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;
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
The European Commission has approved a Hungarian scheme to support the agri-food value chain in the context of the coronavirus outbreak, which is expected to mobilise at least approximately €314 million (approx. HUF 111 billion). The scheme will be open to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) active in all sectors, but is aimed at the wider agri-food value chain. The objective of the measure is to provide those companies with financial means to cover their immediate working capital and investment needs, and help them maintain their activities during these difficult times.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This Hungarian guarantee scheme, expected to mobilise at least €314 million, will support the Hungarian agriculture and food industry, as well as the wider agriculture and bio-economy value chain. This measure will improve the liquidity of businesses and help them continue their activities in these difficult times. We continue working closely with Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place quickly and effectively, in line with EU rules.”
The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April 2020. The Temporary Framework enables Member States to combine support measures, with the exception of loans and guarantees for the same loan and exceeding the thresholds foreseen by the Temporary Framework.
The Framework allows Member States to provide the following types of aid:
- Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments
- State guarantees for loans taken by companies
- Subsidised public loans to companies
- Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy
- Public short-term export credit insurance
- Support for coronavirus related research and development (R&D)
- Support for the construction and upscaling of testing facilities
- Support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak
- Targeted support in the form of deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of social security contributions
- Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees
More detailed information on the Temporary Framework can be found here.
The full original press release can be found here in the Commission Press Corner.
During these unpredictable and uncertain times we have seen an explosion in the number of events and the amount of content and advice available online. Whilst this wealth of knowledge can be valuable for businesses, the volume can sometimes be quite overwhelming and it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. At Promoting Enterprise we have collected information on a few different events covering various topics of interests for SMEs to help in your search.
Let us know your thoughts on the events and get in touch (email@example.com) if you want us to feature your event in an upcoming post!
Blockchain for SMEs–Hype or Opportunity?
This discussion focused on blockchain from the perspective of SMEs and featured entrepreneurs Petko Karamotchev , Jeroen Perquin and Enrico Talin, who presented their visions for the development of blockchain technologies and demonstrated their own use cases and applications. In addition, Mikuláš Peksa, Member of the European Parliament, addressed the issue of regulation surrounding blockchain. The discussion was moderated by Sebastiano Toffaletti, Secretary-General at European Digital SME Alliance.
Watch the webinar here.
Project meetings online
On 12 May at 10:00 (CET) Interreg Europe project partners will share their experience in using online meetings in their project work as well as their tips and tricks for navigating different tools. Find out more and register here. You can also access their previous webinar and summary on online meetings here.
Digitalising the commercial lending process in times of crisis
On 19 May at 15:00 (BST) expert speakers will discuss the digitalisation of commercial lending and how it could help small businesses during the current pandemic. This webinar will cover useful topics such as: ‘How e-signatures can help meet the urgent need for small business loans’ and ‘How ID document verification can help prevent fraud in the digital channel’, as well as security and authentication tips.
Register and find out more here.
Mind the Bridge Influence Virtual Summit
Looking for information on how to optimise your accounting? Perhaps you want to find out more about responsibly incorporating AI into your accounting? At the Mind the Bridge Influence Virtual Summit accounting professionals will have opportunities to exchange, learn best practices and listen to knowledgeable speakers on how to adapt and move forward with finance.
Visit the event website for more information.
Reviewing and re-setting your marketing strategy during the COVID-19 outbreak
The AD:VENTURE programme, supported by the 2014 – 2020 European Regional Development Fund, has invited guest speaker Jonny Ross (founder and digital marketing specialist at Fleek Marketing) to provide insight and share advice and techniques on all forms of marketing, including planning and strategy for these difficult times.
Find out more and register here.
Running an online event you think we should feature? Or perhaps you have seen another event you think should be on this list? Then please leave a comment or get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the April edition of the SME Week Newsletter.
This month has certainly been different, and for some in our Promoting Enterprise community it has been particularly challenging. April has seen many policy changes and updates, Commission initiatives, hackathons and further actions. We have seen SMEs pitching in and doing their part, pushes and drives to make funding available to those in need, and a strong commitment to keeping the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit alive.
On behalf of the Promoting Enterprise team we hope that you continue to stay well, healthy and safe, and we are committed to bringing you the latest updates and inspiring stories.
Thank you for continuing to subscribe and do not forget to submit your news, articles and updates to be featured in an upcoming issue.
The original article can be found on the EASME website.
Digitalisation is amongst the various challenges that European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must face in today’s climate. SMEs need to keep pace with current digital transformation and digitalisation in order to provide digital solutions and thus, keep up and keep their place in their respective markets.
