On 20 May, the Policy Learning Platform organised a community brainstorming on the internationalisation of SMEs. 


Interreg Europe projects represented: EIS, INTER VENTURES, SCALE UP, SIE, UpGradeSME

External speakers: none

Moderators: Luc Schmerber and Mart Veliste, thematic experts SME competitiveness 

Insights and takeaway messages 

The objectives of the online discussion were:

  • To present and validate the content of an upcoming policy brief on the internationalisation of SMEs integrating the good practices and policy recommendation from the Interreg Europe projects dealing with internationalisation.
  • To share their experiences and thinking on the following topics, as selected via preliminary poll, looking at possible trends and changes in the way to consider and support the internationalisation of SMEs:

o    Impact of COVID-19 – Internationalisation in a post-COVID context

The pandemic hit many businesses hard, the less prepared to deal with change were often mostly fighting for survival and had no resources or capacity to think further about internationalisation.

On the other side, the pandemic revealed weak points of some global value chains. A reshoring of some activities in Europe might happen and open new opportunities for European SMEs. This effect could be reinforced by increasing climate-related concerns related to globalised value chains.

o    Impact of digitalisation on the internationalisation of SMEs

The discussion highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic boosted the digitalisation of the economy in general and that this also affected the internationalisation of companies, which needed to find new ways to maintain the communication with their customers.

A strong need for improving the digital maturity of European SMEs was acknowledged by the participants.

o    Capacity building in SMEs

Capacity building remains a key issue for SMEs and business support providers, both for digitalisation and internationalisation. It is important for regional business support providers to develop tailored offers to the needs of the local SMEs, be they first-time exporters or more experienced.

When working with SMEs it is especially important to reach the persons in charge of developing digitalisation and /or internationalisation activities, so-called change agents, rather than to target businesses on a too generic level.

The results of the discussion will be integrated in the upcoming policy brief to be published before the summer break.

Policy Learning Platform resources 

Upcoming policy brief in June/July 2021