There are borders that divide, and there are those that connect. INTER VENTURES strives for the latter one, promoting the internationalization of SMEs in EU border regions, thus contributing to their growth and increased competitiveness. The main questions to be answered are ‘What kind of capacities SME’s would need to engage in cross-border and international collaborations? How these skills and capacities can be developed? Who are the key players facilitating the internationalisation of SMEs? How do they work, and how could their activities be improved?
INTER VENTURES brings together partners from five European border regions, representing various stages of evolution of SME ecosystems, from occasional cross-border cooperation through more structured networking to international clusterization. But even the most advanced ones face issues to be tackled in order to fully exploit their specific potentials. Partners will intensely share their experiences and learn jointly via two Thematic Study Visits focusing on relevant good practices and four Interregional Meetings combining training with discussions. Regional stakeholders will be intensively involved in the process through five rounds of RSG Meetings and Webinars including training, brainstorm sessions and assisted workshops. ‘Fast track’ policy improvement initiatives inducing immediate changes will be prepared and monitored through distinguished events joining key policymakers in each region.
Lessons learnt will be adapted to regional conditions explored through targeted surveys of regional SMEs. Specific actions and measures prescribing the most appropriate ways to change the policy frameworks in partner regions will be identified in a step-by-step action planning process assisted by advisory services. As a result, tailor-made regional Action Plans will be elaborated that can lead to the desired improvement of the five selected regional ERDF programmes for the enhanced internationalisation of SMEs
The CBC Programme consists of 4 priority axes (PA) + TA, the total budget is 60,8 M €. Inter Ventures project activities focus on PA1: Economic Development - Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs with 9,9603 M € (16,38%).
PA1 has one SO: 1.1 Fostering value-added business cooperation between SMEs operating on different sides of the border. The sole supported activity is a special cross-border SME development scheme with overall project development and management support to foster joint product and services development of cooperating SMEs in the programme area. The scheme aims to improve the weak financial background and networking attitudes of local SMEs. The “Beneficiary Light” Grant Scheme allocates 7,6 M € to SMEs on both sides of the border. The Lead Beneficiary (LB) is the Croatian Agency: HAMAG-BICRO.
The scheme was launched as a pilot initiative for direct SME support in the 2014-2020 period.
Two calls have been announced so far, however, due to administrative difficulties resulting from the launch of this novel support mechanism, no grant contracts are signed yet. Overall assessment of the scheme’s effectiveness is not yet possible, but it is a warning fact, that the number of SMEs applying has decreased by the 2nd call.
Policy improvements are needed to improve the implementation and management of the scheme, and to overcome barriers, e.g. pre-financing conditions, and program language (Eng.) which discourage SMEs from applying.
ERDF ROP provides 970,474,516 € for regional economic growth, social development and fostering productivity. From the 6 PAs, the addressed one is PA3 Promote SME competitiveness, with 30.36% of total funding (€ 294,645,000). Supporting the strategic objective of ROP to revitalize the Region’s enterprise economy, PA3 aims to maximize SME productivity and to improve SME competitiveness from the start-up stage throughout growth to consolidation by various means.
The project activities are focused on the SO3 Action 3b.1 to increase the level of internationalization of production systems by:
• Supporting export promotion projects, dedicated to SMEs and their aggregated forms on a territorial (including cross-border) or sectoral basis,
• Creating exchange opportunities between Italian and foreign entrepreneurs to attract investments and to promote trade agreements.
The main beneficiaries of these actions are SMEs (also in aggregate form, such as "network contracts", "subject networks", clusters and other structured forms of business cooperation), and public bodies.
There is a growing need of SMEs and micro-enterprises to participate in policy dialogue for the implementation of funding schemes tailored to their specific exigencies. This generates a need for improvement in the governance framework behind the OP planning and implementation. The calls are to be improved to provide more distinguished sectoral preferences towards internationalisation measures.
The objective of the ERDF/ESF Regional OP, with a total budget of 2,48 billion € is to enhance the competitiveness of the Region, and to improve living conditions. The OP has 9 Priority Axes (PAs) + TA, all fostering key drivers of regional competitiveness: innovation, R&D, technology, SMEs, e-services, energy efficiency, social inclusion. The expected results (relevant for the project) is the support of 2,000 SMEs.
RRDA & CARP address PA 1 - Competitive and innovative economy. The fact that Internationalization of SMEs (with a budget of 47 M €) is a key issue is reflected in the supported activities and indicators (e.g. Enterprises presenting their international character in information and promotion).
Despite these formal OP features, the promotion of cross-border SME cooperation and SME network building is hardly detectable despite the border location of the region. This is also crucial in the light of the fact that PL-SK CBC Programme lacks SME competitiveness priorities.
The calls support new projects, investments, international promotion to improve intensity and quality of SME internationalization.
The OP disregards the full potential of SME internationalization for regional SMEs, the issue is not communicated properly and SMEs lack coordinated capacity building activities. Budget is still available for internationalization of SMEs (including cross-border cooperation) therefore the project has true relevance in the (cross-border) region.
The ERDF OP Castilla y Leon, with an overall budget of 628,806 438 € is structured around five Priority Axis (PA) of which PA3 (Improve the competitiveness of SMEs) is taken as central in the INTER VENTURES project. This priority axis with a budget of 117.878 € (28,29%) covers - among other aspects - the internationalization of SMEs. From the three PA3 objectives 2 are relevant for the project: (1) Improve the productivity of the SMEs in the region fostering its internationalization, growth, innovation, and access to financing; (3) An increase in the number of exporting companies along the programming period and in the number of companies that regularly export. The relevant SO promoting the internationalization of SMEs list supported activities such as
facilitating the expansion of SMEs by promoting their active presence in foreign markets,
increasing the level of quantitative and qualitative internationalization and innovation of the SMEs of Castilla y León. Services are to be developed to produce specialized technicians in innovation and internationalization.
Actions and calls tend to focus on producing Regional Internationalization Plans. Actions related to training, networking or developing open innovation schemes are scarce. Calls promoting international clusterization or networking are also missing from the calls (except for macro-region RESOE). Promoting these in cross-border relations would greatly increase the level of internationalization.
The OP brings together ERFA, ESA, CF promoting economic dev., tackling social exclusion, and issues like energy security. With no regional OPs in Lithuania, the OP covers the entire country, the implementation is linked to regional councils. The total budget is 7 887.798 M €. The OP has 10 PAs + TA. The project deals with PA3 SMEs' competitiveness and innovation, with 7.92% OP budget. The IP of the PA “Developing and implementing new business models for SMEs, in particular with regard to internationalisation.” focusing on improving conditions for business start-ups and their further development, reinforcing international competitiveness.
SO 3.2.1 Increasing the internationalization of SMEs. The supported actions of the SO are 1. Provision of guidance to internat. cooperation, 2. Introduction of SMEs in foreign markets 3. Certification of goods and services 4. Promotion of SME involvement in international networks. 5. Provision of support to financing models.
The calls of 3.2.1 address among others: Individual SMEs and their products presentation at international exhibitions (507 applications, 50% granted with 14.58 M €). Other calls foster creative industries design companies, tourism in their export and new market ambitions.
The attractiveness of the calls and quality of projects shall be improved, i.e. by analysing possibilities to open up towards more traditional sectors, by reviewing administrative requirements, eligibility and assessment criteria, and other conditions.