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C-TEMAlp - Continuity of Traditional Enterprises in Mountain Alpine space areas

Veneto Innovazione coordinates C-TEMAlp a European project meaning to improve SMEs innovation, diversification and attractiveness through dedicated support services and testing innovative pilots of transnational business transfer.. ..... more

 

A success story by Veneto Innovazione

Veneto Innovazione supported SOLWA an Italian start-up developing a green and sustainable technology able to treat polluted water and sea water using only solar energy..... more

 

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Tajani: “SMEs are the driving force of the European Union”

 
The EU economy is driven by small and medium-sized enterprises, they are many, of various types and, unfortunately, at present they have big problems. The EU Commission is doing a lot to help them. Antonio Tajani - Vice President of the EU Commission and Commissioner in charge of Enterprise and Industry - explains the present EU economic policies and future plans. He believes in SMEs so much that he personally brings them to emerging countries to get new opportunities.

Which are the industrial sectors that the EU Commission considers as leading in view of Europe 2020? How SMEs will be supported?
At a time when the speed of innovation and technological development has put the world on the edge of an industrial break-through, several new technology areas are converging to lay the foundations of a new industrial revolution. The Commission has thus proposed in its Industrial Policy Communication of October 2012 to focus investment and innovation on six priority action lines: advanced manufacturing technologies, key enabling technologies, bio-based products, sustainable industrial policy, construction and raw materials, clean vehicles, smart grids. The development of these markets will provide benefits for a wide range of industrial sectors, both mature and emerging
 
Improving access to credit for firms and in particular for SMEs is a key priority for stimulating industrial growth and the Commission has to commit to an extraordinary effort jointly with the European Investment Bank in order to strengthen venture capital and credit insurance instruments. Furthermore, the Commission actively seeks to open up new market opportunities for our industry as seizing the potential offered by emerging economies is crucial for boosting growth
 
 
What can the Commission do to promote and encourage new European entrepreneurs or start-ups and to stimulate the industrial growth?
Self-employment is not a popular option in Europe. According to the latest Eurobarometer survey on Entrepreneurship, a majority (58%) of Europeans would prefer to work as an employee; only 37% would rather be self-employed. Elsewhere, these figures are different: more than half of US citizens and 63% of Brazilians would like to be their own boss. This shows clearly that we have a gap of entrepreneurial spirit in Europe. While a friendly environment for companies plays of course an important role (easier access to finance, less bureaucracy, etc.), education is key to stimulating more entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviours in our young people. Communication plays also an important role: young people should be encouraged to see successful entrepreneurs as role models. And entrepreneurship as an attractive, realistic career option
 
The Commission has recently adopted an “Entrepreneurship 2020” Action Plan aiming to re-ignite the entrepreneurial spirit and to lead Europe out of the crisis. The plan stresses the key role of education and training to nurture new generations of entrepreneurs, and proposes ambitious measures to facilitate start-ups and new businesses, make transfers of business ownership more successful, improve access to finance, and give honest entrepreneurs a second chance after bankruptcy
 
Entrepreneurship 2020 is not only a plan for the Commission, but a" call to coherent action" for all levels of governance: European, national, regional and local since longlasting impact can only be achieved through a concerted set of actions at all levels of European administration
 
 
Space sector is the big opportunity for many European SMEs, do you see any form of cooperation among small and middle-sized companies to participate in European space programmes?
Space is indispensable for almost all the socio-economic areas. The Commission believes it is essential in tackling the economic crisis while ensuring the well-being of citizens. In the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 it proposes an important envelope for space (about 1.5 bn€/year). Also, it has recently adopted the European space industrial policy which aims mainly at supporting further development of the space industry and related applications and services while supporting SMEs participation
 
SMEs cooperate with other types of actors to build consortia for the development of the space programmes either via direct participation, or as subcontractors. They are active not only in the supply chain (3-8%), but also in developing applications and services
 
During 2007-2013 SMEs received more than 80 M€ from the EU space research programme, meaning 15.5% of the total funding. Moreover, the deployment of Galileo and Copernicus will open-up new business opportunities, notably for SMEs. The Commission supports technology transfer and business incubators initiatives such as those run by ESA

 
Veneto Innovazione is the regional contact point for technology transfer inside Enterprise Europe Network. We think that a good agreement based on the exchange of technology can give much more than any financial contribution. Yet it is very difficult for us to make companies understand this notion. What could your DG do to make European entrepreneurs aware of the importance of technology transfer and open innovation among companies?
Innovation is indeed a crucial aspect for the competitiveness of SMEs. Transnational Technology and Knowledge Transfer services are a core activity of the Enterprise Europe Network. The Network though is an organisation that provides a broad set of integrated support services to SMEs through 600 partners active in 54 countries and is advertised as such by the European Commission. The industrial and service sectors addressed by SMEs in Europe and the characteristics of companies vary from country to country and very often from region to region within a same country. This is why Network members are expected to have an in depth knowledge of the business environment and of the enterprises of the territory they cover
 
The Network operates through the principle of providing business support at the "door step" of SMEs. This is why Communication efforts need to be tailored on the local characteristics of firms and why the role played at local level by Network partners is of key importance
 
Enterprise Europe Network partners are all expected to actively promote European programmes, activities related to innovation and to inform and advise businesses on technology and knowledge transfer opportunities. Experience has shown that the promotion of Network services at regional level is the most efficient, as members can choose the appropriate mix of promotional tools and actions (for example events, social media, publications, web pages) according to characteristics of their target audience
 
In addition, the advice provided by Network partners, tailored on the specific needs of their clients helps enterprises find the right partners either for transferring their own innovations or for acquiring the technologies or knowledge they need to improve their activities and become more competitive. Promoting the success stories of the Network in all areas, including innovation, is therefore a key part of our communication strategy

 
In Europe every region has its own culture and creativity that influence its production. These varieties represent European richness. It is clear that those sectors with a big component of creativity have increased the number of jobs. I am referring to smart specializations implying communication, ICT, image, culture, fashion.
Do you think that regional agencies could have a role in exploiting and giving value to their own peculiarities and to urge creative industries?
Yes, definitely. This is why DG Enterprise and Industry is supporting two European Creative Districts: one in Wallonia and one in Tuscany. In addition, we are very much in favour of explicitly opening regional funds for the creative industries. In this regard, the Communication Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU [COM(2012) 537 final] underlines the need for a multi-layered strategy. It seems that the European Parliament will pay specific attention to the regional dimension in their comment on the above-mentioned communication

 
The European Union (EU) supports financing for SMEs to help their business startup or develop, with the help of a financial intermediary. Would you explain to us how your DG works to carry it out?
Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry has in fact a leading role in developing the EU SME policy and shaping the financial instruments to benefit small businesses. In general, we strive to restore a balance on the market and counteract an overwhelming reluctance to SME lending and SME investments
 
Our tasks are not limited to putting forward the proposals for programmes that establish the EU SME support, like the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) or the future Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME). We are also very closely monitoring their implementation, even if on day-today basis, the instruments are managed by the European Investment Fund
 
To provide you with more details: first of all, we are tailoring the EU financial instruments to SMEs' needs by designing - with the greatest possible care – the architecture of SME loan guarantees and co-investments schemes. It was the case for the CIP programme and it is for COSME
 
I need to stress that our programmes must work across Europe and be able to support businesses facing extreme difficulties while looking for finance to develop or grow - as it is unfortunately the case in Italy. These must therefore work in a particularly smart way, taking especially into account that the instruments should be able to meet expectations of companies from various sectors and at different stages of development. Last, but not least, the guarantees we are providing should achieve a significant leverage effect, i.e. to incentivise banks to lend more to SMEs
 
Our intention - and one of my highest priorities – is to help SMEs find the finance they need rather than providing liquidity to the financial sector. This is crucial to understand the way we are cooperating with financial intermediaries: banks, leasing companies, microfinance providers, mutual guarantee institutions and venture capital funds. The best is to take an example of our loan guarantees scheme – SME Guarantee Facility (SMEG). The current CIP programme (as well as its successor - COSME) is based on guarantee and counter-guarantee schemes and therefore risk-sharing with financial intermediaries. The EU will only offer its guarantees to those institutions, which are ready to facilitate SME access to finance through, e.g. accept less collateral or lend more to small companies
 
We also offer the support for innovative companies. Half of CIP programme resources devoted to SME finance are invested by the European Investment Fund (on behalf of the European Commission) in venture capital funds that, in turn, invest in start-ups and SMEs with high growth potential
 
The high growth and innovative SME facility (GIF) provides risk capital for innovative SMEs in their early stages (GIF1) and supports SMEs with high growth potential in their expansion phase (GIF2)
 
I am proud to say that the system has proven to be more than efficient. We have been able to support already almost 220 000 companies that benefited from more affordable credit and equity finance. Moreover, we have already stimulated the provision of more than EUR 15 billion of capital for SMEs - and this was possible with a limited budget of CIP programme – EUR 1.1 billion for the whole period 2007-2013
 
The future Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME 2014- 2020) will be a funding instrument which will largely continue the activities under the current Competitiveness and Innovation Framework programme (CIP), but will even better respond to SME needs
 
Its equity facility for growth-phase investment will provide SMEs with commercially oriented reimbursable equity financing, primarily in the form of venture capital through financial intermediaries. Second, a loan facility will provide SMEs with direct or other risk-sharing arrangements with financial intermediaries to cover loans. The COSME instruments will be complemented by financing for research- and innovation- driven enterprises under the Programme Horizon 2020. I believe that both programmes will again help to bridge the market gaps in the provision of SME financing
 

You are very busy in Mission for Growth, visits to fast growing emerging markets outside EU to give more opportunities to European businesses. These missions are often linked to brokerage events where entrepreneurs meet local companies. How do they work ?
These missions involve political and business meetings and discussions in areas of mutual interest in the fields of Enterprise & Industry policy but do not deal with specific trade policy issues
 
Generally, I travel with small groups of around 50 companies to a third country, where we arrange business-to-business meetings, we sign certain political declarations of intent to deepen our bilateral industrial relations with a country, and we also invite the companies to join me in meetings with my political counterparts – Ministers and sometimes Prime Ministers or even Presidents
 
This last element – where business and the political level come together – is often the richest part of the Mission, because companies can tell Ministers about their aspirations and their problems in a third country, whereas Ministers can try to “sell” the business opportunities in their country to the companies
 
We normally associate a Mission for Growth to a specific business event that is organised in the third country concerned. The local organiser of the event is normally in charge of the organisation of the B2B meetings in cooperation with the EEN network
 
The EU, both headquarters and the delegation in the country, liaises with the local administration and organisers of the event (drafting of the programme, speakers to be invited to the event, issues to be discussed during the event). My services in Brussels have to conduct, in parallel, complex negotiations with the country, as well as various Directorates General of the Commission, to get agreement on a number of agreements we can sign up to during the event. The Commission office in the country concerned is very useful to inform about the Mission in the country of destination. The EEN network also helps in the mobilisation of companies, particularly SME's
 

What should a small or medium-sized company do to participate in one of these missions?
If a small or medium-sized company wishes to participate in one of these missions, they can express their interest on our dedicated "Missions for Growth" website. The participation is open to all interested businesses, but companies have to finance their own costs (travel and accommodation expenses)
 
However, if there is a higher than expected level of interest for a particular Mission, the Commission reserves the right to select companies from among the expressions of interest. In doing so, it will apply the following criteria and considerations: - The overall geographical and industrial balance of the business delegation
 
The level of representation of the company and business associations- preference for CEO’s and general managers
 
High presence of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises
 
 
Which results did you achieved so far?
Over the period of December 2011 to January 2013, we have completed in total 7 Missions for Growth to in total 11 different countries. This pioneering phase had a strong focus on the Americas, with visits in particular to the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru and Chile. I have been the first Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry in a decade to visit Latin America. Later last year, we switched orientation and visited some of the Arab Spring countries, in particular Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. In total, more than 300 European companies from 18 different Member States participated. A total of 58 bilateral political agreements were signed. Typical areas of these agreements were SME policy, Space policy, raw materials, standardisation, tourism and others
 We are now also stepping up the follow-up Missions, with our Director General and Special Envoy for SME's, Daniel Calleja, re-visiting countries to monitor implementation of the agreements and push specific SME issues. Just in April he came back from such Missions to Mexico and Colombia
 
This brings me to the future planning over the year 2013 and beyond. This year has already started with a Mission to Peru and Chile in January. The big challenge for this year will however be to change destination and go prepare the three “Big Ones”. We went to Russia last 17 and 18 June, accompanied by 120 companies representing 23 Member States.
A joint mission to China with Commissioner Potocnik on 18-20 July, focus on “Green Growth.
A combined Myanmar & Vietnam visit in the month of November.
Before this mission to Myanmar and Vietnam, I am considering a Mission for Growth to Israel in September or October.
The Mission for Growth to Myanmar, will be done in co-operation with Baroness Ashton
Finally, we foresee travelling with companies to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for which there are a number of options. We therefore have a planning which is going to be extremely demanding already. At the same time, we already have other countries knocking on our doors. I could mention in particular Moldova and Turkey which we should perhaps be considered for 2014. And of course, after Brazil, China and Russia, another BRICS country beckons us: India, which we would also like to consider for 2014
 

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