Lights, camera, action…Conclusions from the 2017 SME Assembly

CoCreativeFlow.com, Sabine Soeder and Johanna Ballmann

The 2017 SME Assembly has come and gone, but it certainly has not left us indifferent. It has been clear from this year’s edition that the focus has been much more on action and on the implementation of the SME-related policies developed in previous years. But what results are these policies producing? Here are some of the main conclusions from the event:

  • Let’s aim to solve problems rather than buy products in public procurement: different stakeholders worked together to generate innovative ideas responding to a real-life policy challenges at the Policy Hack It is a common practice in the EU that governments tend to buy highly specified products rather than solutions to their problems. This needs to change towards more participatory, solution-oriented approach, adding a new perspective to the public procurement process.
  • Public procurement is a key opportunity for SMEs: EUR 2 trillion is spent annually in the EU on public procurement. The EU Public Procurement Package of Measures is a step in the right direction, however, more work needs to be done in certain sectors to improve access to information, guarantee more transparency and use better fitting selection criteria.
  • A positive outlook for European SMEs in most countries: both the number of SMEs and their added value above the 2008 levels (pre-crisis) levels, though there is a clear north-south division with southern countries still struggling. Steady growth is expected for 2017 and 2018 according to the SME Performance Review 2016/2017, where a focus on self-employment will become ever-increasingly important.
  • Some tangible results of EC actions, but still a way to go: the Small Business Act has already generated tangible results. However, more has to be done in crucial areas for the future of SMEs, such as innovation.
  • Greater visibility of European investment opportunities: the EC is carrying out a number of actions to increase the visibility of investment projects with a focus on SMEs. Examples include the European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) and the European Investment Fund. However, whether these initiatives will meet the real finance needs of European SMEs still remains to be seen. Decreasing a minimal ticket to 1 mln EUR is a move in the right direction, however, understanding how venture funds approach deals would be welcomed.
  • Access to finance is still one of the highlighted issues for SMEs in Europe: a fragmented legal and tax system in Europe are the main barriers to access finance. The development of regional co-investment funds, harmonisation of the regional cooperative framework and mutual recognition of existing fiscal incentives for business angels are some of the potential solutions to overcome these barriers.
  • Preparation for the future: SMEs have to prepare themselves for the market conditions of the future. 21st century enterprises should be experience-focused, outcome-based, agile & lean, service-oriented and ecosystem-driven.
  • Evidence of successful on the ground initiatives: such as the eResidency Programme in Estonia allowed entrepreneurs outside of the EU to start a business no matter where they reside.

The event may be over, but the online discussion continues here.

Written by Jon Switters and Katarzyna Jakimowicz

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