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Barriers for SMEs on the Single Market

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25 years after its creation, the Single Market is a vast success. It has improved the living standards for EU citizens and 56 million jobs within the EU depend on trade created by the Single Market. Furthermore, it has increased the competitiveness of the European businesses globally and made the EU the largest exporter of goods and services in the world.

Nevertheless, the Single Market is neither perfect nor complete. In fact, increasing regulatory complexity is challenging European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Each year, the amount of national technical regulation keeps piling up which makes it more difficult for SMEs to expand their activities across Europe. At the European level SME’s also experience confusion from partially overlapping rules. This means that SMEs do not necessarily know which rules apply to them – they simply do not understand which rules to follow.

To further increase the complexity of the regulatory environment, the traditional divide between goods and services is also disappearing. From a business point of view, the division between a Single Market for Goods and a Single Market for services no longer exists. In reality, a good is often sold with an accompanying service. Unfortunately, the legislation has not followed this development which often makes the legislation out of touch with reality.

The Single Market was created to benefit citizens and businesses, but too often the legislation is purely made from a law-makers perspective. This leads to rules and procedures that are difficult for the end user to understand and to comply with. Another problem is the lack of focus on digitisation. More user-friendly digital solutions would make life much easier for SMEs. Looking ahead we need to think digital first, but when we digitize we need to think small first.

To address the above-mentioned challenges and to create a less complex Single Market to the benefit of European SMEs, this report suggests the following three approaches to enhancing the Single Market:

A one-stop shop coordinating replies across contact points

European businesses are met by many different portals, entrances and information websites. Some are national, while other are European. Created with the best intentions, these contact points have not succeeded in giving the SMEs an overview of the rules and procedures which they need to comply with, as there are many different contact points, and they occasionally give answers pointing in different directions. There is a need for the European Commission to ensure a one-stop shop in every Member State that can effectively provide businesses with the necessary overview of which rules they need to comply with, how they comply with the procedures, which documents they need to provide, and which authorities they must contact. The information available through the one-stop shop should cover all business-related aspects. The one-stop shop should therefore provide a coordinated answer across the existing contact points established by EU regulations. The one-stop shop will provide a coordinated answer from all the relevant contact points after having coordinated with the competent authorities behind the contact points, thereby making it easier for businesses to understand and comply with the relevant administrative and legislative procedures.

Future legislation made with the end user in mind

All future legislation must be made with the end user in mind. It must be easy to understand which rules and procedures the SME’s must comply with, and the corresponding administrative steps should be easy to follow. Often the procedure rather than the regulation creates problems for the SME’s. Therefore – in order to make the procedures as easy as possible – the end user’s perspective should be incorporated from the drafting stage of the regulation. A specific way of doing this is through so-called “life events” where an end user’s journey through for example an administrative process is mapped step by step. When such processes are mapped, it is possible to see which steps are more burdensome for businesses and where there is a need for simplification.

Legislation that is digital by default

One of the clear advantages of digitisation is how it can reduce the complexity of the Single Market by helping businesses through digital solutions. However, in order to fully reap the benefits of digitisation, it must be taken into account already when drafting new legislation and used to reduce complexity for SMEs. Furthermore, the development of the digital SME Envoy network economy such as Internet of Things, sharing economy and cloud computing will only create a higher demand for digital infrastructure and the very user-friendly solutions set out by legislation. However, it can be difficult to establish user-friendly digital solutions for cross-border businesses due to various factors. One of them being that EU regulation is often created in regulatory silos.

The Single Market is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union. It solves problems and enables trade, jobs and well-being every day. But the time is ripe to take a user perspective on the rules and update them to the everyday reality of businesses and consumers.

Read the full report from the European SME Envoy Network here.

MEAINDEX – An online toolbox for business entrepreneurs

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The MEAINDEX platform, an online toolbox for business entrepreneurs, was initiated in September 2015, and was then launched during the Maltese edition of the European SME Week. This platform then evolved into an online directory which acts as an SME hub and facilitates SME understanding of the local business ecosystem. The online portal officially went live in June 2018, and is both endorsed and supported by the Commissioner for Simplification within the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, and the Malta Communications Authority together with a number of collaborative entities.

