QUALIFY has been designed to foster the competitiveness of the SMEs in the agrifood sector by tackling a challenge that affects the involved regions and the whole EU (as stated by the European Commission):
Overcoming the barriers related to these challenges is to foster the reduction of costs, better chain values, better processes, and better products that will allow the tackled SMEs to grow and be more competitive in the national and international markets, where they need to enlarge their presence in front of larger companies, which are much less challenged by the presented topics.
To work in this direction, the project tackles the ERDF funds devoted to increase SMEs competitiveness in 7 EU regions/states which are representative of the EU geographical dimension and which incorporate agrifood and SMEs as core aspects of their respective RIS3.
The project aims at ensuring that when the projects funded under these schemes tackle agrifood SMEs they introduce aspects of quality, fraud prevention, and authenticity, which must complement the existing financial and non-financial instruments, enlarging the desired outcome: the growth of these SMEs.
The project also aims at enlarging the capacities of the managing authorities, relevant SMEs representatives and other stakeholders to better tackle these aspects and develop better and more efficient projects.
The main project outputs are: 7 policy instruments enlarged and improved through 7 action plans + monitoring systems, setting-up of a course with materials on the project topics for managing authorities and SMEs to foster an e-learning process, 35 stakeholder meetings, 4 dissemination events, 6 partner meetings with study visits, a continuous contact with national and EU institutions working in these topics, and over 50 best practices learned/exchanged.
The instrument aims at improving the competitiveness of the SMEs in the agrifood industries through different measures and actions. The core of these actions it totally aligned with the topics of the project and they include: improvement of the capacities of the SMEs so they can compete nationally and internationally, improvement of the efficiency in the use of resources while having sustainable high quality standards, investments to enlarge the collaborations of SMEs in the sector in research and innovation projects to improve their products and their quality levels, etc. These actions are included under the priorities: enlargement of advanced capacities for the development of new products, and support to SMEs to grow in regional, national, and international markets.
However, having this relevant and active instrumental framework is not enough, for SMEs in the concerned industry require a precision-base tackled instrument that really understands and acts on the needs of SMEs in agrifood industries, when it comes to quality standards. Therefore, the instrument is ready to support in this goal, but it must be improved by ameliorating the framework linked to these companies, enlarging their role, including next actions (training, analysis of their quality standards, R&I projects, etc.). This must be included in the instrument (it is not now), and especially introduced towards the next programming period, in order to improve and enlarge the impact of the instrument.
Bulgarian operational programme. Priority Axis 2 Entrepreneurship and Capacity for growth of SMEs. We will tackle them aligning the actions to improve those in the agrifood sector. There are 2 measures:
The first is toaccess to finance for supporting new SMEs with financial instruments combined with grants and encouraging new ideas in areas related to European and regional challenges. For agrifood sector ones, the inclusion of quality-based measures is possible and desirable.
The second is related to the capacity for SMEs to grow, the implementation of the indicative measures under this investment priority aims at achieving a positive effect on the development of a sustainable market competitiveness of the Bulgarian SMEs, in order to increase their productivity and export potential. Particular emphasis is placed on the quality of products and services to businesses, their potential to realize higher performance in the value chain and rapid provision of market stability in a highly dynamic and competitive environment, improving resource efficiency, increased production capacity and quality of products, and improved capacity to manage and implement new business models and practices around it these quality standards.
The instrument should be improved to better respond to the challenges and entrepreneurial demands of SMEs in the agrifood sector, improving the quality standards and support the export and internationalisation of the SMEs.
As stated in the title, the instrument tackles the P.A. 3 of the ERDF for the region and focuses on developing the competitiveness of the SMEs in Poitou-Charentes, now part of Nouvelle Acquitanie. The frame instrument includes a number of financial instruments to tackle the main objectives: foster internationalisation, improve the processes in the SMEs (including certification), improve the resources and the knowledge of these companies, and other actions linked to better competitiveness. The way to implement this is by experts support, direct investments – subsidies, credits, guarantees, and funds of investment capital, with different possibilities according to the needs of any SME and their sector.
