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Petri Salminen, President of SMEunited, invited to hold a keynote speech at EU Industry Days

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The upcoming edition of the EU Industry Days, entitled “Unlocking the future: EU industrial ecosystems on the path to the green and digital transition”, aims to stimulate discussions across industrial ecosystems on their green and digital transition, in support of strengthening the resilience of EU companies including SMEs.

In this context, one of the most awaited moments is Petri Salminen’s, President of SMEunited, keynote speech on the 11th of February. The day will run under the Co-creating the green, digital and resilient transition theme and will include a series of meet-the-experts and stakeholder sessions.

Kuva: Markus Sommers

After his election, in December last year, Mr. Salminen stated that the focus of SMEunited would remain on the recovery of SMEs following the pandemic crisis and allowing them to make the digital and green transformation. We are sure you are as curious to find out more about this as we were, so here is what Mr. Salminen shared with us on this topic, but also about the priorities of SMEunited for 2022 and the recently launched Annual Theme “Youth and skills”:

What are the main challenges SMEs are facing at the moment that keep them from making the digital and green transformation?

Many SMEs move very actively towards digital and green transformation. They produce eco-friendly products, install charging stations for electric cars, create mobile apps, set up a webshop, etc. However, EU policy has to provide the right framework for this transition and guarantee a level playing field for all enterprises.

For instance, to support small and medium enterprises to become greener, the next EU Environmental Action Program should include support for eco-innovation and for finance of upfront investments. Another example: the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Organisational Environmental Footprint (OEF) with mandatory information about the lifecycle of products would disproportionally increase red tape and costs for small and medium companies. Therefore, I believe that it must remain voluntary, at least for SMEs and the Commission must bring to life its idea to provide SMEs with an easy-to-use and cost-efficient tool.

The same goes for digital innovation: SMEunited asks the Commission to ensure that all new measures and services allow small and medium businesses to grasp the opportunities of digitalisation. Yes, some SMEs are champions in developing new technologies. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs and workers do not always possess the necessary digital skills, and some companies, especially in rural areas, struggle with access to and/or speed of the Internet. Thus, SMEunited demands that EU policy takes the SME perspective into account. This means that access to data must be ensured, digital training is provided for and standards include SME perspective to guarantee interoperability. Programs like Digital Europe and Horizon Europe must include a percentage of SMEs.

What does a supportive business environment look like in this context?

Apart from a level playing field for all companies, the EU should raise awareness about sustainability to reach all stakeholders, including public authorities, citizens, and SMEs. For example, to encourage repairing goods the VAT Directive recently was amended to allow for reduced VAT rates for repair work. Now, Member States should use this opportunity to make this “incentive” a reality.

93% of all companies in Europe have less than 10 employees. So, I think it is fair that regulations have to comply with the Think Small First principle, thus, limiting burdens and developing legislation based on the capacity of the smallest ones.

Red tape and compliance costs remain huge problems for SMEs. They do not have specialists in their staff for HR and other legal services like big companies do. Entrepreneurs take on these obligations next to their core task, which is running their business. Focus must be on providing quality products and services to their customers, otherwise, they won’t earn any money. The fact is that only businesses that are profitable can invest in renewal and development. Thus, we at SMEunited emphasize that small and medium enterprises demand less bureaucracy and more legal clarity for the green and digital transition. The clock is ticking, so let’s do it asap.

What are the priorities of SMEUnited for 2022 regarding the twin transition?

In the next year, SMEunited will focus on the recovery of small and medium businesses from the pandemic crisis and their twin transition, supported by the funds out of NextGeneration EU. We must build an environment where SMEs can innovate, invest, flourish, and create jobs. European Crafts and SMEs are crucial to succeed with the Green Deal. This means we will be vigilant in the discussions on the Fit for 55 package, the proposals on the sustainable product initiative and right to repair, for instance.

SMEunited will also fight for fair and transparent rules for access to data and SMEs’ activity on digital platforms. SME friendly standards will also have a key role in a smooth transition.

SMEunited just launched the new Annual Theme “Youth and skills”. What made you focus on youth entrepreneurship this year and what is the aim of this new theme?

