European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Internationalisation of SMEs - Interreg Europe projects highlight their impact

The Interreg Europe programme funds several projects supporting European SMEs to internationalise. This workshop provides a platform for four of these projects to detail their findings, and share their experiences about what has worked well and what could work better. Each project approaches the subject of internationalisation of SMEs from a different perspective. Projects will implement action plans to embed the findings of the interregional learning process. How will each project make a difference and what is the end user/target group experience? The workshop intends to provide valuable messages for future ERDF programming post 2020.

Economic development, employment
ETC regions supporting SMEs to internationalise

Session summary

The workshop was sold out more than a week before the event. On the day, the number of delegates in attendance amounted to 62 persons. An explanation of an internationalising SME was provided by the workshop moderator, John Fitzgibbon from Southern England, who stated that for the four showcased Interreg projects, an international SME is one that trades over its national border, whereas for the European Commission it means beyond the Single Market of 28 Member States. A keynote speech was provided by Christophe Guichard, Team Leader – Cluster Internationalisation at DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission, who presented a range of EC supported initiatives of interest to the audience, such as the Enterprise Europe Network, the SME IPR helpdesks in Asia & South America, the EU SME Centre in China, targeted EU business missions – EU gateway business avenues, EU cluster internationalisation programme for SMEs and other initiatives available here

The workshop then broke into two panels with brief presentations by each of the four projects. The first panel focused on what has been achieved to date and the second on how the projects will make a difference/what is the end user experience but bearing in mind that they are all roughly mid way through their lifecycle. 

For the Everywhere International SMEs (EIS) project Michael Tunney from Donegal County Council’s Local Enterprise Office reported on the extensive peer review process undertaken by EIS leading to the identification of 16 good practices many of which have been uploaded to the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform’s good practice database. Mateja Horvat from Koprivnicki Poduzetnik, Croatia, presented the recently developed GlobalEIStool and talked about the possibility of influencing the design of business support within the ESIF programme in Croatia for 2021-27. 

For the Upgrade SME project, Andrea Enyingi-Kurucz, Lead Partner, Pannon Business Network, Zala County and Dr Rita Szép-Tüske, Head of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Foreign Trade Development Department, Hungary reported that 328 SMEs across six EU Member States had been interviewed and 24 policy-makers had been interviewed about their support for SME internationalisation. Emphasis on supporting SMEs had focused around promotion, training, economic diplomacy and financing. 

For the Compete In project, Serena Foracchia, Deputy Mayor for International Affairs, Reggio Emilia, Italy, highlighted the need for an ecosystem of business support excellence based ona territorial approach that does not just leave it to the SMEs individually to make something of the system’s offering. 

Anna Kępa, Lubelskie Region, Poland, Regional Coordinator of CLUSTERS3, highlighted the benefits of inserting SMEs in global value chains as part of their project and the development of tailor-made instruments to support SMEs. 

All presentations from the workshop are available here.

Take away message

Interregional collaboration is valuable for regions and must continue under the 2021-27 MFF. 

Towards a culture of internationalisation: development of an ecosystem within a whole-region approach to the issue of ensuring more SMEs are aware of what support is available and are helped along the way in their pursuit of internationalisation offers a greater prospect for success. 

Innovation is synonymous with internationalisation. SMEs that internationalise are by nature innovative in their thinking and, in most cases, their actions.

“Regions need interregional collaboration in the form of the Interreg Europe programme.“ J. Fitzgibbon, Southern England Local Partners

“Concrete, practical support is what SMEs require to enhance their chances of international success.” M. Tunney, Donegal County Council Local Enterprise Office

“A culture of internationalisation is needed”, S. Foracchia, Reggio Emilia

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