SMEs in Europe: the EEN as a tool for growth The importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the European economic environment is more than clear, to prove this we need only to bear in mind that 99% of all EU companies are SMEs, accounting for 67% of jobs in the EU. Considering these facts, in the EU support for SMEs has become increasingly important, if not decisive, to promote growth and employment.
Among the various funding opportunities, including programmes and procurement increasingly close and for SMEs, there is the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the largest network of information and support services to businesses in Europe. This network, while supporting tools for business development in Europe, provides cross services in support of business activity, the promotion of business opportunities, business cooperation and access to new markets, offering about 600 contact points in over 50 countries. Created in 2008, the EEN is the world’s largest support network for innovative SMEs with international ambitions – bringing together member organizations in Europe and worldwide. The network partners add international business expertise with local knowledge to help SMEs introduce their innovations into new markets. They also help small businesses grow faster by providing tailored support, backing new business partnerships and providing information on access to financing.
Through the network, entrepreneurs can easily access a range of services that can help to enhance their innovation strategies and investment in the European market and beyond:
Information and advice – Simplified access to various information about EU legislation, new policy measures which have a bearing on business activity, projects and funding programs for SMEs in the EU.
Support to business internationalization – Facilitating the search for business contacts abroad, for companies wishing to expand their activities at both European and international levels.
Support for innovation and technology partnerships – Helping SMEs access to European innovation support programs and strategic partnerships that enhance the industrialization of research and development results obtained in different countries.
Encourage cooperation in Europe – Business opportunities dissemination and help in meeting potential business and production partners, for technology transfer or others, that encourage cooperation and international business activity.
Although its services are designed and specially adapted to SMEs, they are also available for all other companies, universities and research centres.
Under the new 2015-2020 cycle, the network will have increased responsibilities in supporting innovation and internationalization of companies, by a direct link to Horizon 2020 and particularly the SME Instrument initiative. It provides specific support and financing for highly innovative SMEs with a clear commercial ambition and a high potential for growth and internationalization.
EEN’s business and top innovation experts provide Key Account Management services (KAM) to the companies selected to participate in the SME Instrument. This means ensuring that the selected SMEs will receive the best possible support to improve their chances of success and sustainable growth, including finding the right coaches to help them achieve important milestones and connect them to innovation support services. The EEN is funded under the COSME the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, which is coordinated by EASME – Executive Agency of the European Commission for Small and Medium Enterprises.
Another interesting support feature of this network are its Sector Groups, which team up experts in 17 key sectors from all across EEN to provide customised support. The Sector Groups often form the link between the EEN and other European actors and projects, including European Technology Platforms, research-driven clusters and National Contact Points of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme.