The One Stop Shop as a driving force to SME smart regulation

By Platform

Once upon a time there was a European region where opening a business was a long and complicated administrative process. Three levels of public administration were involved in the different necessary approvals before a business could get started: the State for the formal registration and tax rules, the Region for the approval of the activity and the City Council for the approval of the workplace. Over five hundred different procedures did exist to legalise all kind of activities.

Does that ring a bell? Maybe it reminds you of your own region?

Well, this was the situation in Catalonia a few years ago, but in 2015 a law of administrative simplification paved the way for a large-scale deployment of a digital One Stop Shop (OSS) platform dealing with administrative procedures for businesses.

The Catalonian OSS

Going digital is not a straightforward process, also not for administrations. And duplicating the status quo on the new OSS would have missed the target of simplification!

So, the first step of the OSS implementation was actually the identification and elimination of non-added value procedures and processes. In the spirit of putting businesses at the center of its thinking and acting, the Government of Catalonia has been pursuing this approach not only with the relevant administrations but also with the most representative business organisations from the beginning.

As a result of this first step, the Government succeeded in removing 80 procedures from the initial catalogue. At the same time, the alignment and integration of Catalonia’s scattered business support landscape was identified as a valuable potential for synergies and efficiency gains. With the creation of the OSS in 2014, this ambitious and challenging policy objective was successfully put into practice, thus paving the ground for an open business environment characterised by entrepreneurial spirit and thinking:

  1. Integration of services and unified processing of all procedures required from companies throughout their life cycle, from all levels of administration.
  2. Multi-channel: the online channel is prioritised, but entrepreneurs can choose other ways to interact with the OSS.
  3. Speed and efficiency: less administrative costs for businesses as they can start their business as soon as the communication is made.
  4. Networking: collaborative service provision model available to all the relevant representatives of the different levels of administrations, thus ensuring smooth communication between the business support community of the region.

The core tools of the Catalonian OSS are:

  • The 'canal Empresa' (business channel) website designed to help entrepreneurs with their relationship with the three levels of administration.
  • The 'guide procedures search' tool, a free online tool that provides information about the procedures to be followed for any activity, regardless of whether it is the responsibility of the local, regional or national government.

The deployment of the OSS was a success

  • By the end of 2017, already 76% - compared to 37% in 2014 – of administrative interactions with businesses were processed digitally.
  • By 2018, 916 Catalonian city councils – which represents 97% of the total – were incorporated in the OSS.

Two graffics showing the One Stop Shop project success in Catalonia

Source: Generalitat de Catalunya

And this is not the end of the story. The current challenges for the Government of Catalonia are to:

  • Further make entrepreneurs aware of the facilities available and motivate them to use the new digital services instead of turning to the traditional system.
  • Proceed with the administrative simplification by reviewing regulations like for instance on urban planning, health and security or environmental issues.

A further step will be to develop the use of the OSS by business support organisations for the delivery of further non-administrative added value services to businesses such as innovation, internationalisation and digitalisation support. This is expected to take place under the umbrella of a new law on the promotion of economic activity in a digital environment.

Lessons learned 

Digitalisation and integration of services is a complex issue, which takes much more than technical developments:

  • It is clearly a policy process, which requires strong political will and leadership.
  • It implies a strong cultural change for many administration levels and their staff members, which needs to be taken into account and managed adequately in order to overcome resistance to change and enable users to improve their working habits and performance.
  • A change in the regulatory and legal framework is necessary, so as to enable both a digital processing of relevant data and files and the introduction of some level of obligation to all relevant authorities, especially at local level, to join the process. This must be put in the context of the digital single gateway, a regulation “establishing a single digital gateway to provide access to information, to procedures and to assistance and problem-solving services” adopted on 2 October 2018 by the European Parliament and the Council. The time foreseen for the full implementation of the regulation by all national, regional and local administrations is five years, i.e. October 2023.

The Catalonian OSS is currently being transferred to other regions and cities such as Florence and Genoa in the framework of the Interreg Europe project PURE COSMOS (PUblic authorities Role Enhancing COmpetitiveness of SMeS). Similarly, the Interreg Europe project OSS (One Stop Shop towards competitive SMEs, focusing on the ecosystem for the first line service system) is addressing the OSS topic from the perspective of the delivery of added value services for entrepreneurs starting new businesses. Other regions are dealing with the digital processing of public funding programmes for SMEs.

All those approaches are complementary towards the large-scale development of modern business support ecosystems backed with strong digital platforms.

Further information:

  • News on single digital gateway
  • Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a single digital gateway to provide access to information, to procedures and to assistance and problem solving services and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012
  • PURE COSMOS website
  • OSS website
  • Canal Empresa website
Image credit: Photo by Burst from Pexels