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Twin transition for SMEs: Key learnings

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On 30 January 2024, the Policy Learning Platform organised a webinar on the topic of the twin transition for SMEs. 

The webinar aimed to guide how local public authorities could implement practices that can support the twin transition innovation uptake by SMEs in their region. Below you can access the recording, key learnings and presentations. 

Webinar recording

Watch the webinar recording below. 

Webinar agenda

The webinar has been designed and moderated by Mart Veliste and Rene Tonnisson Thematic Experts for Smarter Europe.

00:01:10 Introduction to the webinar and topic by Mart Veliste

00:10:25 Keynote speech by Stefan Muench, from the Joint Research Centre

00:24:41 Q&A: Based on the foresight analysis you did, what would you recommend to local and regional policymakers in the context of the twin transition?

00:26:59 Q&A: Your analysis put an emphasis on the social dimension, including the importance of acceptance, awareness, and the rebound effects, could you elaborate on why this is so important?

00:28:42 Q&A: You mentioned the frugal innovation, could you explain what it is? And what is its significance in twin transition?

00:30:36 Presentation by Aisling McCarthy on the Climate Toolkit 4 Business (ACCELERATE GDT) and insights on the topic matter by the lead partner John Hobbs

00:39:50 Q&A: Is the toolkit recommended or compulsory for companies wishing to access public procurement calls? And is this an incentive for them to use it?

00:41:20 Q&A: Do you plan to monitor the results of the Programme? Which sector has mostly applied to the toolkit?

00:42:28 Q&A: Has there been any dialogue with other countries/authorities about the tool?

00:43:30 Q&A: Is there any plan to distinguish between the SMEs working with the tool and those who don't, such as giving them a label if an improvement is monitored?

00:44:58 Q&A: Do you have something to recommend to other public authorities who are thinking about creating a similar tool?

00:46:43 Presentation by Torbjörn Jonsson from the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden on the policy change achieved in the operational programme for investments in employment and growth in Norra Mellansverige region (INNO INDUSTRY

00:56:52 Q&A: The We transform project you did for the SMEs, was it only the publically procured consultancy and very tailored programme for each SME? Or did they also have joint workgroups?

00:57:57 Q&A: What was the most effective way of engaging SMEs in the project?

00:58:56 Q&A: What about SMEs with less than 20 people, did they participate? Panel discussion

01:00:23 Q&A: What have been your initial learnings since you started the ACCELERATE GDT project on the topic of twin transition? And did anything stand out from the presentations to you?

01:12:47 Q&A: What are the main challenges that SMEs face during the twin transition and what benefits can arise for SMEs during the transition?

01:18:57 Q&A: How much have you discussed in your partnerships about the social dimension?

01:23:11 Q&A: Do you have examples of upskilling or reskilling programmes that link with the twin transition?

Key learnings

Explore the key learnings from the webinar below.

What is the Twin Transition? 

  • The twin transition can be conceptualised as greening OF and BY information technologies and data. The push for digitalisation and sustainability needs to happen in unison. Still, the challenge is that the green transition is largely policy-guided, i.e. there are clear pathways toward 2050 goals, while the digital transition is primarily market-driven, and the changes are fast and unpredictable.
  • Various digital technologies can catalyse the green transition. For example, monitoring and tracking can increase the material circularity of energy-intensive materials. Simulation and forecasting can help optimise mobility systems using Digital Twins.
  • Greening of digital solutions is equally important, as is being aware of potential rebound effects, i.e. negative effects of solutions that initially had positive intentions. Especially paramount are considerations of privacy and security. 
  • But the transition is not only about technology. Feasible technology might already exist, but its implementation depends on societal, economic and political contexts.

How does it impact SMEs?

  • Taking on a twin transition journey will help SMEs build a competitive advantage. Utilising new technologies enables SMEs to be more efficient and save money in the long term. Furthermore, customers are now looking for SME products and services to be more sustainable. But the push, also due to the recent Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), comes from larger companies choosing to collaborate more and more with SMEs who can reduce the carbon footprint of their value and supply chains.
  • Nonetheless, there is a risk that SMEs might be pushed out of the market due to the increased complexities that come with digital technologies as well as sustainability reporting and tracking. Big companies will likely not have problems in re- or upskilling their employees. But for SMEs, it can be a significant challenge.   
  • As SMEs focus on their main business activities and survival, i.e. "keeping the lights on and doors open", it can be hard to get the message of the importance of twin transition across and get them involved in support programmes. According to the speakers' experience, the programme managers must be "on the ground," constantly engage with local SMEs, and coordinate with colleagues and stakeholders in the ecosystem (e.g., universities, clusters, industrial centres). Newsletter and social media promotion will rarely yield positive results.

What can local governments do?

  • Three key requirements are relevant for local governments regarding the twin transition. Regions must have the infrastructure to roll out the solutions needed for the twin transition. And for these, there should be support programmes available. Similarly, support for SMEs is crucial. Especially re-skilling is something SMEs will not be able to do independently. Lastly, policy alignment between local, regional, national, and EU policies is necessary to make sure that all government levels are moving in the same direction.
  • Public authorities can also set up IT and data-driven tools that can assist SMEs in their transition journeys as was exemplified by the Climate Toolkit 4 Business.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at the upcoming event of the ACCELERATE GDT project on A sustainability journey into cluster policies across the EU.


Download the presentations below.