We decided that it would be a good idea to focus on ‘Youth and skilled workforce’ and thus to work in unison with the European Commission that made 2022 the European Year of Youth. SMEunited will showcase the significant role played by Crafts and SMEs in Vocational Education and Training to equip young people with the right skills to thrive in the labour market. If young people receive apprenticeships in Crafts and SMEs, they experience a smoother transition from school to work. Small and medium companies can also cooperate with vocational schools and training centres to inform them what skills are needed for Crafts and SMEs. We will continue to promote youth entrepreneurship to incentivise young women and men to create their own businesses or continue the work of another entrepreneur after a business transfer.

We invite you to attend Mr. Salminen’s inspiring keynote speech on the 11th of February starting 9:45 CET by registering here. The 2022 edition of the EU Industry Days takes place in hybrid format and it gives you the possibility to join the conference online, from anywhere in the world. The full programme of Eu Industry days 2022 is available here.

Don’t miss anything out and follow all news on European’s Commission website, but also on Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you follow and use the official hashtag #EUIndustryDays.

Inspiring Kristina Dimova invited to speak at the EU Industry Days

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Kristina Dimova, the SME Week 2021 Young Essay Competition winner, continues her journey in the entrepreneurial world and will be present at the upcoming edition of the EU Industry Days.

As you know, the 2022 edition that is entitled “Unlocking the future: EU industrial ecosystems on the path to the green and digital transition”, will take place from 08th to the 11th of February and aims to stimulate discussions across industrial ecosystems on their green and digital transition, in support of strengthening the resilience of EU companies including SMEs.

This year’s edition will also hold discussions on how the young generation can shape the future of EU industry in line with the Commission proposal to make 2022 the European Year of Youth.

SME_Assembly2021_Kanizaj-1974

Kristina Dimova, who is 22 and an inspiring representative of her generation, is one of the speakers in the Plenary Session: Inspiring Dialogue with Young Europeans that will take place on 10 February starting 15:30.

Moderated by Olena Sullivan-Prykhodko, 2021 Junior Chamber International Vice President, Co-Founder and Director of Modelex Education Monaco and the British School of Monaco, the session gathers creative young business owners that will share their vision on the future of entrepreneurship.

“Change is inevitable. That’s why businesses must adapt or perish. The way they could adapt is by being as human as possible. The main thesis of my essay is that humanity is the key to sustainability not only for the business plan of the company but in the context of management. However, humanity should be combined with key factors such as digital transformation, ecology, and economic growth.” This is what Kristina highlighted when talking about the competences and skills needed in the future for an entrepreneur, during SME Assembly 2021.

She also added that “Every single business idea must be sustainable both for the environment and for society’s needs.”

With this in mind, we remind you that there it is still time to register and take part in the discussion on turning industrial challenges into opportunities for Europe.

Check out the full programme here and see what sessions are of interest to you!

Stay updated by following all news on European’s Commission website, but also on Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you follow and use the official hashtag #EUIndustryDays.

SME Assembly 2021 – One Of The First EC Conferences Held In Person After Covid-19

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This year’s SME Assembly, which is set to take place in Portorož, Slovenia on 15-17 November 2021, will be one of the first major European Commission conferences to be held in person post-COVID.  With a programme packed with panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, and more, the SME Assembly 2021 promises to bring a sense of normality to the European and international enterprise ecosystems and celebrate European SMEs’ resilience.

The hybrid format will allow those unable to attend to follow online as sessions will be streamed live and made available on-demand later on. This virtual experience will be facilitated by an online host and participatory sessions, enabling active participation even without being on-site. Don’t forget to register in order to join online.

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. 

This means that, in addition to being the number one event in the EU for SMEs and those who support them, this year’s Assembly will also send an important signal to the conference and convention industry, which has been hard hit by the pandemic that it has the unwavering support of the Slovenian Presidency and the European Commission.

What to expect

The 2021 SME Assembly will kick off with the highlight of the programme – the Schumpeter ‘Innovation in Enterprise’ Lecture. This year will be given by professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj – the joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the United Nations – who will focus on the role of SMEs and enterprise in achieving the transition to a sustainable economy. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj is an Agrometeorologist, a professor at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana and a pioneer in researching the impact of climate change.  

