A joint workshop

At the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels (8-11 October 2018), four Interreg Europe projects dealing with the internationalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – EIS, COMPETE IN, UpGradeSME and CLUSTERS3 – organised a workshop titled Internationalisation of SMEs – Interreg Europe projects highlight their impact.

Besides a presentation of their approaches by representatives of the four Interreg Europe projects, the workshop included a discussion with Mr. Christophe Guichard, Team Leader Cluster internationalisation at the Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission. He highlighted some of the major barriers for the internationalisation of SMEs:

  • high costs for the initial financial investment as well as for the delivery of goods abroad,
  • difficulties with the access to markets and especially the identification of business partners,
  • complexity of administrative and legal procedures,
  • and existing European instruments addressing them.

The highlights of the discussion

The discussion focused on non-financial support instruments aiming at supporting SMEs for the development and implementation of strategic approaches to their internationalisation processes. Facilitating the access to funding is only one among a comprehensive range of services offered by those instruments; their main objective is to help SMEs access durable new markets and overcome the respective administrative and legal procedures for their target markets.

The following instruments were presented:

Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), an initiative that helps businesses innovate and grow on an international scale. It is the world’s largest support network for SMEs with international ambitions. The Network is active in more than 60 countries worldwide and brings together 3,000 experts from more than 600 member organisations. EEN mainly provides market information and helps finding business partners through matchmaking events.

EU SME Centre in China, an initiative that provides a comprehensive range of hands-on support services to European SMEs, getting them ready to do business in China. The team of experts provides advice and support in four areas – business development, law, standards and conformity and human resources.

EU Gateway – Business Avenues, an initiative helping European companies to establish long-lasting business collaborations in Asia. Selected European companies meeting the eligibility criteria get the opportunity to participate in a one-week business mission focused on a specific sector in Korea, South East Asia, China and Japan. Companies benefit from a range of business support services, which include coaching, logistical and financial support.

European Strategic Cluster Partnership for Going International, an initiative that aims to develop and implement joint internationalisation strategies to support SME internationalisation towards third countries.

Overview of EU instruments

Finally, Mr. Guichard presented an Overview of EU instruments contributing to the internationalisation of European businesses”, a document elaborated jointly by several Directorates General of the European Commission with the aim to “rationalise, simplify and articulate existing EU instruments contributing to the internationalisation of European businesses, so that they form a coherent and user-friendly package of tools.”

The document contributes to overcoming the usual fragmentation of the knowledge available to SMEs and further stakeholders in the field of business internationalisation on the existing EU support programmes.

Support from the Policy Learning Platform

Addressing the same issues, the Policy Learning Platform has recently published a story on the Xport Accelerator, a good practice aiming at accelerating the internationalisation of regional SMEs and will hold an online thematic discussion on the topic “SME internationalisation – boosting exports through collective support” on 22 January 2019. Click here to register

Sources and further reading

The Overview of EU instruments document is available on the DG GROW web site and on the digital library of the European Commission

The EU support schemes mentioned: