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SME Assembly 2021 – Day 2


The second day of the SME Assembly 2021 opened with the European Commissioner for Internal Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), Thierry Breton. In his speech, the Commissioner talked about the collective responsibility to ensure that SMEs embark on the road to recovery as swiftly as possibly.

 This was followed by Slovenia’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, who praised the Green Deal for enabling countries to transform their economies and lead them towards climate neutrality by 2050. Eurochambres President Christoph Leitl noted that SMEs are not just the backbone of the European society but also the backbone of our society.

The official opening was followed by a series of simultaneous panel discussions, policy workshops and masterclasses on a range of topics. Participants in the SME ‘Sustainable Enterprise’ Panel discussed rewriting the rules with a view to replacing endless growth with regenerative and distributive economies. 

Other sessions in the morning included a panel on learning from the winners: how the SME Assembly is helping to build a culture of enterprise; the EU Climate Pact: how to make a business pledge; and a policy hackathon on ensuring the EU’s strategic independence in the area of MedTech. There were also sessions on IP for SMEs and on new ways of working. 

After a networking lunch, the Assembly restarted with a participatory session we revisited the stories of success one year on, with presentations from entrepreneurs who have succeeded against all odds in times of COVID and who are preparing for a sustainable and digital recovery.

This was followed by sessions on new opportunities for family-run tourism and the role of SMEs in place-based industrial policies. A session on empowering girls and women through entrepreneurial and digital competences explored what it means to be an entrepreneur for women and girls and what skills they need to develop through the various education systems, including digital education.

Other sessions discussed how SMEs can support the mission to restore our oceans and waters by 2030, exploiting synergies for SMEs in the civil, security and space industries, and a session on city centre rejuvenation. 

The final event on Day 2 was the European Enterprise Promotion and Small and Mid-Caps Awards Ceremony.  Congratulations to the winners from Germany, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. Find out more about the EEPA winners this year in a separate post.

What’s in store for Day 3? Follow the live streaming or take a look at the live coverage on Twitter via @EEPA_EU. Remember to use #SMEAssembly2021 to be featured on the feed and check out the all the photos on Flickr! Haven’t registered yet? Last minute registrations are still possible but be quick! You can register here.

EEPA 2021 – Meet the Special Mentions

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Every year at the EEPA finals at the SME Assembly expert jury selects a number of projects for Special Mention. While these projects may not have made it to the finals, they nevertheless stood out to the jury due to their excellent work.

This year during the European Enterprise Promotion and Small and Mid-Caps Awards Ceremony the EEPA jury has awarded two Special Mentions from two different categories as an appreciation of their work.

Finland: DRAFT Program – Exploratory Entrepreneurship

The Special Mention in Category 1 went to DRAFT Program from Finland. Draft Program – Exploratory Entrepreneurship is a small but innovative entrepreneurship programme shared by five eastern Finnish educational institutions. It provides microfinance and coaching for student, staff and alumni teams.

The programme has developed an operating model for exploring entrepreneurship, where each customer team is seen as an expedition that produces locally relevant industry-specific information. Entrepreneurship coaches transform lessons learned from working with teams into useful publications – so-called “business developers” – that help to transfer local industry-specific good practices to other start-up entrepreneurs in the area. More than 60 useful publications have been created over the past 12 months, and nearly a dozen companies have benefited from the programme every year in recent years.

The Netherlands: The New Economy

In Category 5 – Supporting the Sustainable Transition, Special Mention goes to The New Economy, from MVO Nederland, a network organisation from the Netherlands that is teaming up with entrepreneurs to create a movement to reach a tipping point towards the New Economy by 2025.

The New Economy is one that’s future-proof. It is climate-neutral, circular and inclusive and is based on fair supply chains. The project has produced a New Business Agenda, which shows the quickest way to get to the New Economy, and supports this roadmap by facilitating innovation through collaboration and by lobbying to create an enabling environment. The project has a goal of reaching 20% of Dutch GDP earned in the New Economy, and aims to reach this tipping point by 2025.