This will be followed by panel discussions, policy workshops and masterclasses on a range of topics – from the role of SMEs in place-based industrial policies to new opportunities for family-run tourism or empowering girls and women through entrepreneurial and digital competences. At all the sessions, key experts will be on hand to share their experience and provide specialist advice.

This year the SME Assembly 2021 is also hosting two awards ceremonies, the European Enterprise Promotion Awards and the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards, where the most innovative projects in our Promoting Enterprise community are recognised.

Something for everybody

With its wide range of discussions and topics, there will be something for everybody at this year’s Assembly. Like in previous years, the SME Assembly 2021 will also offer networking opportunities, allowing participants to build on the valuable connections that they have made within our Promoting Enterprise community and to forge new links.

Make sure to visit the Promoting Enterprise portal regularly for future updates on the Assembly, its speakers, programme sessions and so on. We are very much looking forward to meeting you in person in beautiful Portoroz!

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.

EU Industry Days 2021

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The EU Industry days will be taking place next week from 23-26 February and be an opportunity to listen to and be involved with discussions centring around the challenges facing industry, development opportunities and policy responses.

This year’s programme will feature sessions and speakers talking about green and digital transitions and the opportunities both transitions present for EU businesses and citizens. Top speakers will include European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton.  

The large variety of sessions will also feature the Pact for Skills, circular procurement, lessons learnt from the COVID crisis and several specific masterclasses and parallel sessions.

Alongside the main programme the first fully virtual EU Industry days will feature a virtual exhibition showcasing 43 EU projects. Conference participants will also have opportunities to vote for their favourite projects across categories in the #EUIndustryDays competition.

In addition to the EU Industry days, affiliated events will be taking place across Europe under the EU Industry Week.

Registration for the EU Industry days is still open and the full programme is available on the website.

IPA4SME – successfully protecting intellectual property at small businesses

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Since the first call launched in May 2019, the IPA4SME programme from the European Commission has been successfully accompanying small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) on their path to intellectual property (IP) valorisation, helping them to protect their valuable IP. To date, over 1.000 SMEs from 30 countries have benefited from the programme.

IPA4SME offers SMEs that have been awarded the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Seal of Excellence a unique opportunity to acquire IP valorisation and protection by co-financing a range of IP-related services, worth up to EUR 15 000.

These services include free IP pre-diagnostics, where a verified IP expert provides the companies with a customised report on their IP business strategy and advises on how to exploit their assets efficiently and securely. Beneficiaries can also have their IP protection costs reimbursed, particularly IP attorney and European patent application fees.

Cut-off closing date approaching

The closing date for the eighth cut-off in the current call is 25 February 2021. This is an excellent chance for eligible SMEs to receive up to EUR 15,000 to support their IP strategy or patent registration. Interested SMEs can apply here.

Feedback from beneficiaries in the previous cut-offs has been very positive – they found the action to be an excellent chance to summarise, reflect on and improve their IP strategy. In general, thanks to the programme they are more aware of their IP situation and view the recommendations in the IP Diagnostic Report as critical for their long-term business strategies. You can read some of their Success stories here.

Feedback from beneficiaries shows that:

  • 97% of applicants are interested in additional support;
  • 87% of beneficiary SMEs have a better understanding of their IP and its value than before;
  • 90% consider the IP pre-diagnostic report a useful resource; and
  • 91% would recommend the IP pre-diagnostic to other innovative SMEs.

Information available

IPA4SME also provides detailed information on the different IP valorisation services that are available, in addition to what actions selected beneficiaries should take to access these services. To view the webinars, click here.

For more information on IPA4SME and its services, visit the website. To keep up to date on IPA4SME actions and events, make sure to follow the programme on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

European Small and Mid-Cap Awards – 2020 winners

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This year at the SME Assembly 2020 the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) joined forces with the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards to bring you a bigger awards ceremony with more outstanding projects and initiatives to highlight.