The platform is run by the Malta’s Employer’s Association and supported by various Maltese institutions and authorities, including Malta Enterprise, the Family Businesses Office and the Malta Office of the European Commission.

What does the tool do?

The online toolbox provides accessible information for potential entrepreneurs as well as existing business actors in Malta. It explains the bureaucracy they will encounter, guides entrepreneurs through the necessary steps to set up their business, and helps individuals and companies identify relevant entities and individuals to help them on their business journeys.

The tool also offers additional practical information on trade licenses, updated legislation and the development of policies. It is also a resource for SMEs to consults relevant statistics, both at European and local level. Finally, the tool also acts as an address book, and currently has over 173 individual entities registered within its database.

This online platform offers SMEs solutions and allows them to navigate the bureaucracy of starting an enterprise with all of the necessary support and connections.

Visit the toolbox here.

COSME helps modular building business go big

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CUBESPACE, an SME from the Czech Republic, has been building schools, family houses, sport halls and hotels using the modular building system. In 2017, the company decided to expand and produce rental fleet containers. As CUBESPACE Managing Director Martin Kokta makes clear: “We wanted to start cooperating with foreign investors who want to rent property in the EU. CUBESPACE builds and remains the owner of these buildings (usually offices), and rents them to investors.”

To invest in more properties and attract more investors, CUBESPACE needed a loan.

Equa Bank offers a range of retail and corporate banking services. The bank agreed to lend CUBESPACE Kč35 million (ca. €1.4 million), 50% of which was guaranteed by COSME, the EU programme established to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Thanks to this, CUBESPACE increased its production by half, doubled its number of employees, started 2-shift production and gained access to a wider client pool.

The loan was possible based on a 2016 agreement signed between Equa Bank and the European Investment Fund (EIF). This agreement will allow Equa bank to provide Kč1.8 billion (ca. €66.5 million) in loans to Czech SMEs over 2 years.

Take it from Cubespace, the agreement brings results. As Equa Bank’s Head of Business Banking Department Vojtěch Záškodný explains: “We have provided loans to about 75 SMEs, backed by the COSME Loan Guarantee Facility so far. Many of the clients would not have reached the requirements had it not been for the guarantees provided by the EIF.”

Businesses can contact selected financial institutions in their country to access EU financing: access to finance website.

Read the original article on the COSME website

MSME Day 2018 – The Youth Dimension

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This year the annual MSME (Micro, Small-Medium Enterprises) Day was celebrated on 27 June and was dedicated to youth. This year the main event focused on youth entrepreneurship and youth employment, and aimed to advocate for the importance of MSMEs in youth employment, raise awareness around the skills needed by youth to acquire decent jobs and finally raise awareness around youth entrepreneurship.

The MSME Day may have passed but the campaign is still going and the need to advocate for youth employment and youth entrepreneurship continues. But why the particular focus on youth for 2018? This year the MSME Day campaign communicated about the difficulties that youth face in securing steady jobs and the hurdles faced when entering the workforce. This in itself is a large contributor to the rate of youth unemployment, which currently stands at 15.6% in the EU according to Statista.

In addition to the challenges, MSME DAY 2018 highlights the reasons why a focus on youth would be ultimately beneficial for industry including the fact that young entrepreneurs are more active in high-growth sectors and are more likely to hire other young employees and pay higher wages than ‘older’ firms. Youth-led enterprises can also trigger youth-led job creation, with start-ups accounting for up to 50% of new jobs, and finally young people show higher levels of entrepreneurial initiative than adults do.

Visit the MSME Day 2018 website to find out more and support this campaign to support youth in industry.

The European Commission is also interested in supporting youth and particularly in hearing their voices, which is why the SME Week European Youth Essay Competition was created back in 2016. Two years and two winners later, the competition is back for a third edition and with another question:

“What steps should entrepreneurs and government take to become more innovative?”