Congratulations to the EEPA 2021 Special Mentions!

SME Assembly 2021 – Day 1

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The 2021 SME Assembly, the first pan-European post-COVID EC conference to be held in person, is finally underway. The three-day programme, packed with panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses and award ceremonies, got off to a fantastic start on 15 November in the beautiful town of Portorož in Slovenia.

The 3-day event kicked off with a presentation from the Slovenian Digital Center showcasing some of the best and most innovative projects that the Slovenian business sector has to offer. The SME Assembly delegates learnt how the Slovenian companies are tackling the digital transition to ensure continued sustainable and green development.

The highlight of Day 1 was the Schumpeter’ Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture. For the first time this year, the lecture was delivered by a non-economist. The climate scientist Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj delivered the speech in front of hundreds of delegates. As a pioneer in researching the impact of climate change and a joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, Professor Bogataj spoke about the effects of climate change on SMEs. She focused on the role of SMEs and enterprises in achieving the transition to a sustainable economy and explained how businesses could prepare and adapt to face climate change. Measuring and managing emissions from onsite operations, powering operations with renewable energy, and demanding more climate policy are some of the actions that SMEs could take to boost their environmental performance. You can find all about Professor Bogataj’s address in a separate blog post.

The opening day of the 2021 SME Assembly ended with the European SME Week Reception, where the Slovenian presidency presented some traditional crafts, arts and cuisine.

Welcoming guests on behalf of the presidency, the Slovenian Envoy Jernej Salecl spoke about the need to put the green economy and digital transformation is at the heart of all strategies for SMEs.

Hubert Gambs, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), highlighted the need to stay together and be resilient in order to achieve recovery.

What’s in store for Day 2? Follow the live streaming or take a look at the live coverage on Twitter via @EEPA_EU. Remember to use #SMEAssembly2021 to be featured on the feed and check out the photos on Flickr! Haven’t registered yet? Last minute registrations are still possible but be quick! You can register here.

Schumpeter Lecturer says “climate crisis is also a business crisis”

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Speaking at the European Commission’s SME Assembly 2021 during the Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture, joint Nobel Prize laureate Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj of the University of Ljubljana said that the world needs “enlightened policies and governance, and an engaged citizenry if we are to achieve long-term sustainability.”

“We can no longer postpone tackling difficult issues, and we need to change the way we produce, consume and trade. We will only achieve a change in behaviour by emphasising the economic win for those who change.

Decarbonisation and climate change mitigation offer a multitude of business opportunities,” Professor Bogataj said to a high-status audience at the prestigious European Commission lecture series.

“Business has a crucial role to play in this process,” she added. “They should switch:
• from accumulation to distribution,
• from an economy of extraction to regeneration, and
• from competition to co-operation.

Professor Bogataj emphasised that “Carbon emissions must have a price, and every person and every sector will have to contribute.” She also suggested that nuclear fusion could be the key to the future of carbon-free energy.

Professor Bogataj ended by saying that when it comes to climate change we must “aim high and do fast”.

Find out professor Bogataj’s presentation here.

SME ASSEMBLY 2021: Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj to Deliver the Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture

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The highlight of the SME Assembly 2021 – the Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture will be delivered by professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj. Professor Bogataj is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the United Nations for more than 16 years  and a joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts towards raising public awareness about the fatal consequences of the warming of the atmosphere. She is one of Slovenia’s pioneers in researching the impact of climate change.

Reflecting on the new social and political dynamics brought upon by the pandemic, professor Bogataj will focus on the role of SMEs and enterprise in achieving the transition to a sustainable economy.

We reach out to her for an exclusive interview ahead of the SME Assembly 2021.

Prof. Bogataj, how important do you think is the role of small and medium-sized businesses in the green transition? What incentive could be offered to them to take part in the transition having in mind we are yet to see the big business do their fair share?

