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SME Assembly 2020 – Day 2

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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:

SME Assembly 2020 – Day 1

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The first day of the SME Assembly 2020 opened with an address from Minister Peter Altmaier, who reflected on the problems SMEs have faced during the COVID pandemic and emphasised that liquidity assistance has been provided efficiently so far but needs to continue. He also discussed the recovery plan for Europe and discussed the German government’s position, which supports investment related to climate neutrality and digitalisation.

The Assembly then gave the floor to Commissioner Thierry Breton who stressed the importance of SMEs in driving a sustainable and digital European recovery. He spoke about the SME Strategy and its significance as a tool in helping the EU achieve autonomy in strategic sectors. Commissioner Breton also spoke about the importance of fighting against late payments and the need to work on helping our SMEs become more resilient. In addition he touched on the importance of our Single Market, calling it one of our biggest assets and the need to keep our borderless markets open.

As part of the opening plenary our SME Assembly host Shona Murray interviewed Fiona Candon, Deputy President of Chambers Ireland and Matilda Mielind, Board Member of SMEunited.

Throughout the morning sessions, delegates learnt about the SME Envoy Network, about what it does and the crucial role it plays in making sure that the voices of small businesses are heard at national and EU level. The session on digital sovereignty highlighted the importance of developing collaborative attitudes and leaving behind the silo mentality. Over in the session on keeping businesses afloat during times of crisis, speakers stressed the need to focus on SME resilience and to focus the creation of recovery instruments on existing practice.

Opening the afternoon was the highly anticipated awards ceremony featuring the winners of the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards, and the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). The highly coveted EEPA Grand Jury Prize was awarded to French Project Le Portail du Rebond, which has created a unique online platform for entrepreneurs to access all the different national services and bodies to help them get back on their feet and bounce back. Watch the EEPA winning moments of all of the deserving winners right here and consult the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards press release for more information.

After the excitement of the awards Nobel prize laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz, gave this year’s Schumpeter Innovation in Enterprise Lecture. Professor Stiglitz spoke about the problems caused by the emphasis on markets without sufficient government regulation markets; the economic effects of the COVID pandemic and the effect of cutbacks in science budgets; the rise of the tech giants; the role of innovation in transforming our economic system from dependence on fossil fuels to renewables; and his hopes for the new US administration. More information about the 2020 Schumpeter lecture can be found here.

If you missed Professor Stiglitz at the Assembly you can now watch his lecture online:

Optimism characterised afternoon sessions on disruptive technology, circular economy and leadership. Innovators are often driven to create by the worst situations, technology and eco-friendly innovation are the way to environmental harmony, and leaders should not be afraid to be human to connect with their workforces.

Closing sessions offered insights into female entrepreneurship during the crisis, access to finance for SMEs and plans for support and what is in store for the future of the workplace. Themes of collaboration and ‘seeing a silver lining’ came through. Encouragement to see the pandemic as an opportunity to explore new working models, increasing access to resources for female entrepreneurs to help entrepreneurs overall and bringing EU tools to SMEs to help them prioritise digital transformation.

Day 1 of the Assembly was full, but it’s not over yet! Make sure to join us for Day 2 and follow the live coverage over on Twitter @EEPA_EU and don’t forget to use #SMEAssembly2020 for a chance to be featured on the event feed.

Haven’t registered yet? Last minute registrations are still possible but be quick! You can register here.

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