Innovation potential of SMEs at the centre of new European Commission’s 2030 digitalisation strategy

  • On Tuesday, the European Commission unveiled its “2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade”, which combines a vision for an “open and competitive single market”

  • The “Digital Compass” will indicate key priorities in the Commission’s strategy: skills, infrastructure, and transformation of businesses and public services.

  • The new strategy puts SMEs at the centre of the digital transformation, acknowledging their importance as Europe’s motor for innovation

Earlier this week, Ursula Von der Leyen’s cabinet released a landmark document for Europe’s digital future: the “2030 Digital Compass”. The new strategy for digital transformation focuses on the key areas of digital skills, infrastructure, and the transformation of businesses and public services. A particular emphasis is placed on the role of small and medium businesses: “SMEs have a central role in this transition, not only because they represent the bulk of the EU companies, but also because they are a critical source of innovation,”, the Digital Compass reads. As a representative of innovative digital frontrunners, DIGITAL SME welcomes the recognition that Europe’s innovative ICT industry will have a key role to play to manage the transition.

Concrete KPIs for European businesses until 2030

The document puts forward ambitious goals for European businesses until 2030. Concrete KPIs will be defined in a stakeholder consultation planned to take place throughout 2021. However, the document already sets out a few key points:

  • 75% of European enterprises should take up cloud computing services, big data and Artificial Intelligence
  • More than 90% of European SMEs reach at least a basic level of digital intensity
  • Europe will grow the pipeline of its innovative scale ups and improve their access to finance, leading to doubling the number of unicorns in Europe.

Although Europe is home to many innovative companies and ideas, many of them do not manage to scale up. Linking the intention to support innovative companies to concrete goals can help to ensure that the “death valley” between research & development and market adoption will finally be successfully addressed. According to the “Digital Compass”, Europe is already bringing about as many start-ups as the US, but seems to lack a truly functioning single market for rapid growth and scaling up.

A network of 200 European Digital Innovation Hubs to catalyse digital transformation

Another pillar of support to SMEs will be the network of more than 200 Digital Innovation Hubs and industrial clusters. “More than 200 European Digital Innovation Hubs and industrial clusters across the EU should support digital transformation of both innovative and non-digital SMEs, and connect digital suppliers to local ecosystems. The objective is to achieve a high level of digital intensity”, the document reads. DIGITAL SME welcomes this announcement. “We have long stressed the importance of local ecosystems and business partnerships to support the digital transformation. We are happy that the European Commission stresses their importance in this document,” said President Dr Oliver Grün.

Measuring Europe’s success

As the Commission conducts a wider consultation process throughout the year to set up a “compass framework with specific targets and governance”, DIGITAL SME will be glad to contribute to the stakeholder forum and to provide feedback. Our input will focus on the monitoring system, milestones, and the means of achieving the Digital Compass’ ambitions. In our response to the 2030 Roadmap consultation, we stressed the importance of including long-term oriented criteria to measure Europe’s digital transformation.

If you are an innovative SME and would like to contribute to discussions about digital transformation in Europe, you can apply to join our Working Group Digitalisation. In this and other dedicated groups, DIGITAL SME’s members and trusted partners discuss and develop the Alliance’s position vis-á-vis the European institutions. They are also a place for networking and collaborating on European projects or other mutually beneficial initiatives like.