EU Industrial Strategy: DIGITAL SME calls for a stronger focus on digitalisation of SMEs

  • The European Commission published its updated Industrial Strategy this week.

  • The strategy entails new public-private “industrial alliances” in specific areas like batteries and hydrogen to increase investment and boost productivity.

  • DIGITAL SME calls for a focus on SMEs in the “industrial alliances”. An Alliance on SME Digitalisation in the form of a public-private partnership would make sure that the strategic goal of transforming Europe’s SME economy gets sufficient attention and resources.

First published in 2020, the European Commission’s Industrial Strategy made the digitalisation of SMEs a key strategic objective. As Europe’s largest association of ICT small and medium enterprises, DIGITAL SME was glad to see SMEs take centre stage in the Commission’s plans for the future.

The strategy has now been updated to include more details on new industrial alliances in areas where there may be a need for public investment to accelerate activities and attract private investors. “We looked at strategic dependencies. We launched in-depth reviews, including in semiconductors and cloud,” said Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is in charge of industrial policy, in an interview with POLITICO.

The updated strategy will focus on setting up “Important Projects of Common European Interest,” which can receive EU and national public funding. Some of these Important Projects are already up and running in areas such as microelectronics. The so-called Joint Undertakings (not referred to in the Industrial Strategy) will be another piece of the puzzle, setting up public-private partnerships in specific sectors like hydrogen. In addition, the new strategy will set up transition pathways to “offer a better bottom-up understanding of the scale, cost and conditions of the required action to accompany the twin transitions for the most relevant ecosystems”.

DIGITAL SME welcomes these updates but calls to ensure that the focus on SMEs is not diluted. Europe’s economy is based on SMEs, and innovative ICT companies play a key role in the transition to a green and digital economy. Therefore, initiatives such as Important Projects, transition pathways, and Joint Undertakings have to ensure a high degree of SME participation. In addition, DIGITAL SME calls for the establishment of an “Alliance for SME Digitalisation” in the form of a public-private partnership to provide targeted guidance for small and medium businesses in their digitalisation journey.