How to support SME Policy from Structural Funds - Supporting the internationalization of SMEs

The European Commission has released a guidebook for policy makers, stakeholders and managing authorities, especially at regional level, who want to help small and medium-sized enterprises seize international market opportunities, both in the EU and further afield, supported by EU Structural Funds.

In this guidebook the term ‘internationalisation’ refers to all activities that put SMEs into a meaningful business relationship with a foreign partner: exports, imports, foreign direct investment (FDI - relocation or outsourcing), international subcontracting and international technical cooperation. It can take place at cross-border level, at transnational level inside the EU or at international level beyond the EU.

Internationalisation can result in competitiveness gains at firm level which may eventually translate into improved economic performance at national and European level:

• Being internationally active strongly relates to higher turnover growth.

• SMEs that are internationally active generally report higher employment growth than non-active SMEs.

• The relationship between internationalisation and innovation is strong.

In spite of this, few EU SMEs do business internationally, either inside or beyond the EU. According to a study conducted in 2010, 25% of EU-based SMEs had been involved in exports (inside Europe and beyond) over the previous three years. Only 13% of EU-based SMEs addressed growth markets outside the EU.

This booklet is the latest in a 7-issue series released under the title “How to support SME Policy from Structural Funds”.

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