The European Small and Mid-Cap Awards aim to promote best practices and to highlight the best European Small and Mid-Sized Companies that have gained access to capital markets via an Initial Public Offering (IPO). They showcase the diversity of European markets and aim to promote stock listings, in particular targeting SMEs and growth companies.

2020 marked the eighth edition of the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards which took place alongside the EEPA online at the first virtual SME Assembly on Monday 16 November.

The winners of the 2020 edition are as follows:

International Star: Diaceutics

Rising Star: Fodelia

Star of Innovation: Frequentis 

Star of 2020: Izertis

Special Mention: Lighthouse

Congratulations to the 2020 winners!

Watch the full ceremony and re-live all the winning moments right here:

For more information on the 2020 winners, please visit the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards website.

You can also follow the European Small and Mid-Cap Awards on Twitter.

INNOSUP funded open call DIGI-B-CUBE – SMEs against COVID-19

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The original article can be found on the EASME website.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives and presented new challenges across different sectors. One sector in particular that has had to endure, react and innovate is healthcare, and healthcare systems in particular have been under significant strain.

In response to this the INNOSUP funded DIGI-B-CUBE project “aims to unlock the cross-sectoral potential of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and generate innovative solutions to reconfigure patient-centred diagnostics towards a Health Economy 4.0.” In order to do so the DIGI-B-CUBE project offer direct financial support to projects focused on promoting and integrating digital innovations and disruptive technologies across the Medical Diagnostics and related value chains.

The project exists to support innovative SMEs that have developed solutions for the broad issues and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and highlighted. The recently launched call is directed specifically at SMEs and new start-ups “to fight COVID-19 through transversal collaborative projects”. SMEs considering application are eligible for up to 60 000 EUR in direct support and can be from the following sectors:

  • Healthcare medicine;
  • Biotech;
  • Biopharma;
  • IT;
  • Robotics;
  • Automation;
  • Electronics;
  • Nanotech.

Application information
The first cut-off date is Wednesday 29 July 2020, after which an evaluation process taking up to 4 weeks will take place. The second cut-off date is Wednesday 3 February 2021.

For more information consult the EASME article and project website, or contact the project coordinators directly with specific questions.

More about INNOSUP 
The Horizon 2020 INNOSUP programme aims to test new approaches for better innovation support through funding opportunities for innovation actors across Europe. Funding opportunities exist for clusters, innovation agencies and other SME Intermediaries, as well as individual SMEs and researchers. More information can be found on the INNOSUP website.

Acts of solidarity – How a Belgian seamstress supported the medical sector and general public

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We are back with part two of the first of our ‘COVID Stories’ which look at how companies and people have been affected by the current pandemic and how they have adapted to their new business environments.

In this interview Catherine Lorent, a Belgian micro SME owner who has used her sewing business to aid the medical sector and general public tells us what happened next and where she is now. If you haven’t already, catch up with part one of her story here. In her last interview Catherine explained how she started making masks and hospital blouses for the medical sector, and her experience in learning how to make masks and being able to source the correct fabric.

Today Catherine is telling us more about the business, the need to diversify, direct impacts due to COVID, expanding her new products to the general public and where she sees her business in future.

How have you diversified your business in response to COVID-19?

I started with the call for masks and blouses for the hospital staff, but once the demand from hospitals began to decrease (due to the arrival of medical grade masks), I found myself becoming less busy and not having as much work again, which was worrying. I looked into making other Personal Protective Equipment, specifically the plastic visors for the hospital staff as I knew there was a shortage, but unfortunately I was unable to source the correct materials.

It was at this point that the government guidelines for citizen mask-wearing began to become clearer, and I started receiving orders from the general public, the spokesperson for the Belgian Prime Minister and the office of the Secretary General of the European Commission. These orders led to my business slowly picking up again, and saw a slow transition from providing fabric masks only for the hospitals to taking private clients. I have been lucky as I have not had to inject personal funds into my business and have been supported by the government bridge scheme for entrepreneurs.  

Diversification also happened with the way I get my products to my clients, which was a big problem during COVID specifically. There were times when it took up to 3 weeks for some of my clients to receive their masks in the post, which was simply not quick enough. To solve this, my son and I reached out to some cyclists to set up a delivery work, which now works to get the products to clients in a more reasonable timeframe. I cover the costs of the cyclists but some of them are volunteers that wanted to help me however they could.