As mentioned in the policy, agrifood SMEs are the core of the SMEs in the region, and they are probably those that require a larger effort to improve their processes, value chains, internationalisation and, therefore, competitiveness. However, the policy, instruments, even if where placed, fail at including in an explicit way (with concrete actions) a crucial topic for the development of this competitiveness: quality, authenticity and fraud prevention, which, as some studies show, limit the efficiency of SMEs and therefore their growth potential. Therefore there is an imperative need to tackle these issues within the policies aimed at supporting SMEs in the agrifood sector (which is a large % of the instrument), and that must be considered and included.
The main aim of instrument is to increase international competitiveness of SMEs and their ability to integrate into global value chain, to have better export intensity and better service export of the companies. To do so, the instrument establishes some financial schemes (which are implemented in the shape of loans and/or subsidies) to develop project to promote this international competitiveness, under the priority measure that is mentioned in the title of the instrument.
Notwithstanding that, even if the instrument is ready to support this goal and it is already being implemented, it is also important to improve the framework of these actions, for the development of the instrument is proving that complementary measure could support better and further impacts. This is especially relevant when we consider agrifood SMEs, for it has been seen that, even if the can be very successful in the projects under this instrument, they could largely improve their results (and therefore their competitiveness) if they included the scope of quality, authenticity and fraud prevention, for these are topics that they admit pose barriers in the development of their companies and the instruments to support them. This is why, it is not that relevant to change the shape of the financial model of the instrument itself, but more the approach of the topics and the projects funded to make sure this scope is considered and, therefore, it improves the impact of the instrument for the tackled SMEs.
This policy instrument strives to develop Estonian SMEs’ competitiveness, especially to develop their export potential. In this context, the role of Estonian SMEs outside urban centers – like most of those linked to food processing – has yet to be fully exploited and there is potential for tremendous growth in Estonian food exports, as the capacity and quality of the Estonian food sector has increased several folds during past years.
The policy tackles several actions for SMEs in Estonia and it aims at improving their competitiveness, tackling different measures and actions according to the needs and also the sector, stressing that they need a better access to the knowledge to understand the “dos and don’ts” of their field of business. For example, in the agricultural business, to increase the quality in the production process of their products. The instrument includes actions like support of experts, subsidies to develop studies and innovation activities, and technical support.
Even if the tackled sector has been growing, SMEs experience several barriers to improve their value chains and exports, due to limited competitiveness. Their lack of knowledge on quality and fraud activities is one of them. This is why it is required to incorporate these topics in the policy, to ensure they complement the core of it, and they are better and with a larger impact.
The ROP of Thessaly covers 10 thematic objectives. The 3rd objective focuses on SMEs competitiveness. For QUALIFY, the following 2 are those approached: 3(c) supporting the creation & extension of advanced capacities for product & service development; 3(d) supporting the capacity of SMEs to grow in regional, national and international markets. These axes include financial instruments like subsidies and loans and it also includes non-direct monetary measures like mentoring, some support for quality processes and labelling (key in the project), internationalisation support, etc.
Most Thessalian SMEs operate in the agrifood sector. As a result, a large number of the interventions in the mentioned axes will be implemented tackling this sector. The ROP of Thessaly recognises that measures to boost quality processes and innovation for rural economy and agri-food SMEs is a priority of developmental nature.
However, SMEs in Thessaly are facing viability challenges linked to a low competitiveness result. There is a need to develop innovation and quality support services, so that SMEs can exploit new products, services, and models and access new markets. This includes the quality, authenticity and fraud prevention process, which have been signalled as core challenges for agri-food SMEs; these topics are not properly introduced in the proposed instrument, which requires being updated and to offer the SMEs the right incentives and opportunities to improve their systems.