So far, the big business has in my mind failed to understand the dimensions of environmental crisis. But small and medium-sized enterprises can pave the way for greening across ecosystems, including industry and manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and even energy. I believe that entrepreneurs drive social and economic innovation and can revolutionize patterns of production. If motivated they can also address climate change in a sustainable, meaningful, and profitable way. But they face larger challenges when it comes to the capacity to green their operations, due to limitations in size. For instance, small businesses often lack confidence to invest in environmental-friendly technology. In many EU countries small and medium-sized businesses need more political backing and monetary support. Governments can provide incentives for small businesses to be proactive through financial support and educational resources. Financial incentives, including tax breaks and carbon offset programmes, reward entrepreneurs for their time in creating sustainable businesses. To achieve all that, at this moment we need a mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches. We do not have enough time to only rely only on bottom-up way. Action by governments and business leaders is also urgent.

If you could give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur striving to make their business more sustainable, what would it be? 

My advice would be – do not underestimate climate change risks. Decarbonise! Decarbonisation is both profitable and environmentally friendly. Set carbon targets to achieve and deadlines. Once this is completed, look again at how you operate and think how your business could be even more sustainable. There is always room for improvement. Environmentally conscious practices are entrepreneurship’s hottest innovation.

What are you looking forward to at the SME Assembly 2021?

To meet people, to listen, to get new ideas from small businesses world and to get infected by entrepreneurial spirit. I am especially interested in success stories, embodied by successful women entrepreneurs. Also, I am looking forward to discussions at policy workshops.

How hopeful are you about the prospects of the tackle climate change given the new social and political dynamics brought upon by the pandemic?

Pandemic so far did not help climate change action, but post covid stimulus might. The Recovery and Resilience Plans can be once in a lifetime chance to mitigate climate change and also to adapt small and medium-sized businesses to climate change impacts. To really tackle climate change means to transform our economies in an unprecedented way. The EU recovery package pays attention to fighting climate change and also to fair climate transition. I really hope that post-COVID Europe will be greener, more resilient and better fit for the forthcoming challenges. Also, I believe that small and medium-sized businesses can really benefit from the EU budget.

In 2012, you were named in the group of Women inspiring Europe – has Europe inspired you back with its actions on climate change ever since?

Europe is trying really hard to tackle environmental problems. Europe listens to science and takes warnings and proposed scientific solutions seriously. In spite of that, “living well within environmental limits” is still far away. The EU is not yet able to achieve really fundamental transitions in the systems of production and consumption that are the root cause of environmental and climate pressures. Our institutions, practices, technologies, policies, lifestyles and thinking still favour a ‚Culture of Growth‘ instead of a ‚Culture of Sustainability‘. It is high time to move beyond a simple ‘green growth’ narrative.

Which book or documentary do you think could change people’s opinion on the urgency to act on climate change?

There is a huge choice of really good stuff.  Climate change is already prominent part of our lives and it is increasingly reflected in arts and literature. but is hard to say which is the best book to change our mindset. Personally I still prefer real books but I would recommend to read on line The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report produced by the European Environment Agency.  It illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be and how to maximise innovations whilst minimising harms. My second choice is potent and evocative book The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wellst.

Don’t miss out!

Interested to hear more about what Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj will say at the SME Assembly 2021? Make sure you are following @EEPA_EU on Twitter and #SMEAssembly2021 for live coverage. You can also still register to follow the live stream online here.

SME Assembly 2021 – A Sneak Peek at This Year’s Programme

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The countdown has begun to the No. 1 event of the year for SMEs and those who support them. The SME Assembly 2021 is set to take place in Portorož, Slovenia on 15-17 November 2021. So let’s take a sneak peek at what you can look forward to.

As we have already announced, this year’s Assembly will be among the first pan-European post-COVID European Commission conferences to be held in person. As such, it promises to be a lively event filled with optimism, showcasing the resilience of Europe’s SMEs.

After kicking off with the keynote Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture delivered by professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, the Assembly will proceed with a packed programme, filled with exciting panel discussions, workshops and masterclasses.