Find out more about the competition and how to enter here on the News Portal.

EEPA 2017 – Business Generator showcases female entrepreneurs

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EEPA 2017 winner Business Generator from Sweden may be on a temporary pause, but they still have many company success stories from the people they helped. Today, project director Anette Rhudin tells us about some of the women involved in Business Generator and their entrepreneurial stories.

A local food application connecting farmers and customers

Kicki is a farmer from Värmland, who had the idea to create an app to make it easier for people to buy food directly from the farmers that produce it. Currently there is no “easy” connection between customers and farmers, and customers are forced to drive to several different farms to get the produce they are looking for. Kicki’s app creates that connection and allows farmers to directly communicate with their audience and promote their goods.

A local hotel benefitting local industry

When Marianne first came to Business Generator she was having a tough time with her hotel business and really needed help. During her time in the generator she learnt a lot and developed great skills surrounding customer questions and marketing. She worked hard and put a lot of money and her time to define her customers and “talk” to them.

As a result of her training with the generator she changed her trademark and developed cooperative relationships with other tourist attractions in this area. Her success has allowed her to expand the number of rooms and bring significant investment to her village. She also makes sure to use décor from the area and offer local food from farmers close to the hotel.

Generational business passes to a female entrepreneur

Anna is now a successful entrepreneur who is the fifth to run the Sahlströmsgården. Anna came to the Business Generator to successfully handle the generational shift and receive assistance with the associated legal changes. She handled all of this whilst still running the company and overseeing daily operations.

At the beginning of Business Generator it was not easy to attract women to take part as they prioritised their businesses and did not see how to make time for generator activities. Eventually some saw the benefits of the generator and joined in to benefit from the support.

Read more about the Business Generator here on Promoting Enterprise and make sure you stay up to date with the EEPA 2018 competition.

European Innovation Council Fast Track to Innovation: 216 proposals seek funding

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The European Commission received 216 proposals for Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) before the latest cut-off date on 31 May 2018.

Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) is a fully-bottom-up measure that promotes close-to-the-market innovation activities that is open to all types of participants.
As there are no set topics, proposals are classified according to the keywords introduced by applicants. The top keywords introduced were engineering, health and energy.

The proposals include participants from 31 countries, the biggest number of application were submitted by project proposals coordinated in Spanish, Italian and German applicants. Most of the proposals have four participants.

The Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) is now central part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, targeting radically new, breakthrough products, services, processes or business models that open up new markets. FTI promotes close-to-the market innovation activities open to all types of participants. The programme offers € 3 million to consortia composed of 3 to 5 partners including mainly industrial participants.

The next cut-off date for FTI is 23 October 2018.

Read the original article on the EASME website.

Ready to grow with Enterprise Europe Network

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The Enterprise Europe Network is a support network that helps small and medium-sized business (SMEs) grow and innovate internationally. Active in over 60 countries worldwide, the network draws on the skills and services of 3 000 experts from over 600 member organisations to offer business support to SMEs.

Members of the network are varied and include: technology poles, innovation support organisations, universities and research institutes, regional development organisations and chambers of commerce and industry.

Today Promoting Enterprise will be showcasing one specific aspect of the Enterprise Europe Network, their extensive collection of SME Success Stories, which are all available on their website. These Success Stories come from across European Union Member States and COSME countries, and highlight the diversity of innovative businesses in need of financial and business support.

Have look through the Success Stories catalogue and look out for the individual companies across our social media!

Not following us yet? Head on over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to stay up to date on all Promoting Enterprise activities.

Business Generator – Where are they now?

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Today on Promoting Enterprise we are catching up with European Enterprise Promotion Award (EEPA) 2017 winner Business Generator, from Sweden, specifically project coordinator Annette Rhudin. The European Enterprise Promotion Awards reward those who promote entrepreneurship and small business at the national, regional and local level.

