Eurada News nº400 - May 2020

ESSPO Final Conference

Although there is not a chosen date yet, the final conference of the Interreg project ESSPO is drawing near. Learn which will be the main topics and what is the project about.

The Final Conference of the project ESSPO, in which EURADA takes part, will not take place physically or on the scheduled date of the 3rd of June. Instead, it will be held online on the 29th of June from 13:00 to 15:00 (CET). The objective of the conference is to show the wider audience (authorities and agencies running SME support programs) how the results of ESSPO may be used in the challenging new reality expected in the post-Covid era.

We believe that that this conference will be a great opportunity to become familiar with innovative and effective policies for supporting SMEs, as well as how the project has impacted the nine regions of the partnership and what good practices the partners have exchanged concerning the identification of issues that SMEs face in their work (access to finance, administration and regulatory burden, and shortages of skilled workers). These good practices include Bind 4.0., a public-private acceleration programme focused on Industry 4.0 early-stage start-ups; Economic Developers University, aimed at developing effective, coordinated, and professional business ecosystems by training and educating innovation intermediaries; ICT Innovation Vouchers, a grant issued to support the uptake of ICT services in SMEs, and SPARK Demo, a meeting platform between B2B, B2G, and B2C actors.

During the conference, the members of ESSPO will share lessons learned over the course of the project. For example:

  • In Wielkopolska (Poland), ESSPO created opportunities to develop a trustful relationship between broader society and the regional authorities. The local partner took the occasion to demonstrate their expertise and dedication to the region.
  • In Tartu (Estonia), the partner would like to stress that each customer has different needs, expectations, and pain points (problems in need of a solution). To align most of them is a crucial and time-consuming process; to align all is near impossible. One could spend a long time going deep into the differences of various time frames, impact assessments, and return-of-investment expectations of each of them.
  • In Gabrovo (Bulgaria), cooperation and consensus have been built for local economic development and support of innovations involving local business. Moreover, public-private partnerships are being used as a tool to support innovations.
  • According to the Bulgarian ARC Fund, ESSPO proves the fact that the innovations have to be the first priority for the government, especially in times of crisis. Science-business collaboration is a crucial factor in competitiveness and quality of life and thus requires specific support measures.

ESSPO follows a joined-up approach for supporting regional SMEs. As regional agents of development, RDAs and other likeminded actors coordinate policies, programmes, and projects to enable businesses, research and education institutions, and governments to work better together. The goal of ESSPO is to address the issue of the efficiency of SME support policies and develop comprehensive support portfolios designed as policy mixes, which would identify and establish synergies between different services and intelligently target relevant segments of the SME population. ESSPO, with its focus on enabling regional SMEs to internationalise and/or innovate for approaching national or European markets, is closely linked to the widely accepted evidence showing that exporting SMEs are more resilient and adaptable to economic crisis, such as the one we are currently experiencing.

Described as the ‘backbone of the economy’, SMEs in the EU represent 99% of all businesses and have created around 85% of new jobs and provided two-thirds of total private sector employment within the last five years. The success of SMEs rests on internationalisation, R&D, and general company performance which are based on strategic choices influenced a great deal by policy support provided at EU, Member State and regional levels of governance. This means that regional development practitioners and actors must always consider and reconsider how policy support provided to SMEs can be made more dynamic, updated, and honed to meet the growing challenges of the business environments of today and tomorrow.

Written by Alex Arcos, Intern at EURADA.