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Brussels, 12th June 2006
The European Charter for Small Enterprises supports small enterprises, in particular by improving their legislative and administrative framework. During its six years of existence, the Charter has become a core document of SME policy. It is now the reference frame for 44 countries and it is also used at regional policy-making level. The Commission has produced a brochure containing 40 examples of good practice to promote entrepreneurship, whittled down from the 155 submitted by Member States, Norway, Bulgaria and Romania. Below some examples from this brochure are given. A series of SME Days are being held, in Brussels today and in many national capitals, during June. The programme of the SME days can be found in part 2 of this Memo.
1. Good practice examples
Ireland: Seed and Venture Capital Programme
To stimulate and encourage the Venture Capital community to invest seed capital in high tech, high risk start-ups and the SME sector and to help technology-based high-risk start-ups having difficulty accessing the necessary finance, Enterprise Ireland partners the private sector in creating specific venture capital (VC) funds for the high tech sectors. Management of the funds is left in the hands of the fund managers. The Irish approach to developing the VC market differs from many other national approaches as Enterprise Ireland enters into VC partnerships on an equivalent basis, whereby the State agency receives an equal share of any return on investments. This approach to intervention in the VC market ensures that the national economic and social good objectives of supporting the development of the VC market can be achieved while ensuring the State does not have to take a subordinate position in the funds.
By the end of 2004 15 funds were fully operational; investment of €38.7m. 81 investments completed. Start-ups attracted €15.1m (39%) of the investment; early stage companies €20.2m (59%). Total of €133m invested in 75 companies since 2001. Companies in the regions accounted for 31% of total invested (by value) since 2001, software for 62%, life sciences almost 19%.
Norway: Capital meets innovation: Presenting business cases to investors
Seed Forum Norway was set up to give early stage companies with international potential a unique possibility to present their business cases to investors by creating a meeting place where capital meets innovation. It is a match-making tool/market place for start-ups and investors. Prior to participating in a Seed Forum international event the selected companies are invited to participate in obligatory pitch training. Companies are trained in presenting their business cases and negotiating with investors. There is a run-through of the investor presentation to ensure the international potential. Steps in the process: 1. International nomination process. 2. International selection process. 3. Intensive international pitch training, personal coaching, development of presentation material, networking and transfer of knowledge, quality assurance. 4. International Seed Forum Events – investor match-making.
Seed Forum facilitates at least 150 company presentations annually.1 public euro to Seed Fund has resulted in 21 euros in direct investments. 97% of participating companies would recommend the programme to others; 80% of investors would like to follow up one or more of the companies after the last event; 33% of investors still had a dialogue with companies from previous events.
Belgium: Counter-guarantees to promote access to investment credits
In order to boost micro-credit and working capital for micro-enterprises in the Walloon Region, SOCAMUT can provide a counter-guarantee of up to 75% (instead of 50%) of the guarantees subscribed to by the Mutual Guarantee Societies for 80% (instead of 75%) of the bank loan (maximum of EUR 150 000). In addition, SOCAMUT can contribute to the costs of drawing up and examining the dossiers to an amount of EUR 500 per dossier. SOCAMUT has capital amounting to EUR 14 436 805.74 at its disposal, to which equal contributions are made by European funds and regional funds. Thanks to optimum risk-sharing between public and private sectors, this measure enables significant gearing to be achieved. By the end of 2004, SOCAMUT had provided counter-guarantees for 146 dossiers for a total of EUR 3 351 534, corresponding to bank loans of EUR 14 945 306 and underlying investments of EUR 22 343 913. The direct gearing ratio in relation to the bank loans is 4.46 and the indirect gearing ratio in relation to the investments is 6.67.
UK: “Regulation Checklist” for small firms on businesslink.gov.uk
To give businesses, in particular those at the smaller end, a complete all-round perspective on the regulations that apply to them and to point them to relevant details on Government departmental sites, SMEs in the UK can get a tailored list of regulations that are relevant to their business, including tax, VAT, employment law, health and safety, patent law, consumer protection law. Each regulation is linked to easy plain English guidance. Users can save their list or sign up for e-mail alerts about each regulation. They can also ask for their list to be e-mailed to them.
The assessment by the UK Small Business Council has been overwhelmingly positive. There were 108 000 users over the last 12 months.
To provide an easy to understand step-by-step guide, offering savings in time and costs, another initiative in the UK is the No-Nonsense Guide to Government Rules and Regulations. It is a “plain English” booklet aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs that explains the legal and official side of starting up a business. It also explains the regulations that might affect a growing business – from getting new premises to employing people.
Portugal: Enterprise in one hour - Cheaper and faster start-up
To start up a business in about an hour, reducing costs and making it easier to fulfil the requirements, a single access point counter with electronic links where it is possible to create a company in about an hour. This is an initiative of the Ministries of Justice, Finance, Labour and Social Security, Economy and Innovation which integrates every necessary procedure to create a company.
More than 1100 companies created since July 2005 in an average time of 1h 15min to fulfil all the requirements. The project started with six counters and, as a consequence of the results achieved, there are now 12 counters in operation.
Finland: Preparing for SMEs’ controlled succession of generation
To help in the careful and timely preparation of generational transfer and/or change of ownership, the ViestinVaihto programme is one of the “branded expert services” offered to businesses via the Finnish Employment and Economic Development Centres (T&E centres). Three days of consultation are devoted to examining suitable conditions for successors, clarifying the situation and expectations of the transferor and the successor, determining the value of the business, specifying the tax and legal aspects and outlining possibilities for financing for a variety of transfer options. At the end of the programme, entrepreneurs receive a generational transfer plan together with recommendations for action. The service is offered as individual confidential consultancy for firms.
Generational transfer plans have been drawn up for 521 businesses (April 2002
–September 2005), and some of them have already led to an actual transfer.
2. Programme of SME days
Overview of SME day activities in the Member States in June 2006
Two events will be held:
I. Participation by Paris Representation in the annual ‘planète PME’ fair, Tuesday 13 June.
II. Conference “SMEs and Europe” organised in Marseille by local EIC (working with Marseille Representation), 23 May
Two events will be held:
I. Commission Representation, event SME open day: SMEs in Europe – opportunities, challenges and hopes for the future Berlin, Wednesday 7 June.
II. Commission Representation, ‘Open day’ on EU SME policy Bonn, late June.
I. Vilnius, 15 June, 10h00
II. Alytus, June 16, 15:00pm, Alytus
I. 10h30 SMEs: the motor of European competitiveness. Moderated by a leading newspaper journalist. Participants include DG Enterprise official.
II. 11h30 Participation of SMEs in community policymaking.
More information, see the SME policy site