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Brussels, 23 February 2011

SBA successfully supports entrepreneurship and small enterprises

Between 2008 and 2010, both the Commission and the Member States focused on implementing actions set out in the SBA action plan to alleviate administrative burdens, facilitate SMEs’ access to finance and support SMEs' access to markets. Member States reached good results in boosting entrepreneurship and promoting SMEs as is shown by the following examples of some good practices along the 10 principles of the SBA. Please note that this overview does not constitute a comprehensive assessment of Member States’ policies.

Principle 1: Promoting entrepreneurship

  • Many Member States have introduced entrepreneurship programmes to foster the entrepreneurial attitudes and skills of young people and to make them aware of the possibility to start an enterprise, either by integrating entrepreneurship into school and university curricula or by setting up extra projects.

  • In some countries entrepreneurship education is the object of a coherent national strategy (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK), while other countries are moving in the same direction (Austria, Portugal). In Latvia, hundreds of students can submit business plans annually in the context of a competition. The Netherlands established a programme for young entrepreneurs to do networking in the USA.

  • Some countries are involved in national or European programmes encouraging female entrepreneurship (Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden). Several Member States use considerable amounts of the Structural Funds for these programmes.

Other good practice examples:

  • Austria: A “Succession burse” (launched in 2008) is facilitating the transfer of businesses. Support services and electronic platform are provided for matchmaking entrepreneurs intending to transfer a firm and entrepreneurs intending to take over a firm.

  • France: The “Auto-entrepreneur” Statute (2009) allows any citizen (unemployed, employed, officials, pensioners) to easily set up a business and benefit from some tax exemptions during the 3 first years. More than 500.000 “auto-entrepreneurs” have been created from January 2009 to June 2010.

  • Romania: The “Start” programme aims at developing entrepreneurial skills among young people (18-35 years old) and supporting start-ups. (Budget: EUR 21.2 million in 2009, including EUR 19 million for grants and 2.1 for financing the implementing agency).

  • Sweden: The National programme to promote women’s entrepreneurship (2007-2010) provides support services and mentorship to start-ups run by women. A National network of women ambassadors was created and transformed since 2009 into the European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors.

Principle 2: Second chance

  • Only five Member States (Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom) comply with the recommendation to complete all legal procedures to wind up a business in the case of non-fraudulent bankruptcy within a year.

Other good practice examples:

  • Belgium: Law on the continuity of enterprises (2009), providing a moratorium to companies facing financial difficulties in order to prevent a situation of insolvency and pre-bankruptcy.

  • Estonia: The Reorganisation Act adopted in 2008 created an alternative to bankruptcy proceedings that enable companies to survive in case of temporary solvency problems.

  • Latvia: a new Insolvency Law entered into force in 2010 making insolvency procedures simpler and faster, ensuring stabilisation of the financial sector and decrease in the debt level of the private sector.

Principle 3: Think Small First

  • Only few Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have integrated an SME Test into their national decision making approach.

  • The Netherlands is an interesting example of successful reduction of administrative burden; the Dutch model has been replicated in other countries.

Other good practice examples:

  • Germany: 23 bureaucratic procedures were simplified in 2009, as part of the Third Act on reduction of bureaucratic barriers for SMEs.

  • Italy: In April 2010, the government adopted a recommendation to implement the SBA in Italy and set up a permanent working group gathering Ministries, Chambers, Business Organisations, Regions and the Italian member of the European Economic and Social Committee to monitor the implementation of the SBA and propose initiatives in this context. An annual report on the implementation of the SBA is drafted and published on internet.

Principle 4: Responsive administrations

Good practice examples:

  • Czech Republic: "The Data box" (2009) aims at simplifying data transfer and communication between businesses and administrations.

  • Hungary: The administration provides one-stop shops for registering a company with simplified and electronic procedures (since 2008, electronic procedures are compulsory and the time required to set up a business has been reduced to one hour).

  • Portugal: The "Simplex" programme aims at simplifying administrative processes, procedures and practices. Since 2009, public consultations are also made via a public blog.

Principle 5: Access to public procurement

  • Only few countries have started to promote the European Code of Best Practices in order to facilitate SMEs’ access to public procurement (Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom). The most widespread SME friendly measures remain cutting tenders into lots and facilitating access to information through centralised websites, interactive web pages, and other e-procurement developments.

Other good practice example:

  • United Kingdom: The “” government web portal advertises public sector contracts and provides access to government opportunities. In 2008, the Office of Government Commerce published 12 recommendations to reduce the barriers SMEs face when competing for public sector contracts.

Principle 6: Access to finance

Good practice examples:

  • Most Member States have adopted policy measures to facilitate SMEs’ access to finance through public support to guarantee schemes (Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom) or microcredit co-funding (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Sweden). Several Member States have also taken measures to increase risk-capital (Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom). It is also worth mentioning that Belgium, Hungary, France, Ireland and more recently Finland created a "credit ombudsman".

  • A few Member States have taken action to tackle late payments, anticipating the recast of the late payments Directive and in some cases, going beyond its scope (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom). In 2010, Spain adopted a new law setting a 30-day term for public payment and a 60-day term for business to business payments.

Principle 7: Single market

  • 22 Member States have set up operational one-stop shops (points of single contact). They allow service providers to deal with their administrative formalities electronically when they want to do business across Europe. 15 of them provide a website in English in addition to their national language(s) (Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden).

Principle 8: Skills and Innovation

  • Several Member States provide funding to young innovative companies through notably seed capital and venture capital (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Others provide financial support to innovation centres or competitiveness poles linking Universities, research centres and businesses (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom). The “Innovation vouchers” allowing SMEs to buy innovative consulting services and know-how become widespread (Austria, Greece, Ireland, the Netherland, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom).

Other good practice example:

  • Italy: In order to encourage the networking of innovative SMEs, a law was adopted in July 2010 ruling companies’ networks and providing those networks with fiscal, administrative and financial incentives.

Principle 9: Turning environmental challenges into opportunities

  • In order to help SMEs upgrade or replace equipment with energy efficient alternatives, several Member States provide energy efficiency funding through favourable loan conditions or direct subsidises (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom). Some others support SMEs for developing into business opportunities on green markets (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia). Member States also provide consulting services for SMEs in order to inform them and raise awareness on energy efficiency cost saving and business opportunities (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

Other good practice examples:

  • Denmark: Through the Business Innovation Fund (EUR 100 million for 2010-2012) created in 2009, the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs supports business opportunities in green markets.

  • The Netherlands: The Foundation for Knowledge and Innovation in Energy and Environmental Technology (set up in 2008) is a network of 160 companies, knowledge institutes and regional and local governments, co-financing projects delivering eco-products and technologies (e.g. smart solar applications, smart grids, etc.).

Principle 10: Support to internationalisation

  • Several governments support the internationalisation of SMEs, e.g. by financial support for export promotion, market access strategies and participation in trade fairs (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) Some of them (Denmark, Slovenia) focus on high-growth companies willing to internationalise; some others have established new export promotion agencies (Luxembourg) or new support programmes (Hungary). A mentoring scheme whereby big companies support the internationalisation of SMEs, is also being piloted (France).


Adopted in June 2008, the "Small Business Act" for Europe reflects the Commission's political will to recognise the central role of SMEs in the EU's economy and, for the first time, puts into place a comprehensive SME policy framework for the EU and its Member States.

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