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Innovation is the engine of our economy

22 November 2018
by smeunited -- last modified 23 November 2018

Innovation is the engine of our economy and crucial for the competitiveness of Europe's economy. However, SMEs and start-ups have problems to finance innovative projects, seen as too risky by banks.


Speaking at the conference "Innovative Enterprise", organised by the Austrian Presidency of the European Union in Vienna, President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller underlined the importance of European and national support structures to allow SMEs to finance innovation and investments in new business opportunities. She added that the future European programmes, like InvestEU and Horizon Europe, should especially be better targeted to the needs of innovative SMEs as they are decisive for the growth and competitiveness of Europe's economy.

"Innovative SMEs are faced with three core challenges: access to finance, access to skills, and over-regulation. They hold back innovation and hinder the increase in competitiveness of smaller companies in Europe", explained SMEunited President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller.

Innovative SMEs are quite a heterogenic group and need different forms of finance to realise their innovative projects. This is why SMEunited supports the European Capital Market Union, aiming to improve the supply with venture capital and other forms of equity for highly innovative start-ups and fast growing companies. "However, a large number of SMEs investing in non-tangible assets or trying new business models do not have access to the capital market and ask for different forms of finance," explained Ms Rabmer-Koller on the need for targeted programmes at European level.

The main requests from SMEs as regards the future Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation are a broad definition of innovation and Ms Rabmer-Koller asked that "20% of its budget should be dedicated to innovative SMEs."

On InvestEU, SMEunited fully supports the new concept of bundling all existing financial instruments in one programme. While welcoming the window for SME finance in general, Ms Rabmer-Koller requested that "innovative SMEs should also have access to the window for innovation and should be able to benefit from these targeted instruments for riskier projects."

"As heterogenous are innovative SMEs in Europe, as varied should the offer be of financial instruments to make innovation happen. It is the joint responsibility of European and national actors to improve the environment for innovation and to contribute to growth and welfare in Europe," concluded Ms Rabmer-Koller.

SMEunited is the association of Crafts and SMEs in Europe with around 70 member organisations from over 30 European countries. SMEunited represents national cross-sectoral Craft and SME federations, European SME branch organisations and associate members. Combined, it represents more than 12 million enterprises with around 55 million employees across Europe. SMEunited is also a recognised employers' organisation and European Social Partner. SMEunited was formally known as UEAPME.

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