One aspect of digitalisation for all companies big and small, is the skills that are needed to implement the new digital solutions, and how to acquire them. In order to respond to this need, the COSME “Skills for SMEs” project, which aims to research and support how SMEs can obtain the key skills needed in the fields of big data, internet of things (IoT) and cybersecurity, is helping SMEs to acquire those skills and not fall behind.
Digital transformation is important for SMEs as it can present unique opportunities. However in order to fully exploit those opportunities, SMEs must invest in training themselves and developing their digital skills in order to overcome existing skills gaps and mismatches.
The “Skills for SMEs” project worked with key experts and other stakeholders to collect information and identify ways to facilitate digital skills development for SMEs. One of the conclusions was that “ambitious skills policies and well-targeted supporting measures at EU and national level are of utmost importance to facilitate the access of SMEs to a larger European talent pool”.
To find out more about this project consult the brochure and for more detailed information have a look at the final report.
Intellectual property (IP) can improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and provide a potential source of revenue. However, SMEs often lack the time, resources, or knowledge to address IP issues.
What is Intellectual Property?
As defined by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a self-funding agency of the United Nations, Intellectual Property (IP) “refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”
With different types of IP such as Copyright, trademarks, Patents and more, IP represents a potential source of income for SMEs that may be overlooked.
Where can I learn more about IP and get advice?
Learning about IP and the associated rights is important and the EU funds specialised helpdesks staffed by experts. These helpdesks provide multilingual support, advice, training sessions and further IP related information.
There are four different EU funded helpdesks to choose from:
- European IPR Helpdesk
- Specialised helpdesk for European SMEs in China
- Specialised helpdesk for European SMEs in South-East Asia
- Specialised helpdesk for European SMEs in Latin America
Learn more about European IP support for SMEs and
discover further resources right here.
SMEs are often said to be the backbone of Europe’s economy, but what measures have been put in place to help them?
This special episode of Business Planet from Euronews, in collobration with the European Commission, looks at the support that is being mobilised to support Europe’s 25 million SMEs. In an interview with Serge Rombi from Euronews President of SME UNITED Alban Maggiar, spoke of the “exceptional measures” being put in place and the need to keep the Single Market at the heart of all action taken and honour its borderless principles.
He mentioned the increased flexibility for Member States to grant loans to struggling SMEs and tools to help governments support companies and guarantee jobs. In addition he stressed the need for large companies to pay suppliers and sub-contractors, to avoid SMEs having to pay the price for unpaid bills.
Mr Maggiar called for entrepreneurs to hold on and stick together, as well as calling on big decision makers to honour commitments to smaller ones.
For more information read the original Euronews article.
The current situation with the spread of COVID-19 is challenging for many and is a particularly uncertain and stressful time for small businesses. As a consumer you have spending power and influence, which you can choose to use to help support your favourite local and small businesses. But how exactly can you help?
At the moment several governments and international bodies have taken strict and necessary measures to “flatten the curve” and control the COVID-19 outbreak. Whilst these measures are necessary for public safety and to ensure that health services and infrastructures can cope, they have affected many businesses, both large and small.
The results of these measures range from severely reduced business, to none at all, and the need to find alternative solutions in order to survive. Some businesses have gone online; others are making that transition, or finding other ways to continue providing services during these uncertain times.
But how can you use your consumer power to support small and local businesses? What action can you take to help?
Have a look through some easy tips below:
- Order online and provide regular business
- Want to keep your favourite businesses open? Continue being a regular customer and recommend their services to others. Several businesses are developing and expanding their online presence to cater to new demand, so have a look at what is on offer.
- Have a look at dedicated online platforms that support local business
- Use food delivery and takeaway services
- Many restaurants and other Food & Beverage businesses are having to adapt to fewer or no customers. Continue to support them and their employees by using food delivery and takeaway services.
- Buy gift cards from small businesses as presents or to use later
- Don’t need anything from ‘non-essential’ small businesses at the moment? Buy a gift card or a voucher! These small businesses also need your support and even if you don’t need their products right now you can always offer them as a gift or save the voucher to use at a later date, while providing a lifeline for small business.
- Avoid pausing memberships where possible
- Has your small independent gym, yoga studio or other small fitness establishment offered to pause your membership? This is an important source of revenue for small fitness businesses, so why not ask about online options or remote individual sessions and consultations?
Got any other suggestions? Write them in the comments and share your tips for helping and supporting small businesses.
Sources and useful resources: