This year’s edition of EU Industry Days brought together a multitude of sessions on industry challenges, opportunities and policy responses with a wide range of stakeholders. With a strong focus on SMEs, this edition opened discussions on their needs, the role of the cluster network, social entrepreneurship and the new SMEs fund, to name a few.
The event also focused on the role of young people in line with the Commission’s 2022 European Year of Youth in a series of uplifting conversations about social equality, youth unemployment and the precarious nature of work and the urgent call for sustainable and socially responsible business models.
The opening day of the event featured different sessions dedicated to the EU industrial ecosystems, the presentation of the Transition Pathway for EU Tourism, and much more. During an inspiring talk about SMEs participating in the transition, Sotiris Kopatsaris, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Future Hotels Sotiris declared that SMEs in tourism should commit to this transition in order to survive as a sector pointing out that a strategy and a change of culture in SMEs to commit overtime to this journey is much needed.
The second day of the event included different parallel sessions of the EU Industrial Forum and a range of exciting sessions organized by the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Economic and Social Committee.
Among them, „Driving the sustainability transition for European SMEs: support to change and innovate”, a session moderated by Crispin Waymouth, Deputy Head of Unit, DG GROW, European Commission caught our attention. This session explored the main actions and instruments that should be deployed for the acceleration of the sustainability transition of SMEs.
Iraklis Agiovlasitis, Coordinator of Innovation Services, Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)/FFG Austrian Research Promotion Agency perfectly summarized the needs of SMEs during the twin transition: “What is of utmost importance in this sustainability transition for SMEs is access to know-how, access to finance, access to technology, relevant skills and, on top of that, international cooperation.”
The third day of the EU Industry Days was the highlight of the event, with high-level plenary sessions and keynote speeches, and was the day we especially waited for as Kristina Dimova, our Youth Essay Competition 2021 winner, was invited to join an inspiring conversation with young entrepreneurs.
Just like in her winning essay, Kristina made a strong statement about the need to treat young employees as humans and not as tools that help companies gain profit. „In order to make a young talent stay in the company, the employers should understand that they should treat them as humans, not so much as employers who are only there to gain them profit.”
The closing day of the event opened with a much awaited keynote speech from Petri Salmimen, President of SMEunited. SMEunited latest survey shows that about 50 % of SMEs report a decrease in turnover due to containment measures, lack of workforce or sick staff and shortage of material. SMEs have been hit hardest by the Covid crisis and it is time now to help them to recover and to master the green and digital transition. “We have to guarantee access to finance for the high upfront investments, technical assistance to understand what to change and how, support for eco-innovation without forgetting the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce to new competences”, underlined Mr Petri Salminen.
We also had an interview with Mr Petri Salminen earlier this month. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here.
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.
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!
Bulgarian Kristina Dimova won the SME Week Youth Essay Competition 2021 with an essay that highlighted that humanity is the key to sustainability not only for the business plan of the company, but in the context of management. We invite you discover what was the motivation behind Kristina’s participation in the Competition, but also what was her main takeaway from last year’s SME Assembly.
What made you enter the SME Youth Essay Competition?
Ever since I started my higher education, I have been working and looking for ways to develop myself. From editorials, to academies, agencies – for the last four years I had the chance to see how the work process is constantly changing. Not only mine, but one of the biggest problems of other young proactive people I’ve been talking to, is the management system and the fact that, no matter how much it has changed regarding flexibility, home office, etc, it’s still strictly hierarchical and because of that it’s draining the creative force of youth and its talents. This is why, when I saw the theme of the SME Youth Essay Competition, I wanted to show that, no matter how genius and innovative a business idea can be, it is nothing without the people working for its happening.
Moreover, as I said in my gratitude speech, Sabine Kressens – 2020’s winner essay and how intriguing and complex her text was, inspired me even more to participate. I wanted to see if I can do what she did so gracefully – present such an innovative idea in a way everyone can understand it.
What was it like to be announced as a winner of the 2021 competition?
A moment of pure bliss. I have read the essays of the other finalists and until the announcement, I still was not quite sure if anyone will recognize my idea as a crucial one for the survival of the development of future SMEs’. This is mainly because management has always been looked over when people are talking about successful entrepreneurial projects. However, after my name was announced, I reassured myself that everyone who has voted for me has been feeling there is a crucial need for change in that field. Afterwards many representatives of various institutions and companies who were in the audience during the competition congratulated me on this thesis. The fact that they have appreciated the youth perspective is what truly made me happy and is the biggest success.
What did you think about the SME Assembly 2021?
In person contact is irreplaceable. Because of the fact that the SME Assembly 2021 gave me the chance to meet people not only through a zoom square, the feeling of excitement was with me throughout the whole event. I’m still talking not only to friends of mine, but to colleagues about how eye-opening and inspiring the Schumpeter Innovation in Enterprise Lecture which Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj held. Of course, all of the fantastic and bright people I have met at the SME Assembly 2021 are making my memories of it even more unforgettable.
What was your main takeaway from the SME Assembly 2021?
Time is limited. Therefore, we must not only make the most of it, but make it worthy for us and the world we live in. Every single business idea must be sustainable both for the environment and for society’s needs. In a world where people are more divided than ever on so many topics, we need to find the way to the right solutions for each of us. The SME Assembly 2021 showed me that with the right steps, the path towards re-establishing unity is possible to be walked.
What is next for you? Any exciting plans to share?
Currently, I am writing my Bachelor’s thesis and, fingers crossed I will be graduating in 2022. Afterward, as they say, hopefully, the future will become clearer and even brighter. 🙂 Besides that, the business academy I am part of – 9Academy is currently running its 9th season. The 9 circles of business we are looking through in the educational process (which is very practical on its own) are making the academy a unique piece of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bulgaria. In addition, who knows, maybe one day in Europe as well?).
The other finalists of this year’s SME Week Youth Essay competition were Victoria Krah, half Spanish, half German, and Rui Teixeira from Portugal.
Check out the latest news on the SME Assembly and the Youth Essay Competition by regularly visiting the Promoting Enterprise blog. Subscribe to the SME Week Newsletter to stay up to date!