DIGITAL SME members convene in Brussels to discuss Key Priorities for Europe’s Digital Future with Members of the EU Parliament

“Enable, enable, enable!” DIGITAL SME President Oliver Grün’s message to MEPs at the European Parliament was clear. Enabling digitalisation, enabling connections, enabling innovation. On 11 September, representatives of 28 national and regional digital SME associations and clusters from across Europe came together to talk about their key priorities for our common digital future. The day’s busy schedule included DIGITAL SME’s General Assembly, a visit to the Commission as well as a welcome event at the European Parliament. The goal was to deepen relationships between our members and to bring their voices to the centre of European policymaking.

DIGITAL SME membership is growing

The momentum for small and medium-sized companies in ICT is growing. DIGITAL SME’s General Assembly warmly welcomed four new members: DIGITAL SME France, the Italian DIGITAL SME Alliance, Agoria from Belgium, and Skillnet Ireland. The General Assembly unanimously re-elected SME entrepreneur Dr Oliver Grün as President until 2021, as well as a new board of directors.

After an informal networking-lunch, the group moved to the European Commission building to learn more about its SME-related activities.

DIGITAL SME members and staff after a delightful General Assembly and networking lunch.

Information is power: Making use of the Commission’s SME resources

The goal of the Commission visit was to put SME associations in touch with the central policy organ of the EU. Especially for the new members, information about the available support and funding structures for SMEs in Europe could make an enormous difference in their functionality. Dave Feenan from Skillnet Ireland put it this way: “Our membership at DIGITAL SME affords us the opportunity to access key decision-makers at the Commission”.  Our members were delighted to receive an informative lecture about the Enterprise Europe Network—but they also raised some issues with the Commission representative. As mentioned in our previous article about Digital Innovation Hubs, ICT associations and clusters are keen to see their already existing networks and platforms recognized as potential partners by the European institutions, not neglected and “artificially duplicated” by new structures.

Knowledge is power: lecture about SME support by the Commission.

Touching base with Members of the European Parliament

In the afternoon, DIGITAL SME invited its members and newly elected Parliamentarians to a welcome event at the EU Parliament. Several elected deputies followed the invitation: Ivan Štefanec, John Howarth, Svenja Hahn, Marion Walsmann, Ivo Hristov, and Petra Kammerevert, who kindly hosted the event. In her opening speech, Ms Kammerevert confirmed the importance of this first meeting of DIGITAL SME members with Parliamentarians: “European digital SMEs are the future of our digital single market, and their position has to be heard and they should be strengthened.” Keynote Speaker Oliver Grün reiterated the importance of empowering SME innovation instead of over-regulating: “The focus should be to enable, enable, enable—not building hurdles”. The ten key priorities laid out in DIGITAL SME’s Manifesto for Europe’s Digital Future (available here in four languages) received a lot of attention in subsequent remarks and discussions between Members of the European Parliament and representatives of SME associations. Ivan Štefanec for example, a Slovak Parliamentarian for the European People’s Party, agreed strongly with our manifesto’s priority no. 7 that “to close the digital skills gap, we can allocate much more of the European budget to educational programs, which will enable the use of ICT technologies for all age groups”.

The events on Wednesday aimed at connecting European digital SMEs with the European institutions; to open a door for the exchange of ideas, consultation, and beneficial agreements. This goal was very successfully achieved. DIGITAL SME will work hard to ensure that it was only the beginning of a fruitful relationship between our members and policymakers in Europe!

 

No matter where we are from across Europe, our challenges are the same.

It was a great opportunity for us as members of DIGITAL SME to connect with other relevant SME stakeholders in the digital sector across Europe. No matter where we are from, the challenges we face are the same. Together, we might be able to identify appropriate answers. We also enjoyed the opportunity to enter into a constructive dialogue with MEPs about the priorities in our sector. Our agenda is encapsulated in the 10 points of DIGITAL SMEs Manifesto, which we hope to bring to the attention of policymakers in Brussels.

Andrei Kelemen
https://www.clujit.ro/

I left Brussels with great confidence that our priorities will find support!

I was very happy to be part of the event in Brussels, where I felt like a part of the European family. I was able to establish networks among peers from similar organizations in EU countries, sharing experience and knowledge with them and also driving cooperation opportunities for my organization. The European Parliament was the best possible place to close a great day in Brussels: There was a positive atmosphere and MEPs seemed interested in our Manifesto. We provided visibility and asked for legislative support for it at the highest EU level.
 
I left Brussels with great confidence that our priorities will find support, knowing that a partner like DIGITAL SME and its wonderful team led by Sebastiano Toffaletti will keep doing great work. I’m planning to stay closer to the developments in the EU in order to get the most out of emerging opportunities.
 
Thanks for having me there!
Dritan Mezini
http://aita-al.org/

Innovative SMEs are the future for Europe. We need to support them to scale and internationalise.

Our membership of the European DIGITAL SME Alliance affords us the opportunity and access to key decision-makers in the Commission shaping the supports available for SMEs. Innovative SMEs are the future for Europe. We need to support them to scale and internationalise. The EU Digital SME Alliance is our gateway and partner in making this happen and today’s session reinforced the necessity for this strategic alliance.

Dave Feenan
https://www.ictskillnet.ie