Accelerating the internationalisation of regional SMEs
A major challenge for the competitiveness of regional economies lies in the capacity of local SMEs to become internationally competitive and seize development opportunities in international markets. The access of SMEs to international markets is also one of the priorities for the partners of the FFWD EUROPE (Fast Foreward Europe) Interreg Europe project.
The Xport Accelerator, a practice identified in the framework of the FFWD EUROPE project in the French Normandy region under the leadership of the Normandy Development Agency (Lead Partner of the project), provides a successful example of a coordinated regional approach to internationalisation of SMEs.
The three founding entities of the accelerator, the Normandy Development Agency, Normandy International Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Business France, decided to pool their resources and networks in order to offer jointly a new service to regional companies willing to start or boost their international development.
Launched in January 2018, the service is free of charge for businesses. This is in line with the Enterprise Europe Network approach, which both the Normandy Development Agency and the Normandy International Chamber of Commerce and Industry belong to.
What are the steps of the service?
- The company fills in a short online self-diagnosis (12 questions);
- within 3 days, an expert takes contact with the company in order to make an initial appointment;
- within 15 days, a personalised roadmap is set up jointly by the expert and the company. Depending on the needs addressed, the roadmap covers a period of 6 months up to 2 years. The roadmap includes usually services delivered by the Normandy Development Agency, Normandy International Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Business France, such as trainings, individual coaching and matching with other businesses, consultancy and hotline service with respect to international business, planning of foreign branch offices (legal and fiscal regulations, customs duty…) and recruiting of qualified staff, etc., according to the needs identified.
- a systematic follow-up of the implementation of the roadmap takes place in the framework of regular meetings between the company and the expert, in order to validate and adapt the planned actions in a dynamic way, in accordance with the company’s development.
What are the effects of the Xport Accelerator at policy level?
- It offers a better articulation of export priorities with the regional sectoral strategies;
- promotes a wider dissemination of export culture;
- reduces administrative complexity and fosters access to a range of regional financing tools supporting internationalisation in its different aspects through grants or export insurance schemes:
- the regional grant scheme Impulsion Export (Export Impulse) funds up to EUR 75.000 and 50% of the costs for the preparation of an international development plan and the implementation of its initial steps over a period of two years.
- the French national risk sharing scheme Assurance prospection (business development insurance) supports the international development efforts of SMEs on a long-term basis (up to 9 years) by providing the beneficiaries with a significant cash advance payment of 50% of the total agreed support amount upon signature of a support contract. The funds allocated are paid back by the beneficiaries only after the 4th or 5th year after signature of the support contract. The payback is made in several instalments over a period of up to four years, according to the export turnover generated. Up to 65% of the amounts received by the beneficiaries can remain unpaid in case of failure of the planned international development
- The Xport web-based platform provides a centralised direct access to all relevant websites and application documents.
After less than 12 months of operation, the Xport Accelerator already provided services to 145 regional businesses, about half of them already exporting on a regular basis, and enjoyed quite a positive response. Those companies come from a broad range of industrial sectors, with a strong representation from the ICT sector (about 25%), the manufacturing industry (about 20%) and the agro food sector (about 20%).
On 17 September 2018, the initial success of the practice was confirmed with the signature of the TEAM FRANCE EXPORT NORMANDY memorandum of understanding in the premises of the Normandy Development Agency, in presence of Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs and Hervé Morin, President of the Normandy Region.
The Xport Accelerator has been thereby embedded in a more general policy, which entrusts the Normandy Region with the responsibility on its territory for guidelines on business support, support for internationalisation and business innovation, as well as guidelines on the attractiveness of the regional territory. As Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian summed it up: "It is necessary to know how to show that all the sectors are concerned by the export, to develop an export culture, an ambition at the national level and a strategy at the regional level."
The Xport Accelerator is an interesting example for the pooling of cross-organisational resources on the support supply side in order to provide tailored services to SMEs. Bringing together the resources of several organisations, the service mobilises a wide number of experts and aims at providing fast and targeted support for quick and tangible business impact.
The Good Practice database
The Good Practices database of the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform provides further examples of good practices for SME internationalisation. The Policy Learning Platform also plans to hold an online thematic discussion on the topic “SME internationalisation – boosting exports through collective support” by mid-January 2019. More details will be published in due time online.
For further information:
FFWD EUROPE website
Export accelerator good practice