What other effects has COVID-19 had on you and your business?

There is definitely a change in perception of my skills and industry. Prior to the beginning of this pandemic I did not feel as valued, and I think that in general my sector and my profession were not valued as much as they were a few decades ago. In general I think that manual labour is sometimes seen as ‘easy’, and that anyone can do it. The need for fabric masks highlighted our specific skillsets, and as a result people’s mentality has changed and I feel like my work is more appreciated.

With this appreciation I hope that there is another mentality shift towards valuing quality clothes, and investing in good pieces and repairing them over time to make them last. If a higher quality of clothes becomes the standard, then the value of repairing and tailoring them should also increase.

How do you see the future of your business?

I hope that I will not have to make so many masks! To date, I have made around 1600 in total. It is a product that I will continue to offer as there is a demand and a need, but I’m hoping that I will not have to make as many as I was producing at the beginning of the lockdown period. I’ve experimented with a few different models of masks now that it is a steady product that I offer, and I’m thinking about coming out with a summer collection!

I also hope that the outpouring of support for small businesses will continue and that people will value the SMEs in their community and take their business to them. It is important to champion entrepreneurs, and I think that one of the results of this pandemic is that people have discovered small businesses and want to support them however they can. In my case I was very moved by all the people wanting to offer their help to make me a website, help out with my social media, volunteer to help my business, and just showing their support for me and my work. Hopefully this kind of attitude continues in future.

It will also be great to see my clients again, and hopefully gain some new ones! The bigger contracts should also come back so that is something to look forward to as well. Overall I will continue to diversify my products, and perhaps transition my business back into a hobby in the future, we will just have to wait and see.

Don’t forget to go and follow L’Or en 4 on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about Catherine and her story.

Have you got a COVID Story like Catherine’s to tell? Do you know an SME owner that has adapted to COVID-19 and wants to share their story? We would love to hear about it and feature it right here on the News Portal. Contact us at: promotingenterprise@gopacom.eu

European Commission consults Member States on proposal to expand State aid Temporary Framework

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The original press release is available in the Commission Press Corner.

On Friday 12 June, the European Commission sent Member States for consultation and comment a draft proposal to further extend the scope of the State aid Temporary Framework adopted on 19 March 2020 to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework was first amended on 3 April 2020 to increase possibilities for public support to research, testing and production of products relevant to fight the coronavirus outbreak, to protect jobs and to further support the economy. On 8 May 2020, the Commission adopted a second amendment extending the scope of the Temporary Framework to recapitalisation and subordinated debt measures.

The Commission is now proposing to further extend the scope of the Temporary Framework by enabling Member States to:

  • Support certain micro and small enterprises, including start-ups that were already in difficulty before 31 December 2019, and
  • Provide incentives for private investors to participate in coronavirus-related recapitalisation measures.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said “Micro, small and start-up companies face specific challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis. They are crucial for the economic recovery of the Union. That’s why we propose to extend the Temporary Framework to enable Member States to give further support to micro and small companies, including start-up companies. Furthermore, we propose to introduce conditions that provide incentives for private investors to participate alongside the State in recapitalisations. This is welcome as it reduces the need for State aid and the risk of distortions to competition. We continue to work closely with Member States to ensure that European businesses have access to urgently needed liquidity, to contribute to the economic revival post-coronavirus.”

Micro and small companies have been particularly affected by the liquidity shortage caused by the economic impact of the current coronavirus outbreak, exacerbating their existing difficulties to access financing compared to medium-sized and large enterprises. If left unaddressed, these difficulties could lead to a large number of bankruptcies of micro and small companies, causing serious disturbances for the entire EU economy. The new proposal would allow Member States to extend aid to SMEs that qualify as being in financial difficulty on 31 December 2019 and increase the possibilities for small and start-up companies to receive support.

The new proposal also includes adaptations that incentivise private investors to contribute alongside the State, and thus limiting the risk of competition distortions and preserving effective competition in the Single Market.

Check out other COVID-19 related news and updates here on the News Portal.

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