The programme for this year’s event has something for everybody. Among the topics of discussion, there will be a panel on the SME sustainable enterprise. Participants will assess recovery and transition toward a greener and more digital economy and how to continue supporting the enterprise ecosystem in that process.

Culture of enterprise

Another session will focus on how EEPA is helping to build a culture of enterprise. Here, 2021 finalists in the category ‘Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit’, recognising initiatives that promote an entrepreneurial mindset, especially amongst young people and women, will talk about the challenges they have faced and about potential replication across Member States. 

The cherry on top will be the prestigious European Enterprise Promotion and Small and Mid-Caps Awards Ceremony.  Back in September the EEPA jury announced the shortlisted entries across the six categories. During the awards ceremony the EEPA jury will reveals the winner in each category and their selection for the Grand Jury Prize.

Celebrating entrepreneur spirit, the SME Assembly will also be hosting the finals of the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards, which promotes best practices and encourages more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access capital markets via IPOs.  Check out the projects shortlisted for the 2021 finals.

Youth Essay Competition 2021

A key feature of the SME Assembly is the Youth Essay Competition, and this year is no different. There will be a presentation of the top 3 essays by the finalists in this year’s competition, with feedback from the Chair of the Youth Essay Jury and Sabine Kerssens, 2020 Youth Essay Competition Winner. After the presentations, the audience will vote on the winning essay.

This is just a taste of what you can expect at this year’s Assembly. Make sure to visit the Promoting Enterprise portal regularly for updates on the Assembly, its speakers, programme sessions and so on. We are very much looking forward to meeting you in person in Portorož. Don’t forget that you could also follow online some of the key session after registering here.

The Assembly will be subject to a strict COVID protocol coordinated by the European Commission and the Slovenian Presidency. All in-person attendees will be required to present a valid EU Digital COVID certificate demonstrating full vaccination, having recovered or a negative test not older than 24 hours. In addition, there will be on-site testing to provide additional assurance to all SME Assembly delegates and participants.

The SME Assembly is back. Live – and better than ever

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This year’s SME Assembly focused on Togetherness + Resilience = Recovery, will bring together actors from across the European and international enterprise ecosystems, including citizens, businesses and policymakers, to build a more sustainable and resilient future together.

From 15-17 November 2021, the beautiful city of Portorož in Slovenia, and the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, will play host to the flagship event of the 2021 European SME Week, the SME Assembly.

What is on the programme?

The SME Assembly presents a unique opportunity to bring together the brightest minds and actors from across the enterprise ecosystem to share, discuss and work towards solutions for problems European SMEs and their networks face. After the challenges brought around by the pandemic, and the need for SMEs to be resilient and resourceful, the SME Assembly will be focusing on how community and collaborative resilience are two important elements on the road to recovery.

Through a combination of high-level panels and interviews, expert roundtables, interactive workshops, and informative masterclasses, this year’s Assembly will explore how resilient SMEs can recover by working together towards a more digital and sustainable European economy.

The full programme will be released closer to the SME Assembly but in the meantime, we can confirm that the SME Assembly 2021 will feature:

For full programme details, and high-level speaker announcements, including the prestigious Schumpeter lecturer, keep coming back to the News Portal, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and don’t forget to sign up for the SME Week Newsletter.

What will this year’s Assembly look like?

This year, the Assembly will follow a hybrid format, with the majority of the event taking place in-person, and key sessions also being available online, for global attendees to contribute. Due to the ever-changing health situation, in-person places will be limited, and all attendees will be required to present a valid EU Digital COVID certificate demonstrating full vaccination or a negative test. Further details about the upcoming SME Assembly, including the format and highly anticipated programme, will follow soon.

For any questions on this year’s SME Assembly, please contact the SME Assembly Secretariat.

Stay up to date

Don’t miss out on any of the latest news from Promoting Enterprise and keep following us here on the News Portal, or over on Twitter via @EEPA_EU, @EU_Growth and the dedicated Facebook page. For all the latest on the SME Assembly, don’t forget to follow – #SMEAssembly2021.

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