearly as many cluster organisations (of which 495 have signed up to the European Cluster Collaboration Platform), in which cluster managers tend to be organised. They help SMEs to improve their performance.
To improve their performance, a new Commission pilot action aims to upgrade the profile of 25 experts working in clusters, so that they can act as 'multipliers' and train many other cluster managers to enable them to better support SMEs who want to trade globally. Some 30 cluster benchmarking evaluators will be trained and 80 clusters organisations are expected to be benchmarked against clusters that are performing elsewhere so they can all learn from each other and perform more effectively. These 80 cluster organisations will also sign up to the European Cluster Collaboration Platform which should help them obtain greater international exposure and ultimately new business and export opportunities for their SMEs.
The projects involve 20 organisations in Greece, Ireland, Hungary and Turkey encompassing further partners from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain. The overall EC contribution amounts to more than € 1.5 million.
Clusters to help SMEs go international
In addition, four new projects will help SME members of clusters to find partners for international cooperation with a view to developing transnational cluster cooperation beyond Europe. The four cluster projects focus on:
-New material and processes on clean technologies: The aim is to reach cooperation agreements with 6 international clusters to increase business and technological partnerships opportunities in North and South America, Asia, North Africa and/or Russia for at least 20 SMEs or R&D laboratories
-Renewables and sustainable energy: This project focuses on internationalisation strategies in energy efficiency and smart grids, in key growing markets like US, Latin America, China, India and Russia paving the way for European products and technologies to access target markets. Among others, collaboration agreements with at least 8 international partners will be set up and 50 business opportunities for SMEs will be identified.
-Biotechnology crossing borders: A common internationalisation strategy of cluster SMEs in the life sciences sector will be developed through sharing of resources between four advanced EU clusters from France, Germany, Italy and Spain in USA, China and Brazil, thus extending the visibility of the 4 clusters worldwide increasing business and R&D opportunities for at least 16 SMEs.
-Sport goods and services: The project will improve the presence of SMEs in the sports business sector in foreign markets, notably for sport goods, facilities, and events. The project involves three clusters from France, the Netherlands and Spain and the target markets are Brazil and Russia. At least 5 collaboration agreements with international partners are envisaged.
Intellectual Property Rights protection helps SMEs to expand to China
Major emerging markets such as China with strong growth rates represent significant opportunities for EU small and medium enterprises. The China IPR SME Helpdesk assists EU businesses to securely enter the Chinese market, reap additional profits and win new customers. Services are available free and include confidential advice and interactive training on how to register IPR, prevent counterfeits and copying, and find reliable suppliers. Recent publications deal with clean technology, contracts, and dealing with Chinese customs. In 2011 some 50+ training & awareness raising events were organised by the helpdesk assisting some 2400 EU SMEs across Europe and in China. In 2012, the Helpdesk will increase its training offer through webinars, publish videos of EU SME experiences in China, and provide new interactive learning modules of emerging issues.
Enterprise Europe Network - 600 partners to help SMEs to go abroad
The Enterprise Europe Network opened in 2011 contact points in Japan and doubled its presence in the Chinese market. In the Mediterranean there are partners in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Other new countries that have recently joined the Network include Ukraine, Moldova and Albania.
The Network spans 51 countries and is made up of more than 600 partner organisations employing 3,000 experts. The organisations include chambers of commerce, enterprise agencies, regional development organisations, research institutes, universities, technology centres and innovation centres. The partners offer a broad range of tailor-made business and innovation support services throughout the EU and beyond.
The Enterprise Europe Network helps small business to make the most of the European marketplace. Working through local business organisations, it can help:
-Develop their business in new markets
-Source or license new technologies
-Access EU finance and EU funding
The European SME Week 2012 will take place from 15 - 21 October
The European SME Week 2012 aims to:
-provide information on what the EU and national, regional and local authorities are offering as support to micro, small and medium-sized businesses;
-promote entrepreneurship so that more people, and in particular younger ones, seriously consider becoming an entrepreneur as a career option;
-give recognition to entrepreneurs for their contribution to Europe's welfare, jobs, innovation and competitiveness.
Existing and budding entrepreneurs, young people, business organisations, business support providers, public authorities, educational institutions - everyone can organise an event under the umbrella of the European SME Week. Registration of events is now possible on the SME Week website
The 2012 edition of the 'Secret of Success' brochure will be available at the end of June in 21 official EU languages. The theme is 'European SMEs as International Champions'.