The second and final day of the SME Assembly 2020 was opened by Shona Murray, who brought together all of the conclusions and thought provoking ideas  from throughout Day 1 and entered into conversation with renowned economist Maja Göpel.
In her keynote speech, Maja Göpel stressed how humanity plays a huge factor in economic success and the wellbeing of our planet, and the impact that humanity has had as a changing force on the entire planetary earth system. She also highlighted the need to ‘build forward’ rather than look to ‘build back’, which will require us to re-define where we want to go and put our purpose first.
In the session on intellectual property rights (IPR), our speakers made IPR accessible to all, explaining that IP is much more than just protecting but also about creating opportunities for innovation and growth. The theme of innovation was continued during the ‘Stories of Success’, a showcase of entrepreneurial individuals who use their expertise and companies to innovate during the crisis and provide useful products and services.
A high-level roundtable of experts, including DG GROW’s Kristin Schreiber, came together to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and specifically challenges and opportunities for SMEs, as well as what the future of policy making should focus on. Speakers touched on the importance of solo entrepreneurs, their contribution to societal cohesion and the need to sustain entrepreneurial diversity, as well as the importance of SMEs and how their survival determines Europe’s survival during this crisis. Other conclusions included the need to overhaul current thinking and a system that does not necessarily honour honest people.
Concerns about the current the current liquidity crisis being a pre-cursor for a solvency crisis for SMEs were shared during the presentation from the OECD and the European Commission. Among the main challenges for businesses going forward are labour costs, debt accrued during the peak of the crisis, and financing conditions in general, which all have a sizeable impact on the expectations for the year ahead.
Expert discussions around re-thinking value chains revealed that what SMEs need during the COVID crisis is reliability and transparency, and that the key focus areas when re-designing these chains should be: connected, automatic and electric vehicles, hydrogen technology, smart health, low carbon industry, industrial IoT and cybersecurity.
Our youth finalists for this year’s essay competition, Georgina Whiteman, Pablo Pastor Vidal and Sabine Kerssens took the floor with their ideas, whilst delegates listened to their speeches and voted. Young innovative engineer Sabine was crowned this year’s winner, as her ideas on cross-border collaboration and inclusive innovation spoke most to the delegates who selected her in the live vote. Well done Sabine!
So where do we go from here? The closing session highlighted the importance of continuing forward and not searching to simply return to the status quo. Closing speakers also impressed the need to recognise and support the strong societal role that our SMEs play and to start taking concrete steps. It is time for us to hand the SME Assembly torch to Slovenia, where hopefully next year we will be able to have the SME Assembly 2021 in person, and continue discussions on building a sustainable and resilient future together.
Catch up on moments and highlights from the SME Assembly 2020 on our YouTube channel: