Can Europe’s SMEs Access International Markets?
Friday, September 30th, 2016
Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the European economy: within the EU they account for 99 % of all businesses, 67 % of all jobs in the private sector, as much as 85 % of all newly created jobs and some 59 % of the value added by the economy. Nonetheless they often face a number of issues when they try to do business abroad both within Europe itself as well as when they try to access international markets. These include bureaucratic barriers, lack of staff with the necessary skills, such as language skills, and the absence of a supportive network helping to find business opportunities. According to a European Commission guidebook on the internationalisation of SMEs, only around 13 % of EU-based SMEs address growth markets outside the EU.
It is clear to the European institutions that SMEs need to be put into a position where they can access international markets as easily as possible. A number of initiatives have been started across the last few years to facilitate the work of European small and medium-sized firms which plan to do business outside of the European market. One such initiative is the SME Internationalisation Portal. It is an interactive portal that gives businesses access to experts on starting commercial activities in specific foreign countries. Its flexible structure allows to select a number of option to cater the specific needs of each association using it.
However lack of know-how is only one obstacle faced by SMEs planning to go international. Other issues such as skill shortage or lack of network can be addressed by participating in projects that foster training through international collaboration, such as the mobility pilot scheme of MobiliseSME, which is also developing an online matchmaking platform to respond to the specific need of each participant. This is done also in the hope that SME entrepreneurs could use the opportunity contained in the project to find business partners with which they could work to explore markets beyond the European borders.