SMEs Lead the Way to Innovation in the EU
Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
When we speak of innovation, we often refer to new products or services available on the market and not just to the research being done in laboratories and universities. A new product or service is thought of as innovative when it moves from a research phase and pilot testing to become a fully marketable products for mass-scale use. The fact that innovation entails a large-scale use makes it a key element inhuman progress and in the growth of economics and societies. Which is why the European Union considers innovation a key policy sector.
Beyond the clear social and economic benefits in the daily life of citizens, innovation gives a real edge to European market actors over other global players. Industry, and specifically manufacturing, account for 80% of European exports and 65% of innovative products or services in the EU come from the private sector. Given that the absolute majority of private industries in the EU are small and medium-sized business, it is only natural European institutions see supporting SMEs as the main road to promote innovation. This support often helps companies overcome the financial and practical obstacles to the design and creation of new marketable products. This makes it a win-win game for both public and private sector, as the average SME introducing an innovative product on the market sees its annual turnover increase by more than 25%.
Most of the existing European funding programs for SMEs give specific attention to firms with the potential to deliver innovative products. Moreover, the ‘Innovation in SMEs’ policy program of the European Commission also includes tailored services and project such as innovation management capacity building, IPR management, etc… for companies aiming to strengthen their innovation profile as well as networking and mobilization actions for innovation service providers and policymakers. An example is the EUREKA/Eurostars Joint Programme Initiative (2014-2020), that provides funding for market-oriented transnational collaborative R&D projects.
Innovation is highly beneficial to both society and private companies and international collaboration is key to speed up the process. SMEs can develop their international network by joining the MobiliseSME pilot scheme for cross-border staff exchange, which will help them to meet international counterpart with which they could develop new innovative products and services.