SMEs in Europe have long served as the main driver of the European economy and have been placed front and centre in most of the EU strategic and policy goals. Despite SME success in Europe, there remains a gap between urban and rural SMEs, leaving a potential avenue for growth underutilized. Rural SMEs have traditionally lagged behind their urban counterparts in terms of innovation and growth potential. However, with digitalisation driving the knowledge-based economy, the geographic location of SMEs is becoming less relevant, opening the door to new opportunities and markets. Considering these trends, rural SMEs show great potential as a source of economic growth and innovation in what has traditionally been a limited market.
With renewed interest in rural SMEs, regions are ideal spaces for policy experimentation and Interreg Europe provides an opportunity for interregional policy learning. There are many Interreg Europe projects that tackle the challenges of rural SMEs competitiveness and innovation. Projects such as GROW RUP, INNOGROW, RuralGrowth, Rural SMEs, SARURE, SKILLS+, SOCENT SPAs, P-IRIS and RATIO have gathered good practices from their consortium regions and worked to achieve policy changes to enhance rural entrepreneurial spirit and to develop a stronger business ecosystem.