The “Investing in entrepreneurial skills” category winner shares the future of Business Generator and what winning an EEPA prize and participating in the EEPA process meant to them.

In an ideal world all European issues would be looked at from a European perspective, like those of SMEs being considered by the European Commission. Through initiatives like the EEPA competition, SMEs have been identified and celebrated as the backbone of European economy and key sources of employment.

The EEPA competition also brings out certain issues that several SMEs face, and the support that projects, like Business Generator, are offering to entrepreneurs and enterprises across Europe. One thing that stood out for me, that has certainly been an issue for Business Generator, is disparity between regions and the need to adapt different strategies. Some regions are experiencing growth and have access to funds and resources, whereas others are struggling to grow and have little to no access to the same resources, like my own region of Värmland in Sweden. The EEPA competition is a fantastic opportunity to see what is going on in Europe, to meet others striving to help SMEs and ultimately gain visibility for the work you do.

The future of Business Generator remains uncertain, and despite coming “top of the class” in Europe, will not continue, for now. The Business Generator team had several meetings at both regional and national level, but the budgets have already been defined and there is no surplus to fund the continuation of Business Generator. Municipal budgets have also been defined, and due to how tight they are, unfortunately there is no room for Business Generator. This is not to say that there is no interest in Business Generator, but for the project to continue interest alone is not enough.

The project itself is new and innovative, and challenges old ways of thinking. Whilst this is the way forward for SMEs it is a daunting investment to make, and when budgets are tight means that it is less likely to receive support. This also represents the current situation in Sweden, where SMEs receive almost no government research and development funding, which is largely distributed to universities, large companies and the public sector.

In comments from the Swedish National Audit Office, SMEs and innovation were recognised “as keys to Sweden’s future growth”, yet the body also stated that only “a minor part of total state aid to the business sector is directed at R&D and innovations as well as at small and medium-sized enterprises”. Whilst this is somewhat disheartening I believe that the solution is to take care of SMEs, and show this through concrete actions.

I hope that there is a future for Business Generator and would be interested to know more about the situation in other countries regarding SME funding. Currently in Sweden, SME’s receive 3,7 % of the state aid, but deliver four out of five new jobs. My wish is that the funding statistics will change and that SMEs can continue to deliver jobs and receive the support they need both at national and European level.

Whilst the Business Generator journey may have temporarily come to an end, I would like to thank the European Commission, for helping to highlight the good work that is going on across Europe through the EEPA competition. Finally, my message to potential future applicants, apply for EEPA 2018, this is an important opportunity and you should take it!

Interested in finding out what happened to some of the companies helped by the Business Generator? Come back soon to find out right here on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal.

Watch the ‘winning moment’ for Business Generator from EEPA 2017:

Catching up with Frici Barabas – Youth Essay Competition finalist 2016

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Today on Promoting Enterprise we are catching up with 2016 Youth Essay Competition finalist Frici Barabas! The Youth Essay Competition is an opportunity for the youth of Europe and COSME partner countries to have their say on pressing issues in the area of entrepreneurship in Europe. Previous editions have asked the following questions:

What will be the question for the 2018 edition? Stay tuned to the Promoting Enterprise News Portal and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find out as soon as the next edition is live! For more information on the competition have a look here.

When Frici entered the competition two years ago he was a budding entrepreneur with a t-shirt business, and his online venture ‘digital lifestyle’. So what has he been doing since then? Read on to find out!

What have you been doing since being a finalist in the Youth Essay Competition in 2016?

Since being a finalist I have been working as a freelancer in the online marketing and social media marketing space. My work has taken me global and I have worked with companies from Dubai, the US, India and Europe, specifically Hungary and Romania.

In addition to this I have also published more courses on Udemy and Skillshare, mostly on the topics of social media marketing, specifically Instagram marketing. I decided to focus on these topics because Instagram started to get big and become important in 2016, right when I began working as a freelancer. It seemed logical to focus on the platform that was growing and getting the most attention.

You can have a look at my courses on Udemy and Skillshare.

Do you have any exciting projects that you would like to share?

At the moment I have been focusing on my startup, which is a social media marketing agency in Romania. Over the past year I have started to help NGOs and local SMEs here in Romania with social media management and social media marketing, and would like to expand on my work and build a company.

Whilst this work has been really interesting, it has certainly come with its challenges. Here in Eastern Europe scepticism around social media is still pretty prevalent, meaning that businesses are not necessarily willing to pay for it. Due to this scepticism it can be pretty difficult to sell as a service as it is difficult to convince owners to invest in developing their social media profiles.

However, this is slowly beginning to change as small businesses realise that they need to do something with their Instagram and Facebook pages, and that they need expert outsiders to help with this. A good example which showed just how powerful social media can be was when the St. George startup week

 was being organised. The event is a global celebration of startups and entrepreneurship, which originally had an expected number of 50 attendees. This became 200 attendees which in a small city of 40 000 people, where the local language is Romanian-Hungarian, is especially impressive for an English language event.

In general my work with NGOs has been much easier, as they normally need less convincing and see the value of social media. It also helps that their budgets come from elsewhere, namely local or European funds.

Based on your experiences since 2016, do you have any new advice for young entrepreneurs, or people thinking about starting out on their own?

The most important thing is to think about helping people with your products or services and not ‘the money you could make’, so start working and doing!

The moment I realised this was when I saw that working in social media in Eastern Europe represents a great opportunity. The market is still relatively open as traditional media still dominates most communication channels. Social media is not as hyped but it is growing, meaning that currently there is little competition and plenty of opportunities to take advantage of.

I have been approached by entrepreneurs who simply wanted to partner with me for the financial gains, and who wanted to make use of my expertise. I turned them down because I want to look past the just the financial gains and look at how I can use my expertise and passion to develop the sector and help SMEs with their social media communications.

Any additional information you would like to add?

I am currently looking for partners in Europe and in the industry in general to continue my work and gain experience. It would be great to find people specialised in certain social media platforms, or who are looking for help with online tools, and to partner up with. I’m open to collaboration!

Want to reach out to Frici? Have a look for him on all his social platforms: Instagram, MediumFacebookMixcloudSoundcloudYoutubeUdemy, Skillshare, Twitter and LinkedIN.

Interested in the Youth Essay Competition? Get inspired from past winners and finalists, including Frici, and stay tuned for more information on the upcoming 2018 edition!

Inspiring to Transform: Showcasing the WATIFY Journey in Sofia, Bulgaria

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The WATIFY project is proud to announce the event ‘WATIFY: Inspire to Transform,’ which will be taking place on 2 May in Sofia, Bulgaria. This event will bring together innovation leaders from across Europe to discuss the latest insights in technology, transformation and innovation. There will also be opportunities to pitch your projects and ideas, as well as exchange experience with innovative European SMEs that will be showcasing their technological transformations, and sharing their success stories through live 3D printing visualisations, virtual reality demonstrations and other interactive activities.

High-level keynote speakers, including Slawek Tokarski, Director of Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing from the Directorate General Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) and the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU will present their vision on the WATIFY initiative. The event will also feature a WATIFY matchmaking event with a keynote from Sasha Bezuhanova – founder and chairperson of MOVE.BG – and show & tell brainstorming sessions in different technology domains. The closing for the event will be just as exciting, when the most prominent SME success story from the WATIFY campaign will be honoured and presented during the WATIFY Awards ceremony.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of the technological transformation conversation, and register today! Don’t wait too long – registrations close on 16 April and there are a limited number of places available.

‘WATIFY: Inspire to Transform’ is organised with the support of MOVE.BG and Enterprise Europe Network Bulgaria and will also be partnering with the high-level event Smart Specialisation and Technology Transfer as Innovation Drivers for Regional Growth, organised by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council. This event will follow the WATIFY conference, and take place from 3-4 May also in Sofia, Bulgaria. If you are also interested in attending this event and especially the WATIFY story-telling session on 3 May, have a look at the event website for more information.

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