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14 September 2009
by inadim -- last modified 15 September 2009

By enabling companies to sell to consumers and work with partners without being physically present, the European Commission sees eBusiness as being essential to helping European companies - particularly SMEs - take advantage of the Single Market, driving prices down and bringing "Europe's Best" to the world.


eBusiness is much more than eCommerce – buying and selling on-line. Companies are increasingly using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to link together their business processes and systems:

  • internally: hooking departments together to provide better products and more responsive services more efficiently;
  • with those of their suppliers, distributors and other partners, increasing efficiencies even further;
  • with public authorities, reducing red tape in both public and private sectors;
  • with their customers, allowing them to respond more directly to market trends and sell worldwide.

eBusiness therefore allows new forms of partnership, and improves both the way companies work and the products and services they offer.

While the resulting innovation is creating jobs and economic growth around the world, the opportunities are particularly attractive in Europe, as eBusiness allows many companies - particularly SMEs - to benefit from the Single Market for the first time.

National legal systems across Europe therefore have to take these opportunities into account, with a European approach required on issues as diverse as taxation, copyright, consumer protection and privacy.

Example Projects

eBSN (European e-Business Support Network for SMEs)

A wider and productive use of ICT and e-Business models has the potential to revolutionise business processes and organisations, make them more efficient and boost overall competitiveness. Europe needs to do more to exploit the role of ICTs as a motor for innovation, competitiveness and growth. In fact, investment in ICT is recognised as a key factor for firms’ competitiveness and for overall economic growth.

Moreover, ICT is the biggest driver of innovation of our time. It has opened enormous possibilities for innovation, right across society. ICT enables innovation in all sorts of fields. It enables technological innovation but it also enables innovation in business models.

Among European firms small businesses are the ones suffering the most from limited understanding of ICTs and their potential, limited budget for ICT investments and difficulty in recruiting ICT professionals. Fixed costs for technology implementation and maintenance tend to be relatively high for small companies. However, SMEs account for 99% of all European enterprises, contributing in many sectors up to 80% of all employment, for example in textile, construction, furniture.

Therefore, ICTs provide a significant potential, in particular, for SMEs, by facilitating business networking, transfer of knowledge and access to international markets.

Recognising this potential, Member States responded and continue to respond by developing effective policies to promote the uptake and innovative use of ICTs by SMEs. Many successful policy initiatives have been developed at national, regional or local level. These policies could be further enhanced by networking, learning from each other, sharing good practice and ultimately coordinating actions to achieve a broader and sound EU-wide impact. This is why the Commission established in 2003 the eBSN (European e-Business Support Network for SMEs), a virtual network of decision-makers and public policy experts, a tool to make existing e-Business policies more joined-up.

The European e-Business Support Network for SMEs (eBSN) was established in response to high-level political focus on the important role of ICT in boosting the competitiveness of the overall EU economy. Its ultimate goal is to improve the effectiveness of public SME policies in fostering competitiveness by promoting the innovative use of ICT. eBSN is an eBusiness policy coordination platform, bringing together decision makers and public policy experts in the field of eBusiness, to share information and to discuss strategic policy direction.

The eBSN builds upon the results of the "Go Digital" initiative (2001-2003), an umbrella policy covering many activities to support SMEs in using ICT for doing business. In 2002, the benchmarking study on "national and regional policies in support of e-business for SMEs" found many successful policy initiatives in Europe, but pointed out that their efficiency could be further enhanced by learning from each other and sharing best practice and information material. Similarly, in its conclusions on the impact of the e-economy on the competitiveness of European enterprises of 6 June 2002, the Industry Council invited the EU Member States and the Commission to "intensify dialogue, exchange regularly experience, identify specific goals for e-business policies and to share best practices".

The eBSN was founded to address this goal, by improving co-operation and using synergies within the European e-business policy community. Activities of the eBSN focus on networking and the exchange of good policy practice. More specifically, the objectives are:

  • To bring together decision makers in the fields of eBusiness, with a view to sharing information and discussing strategic policy orientation;
  • To provide a platform for policy coordination among Member States;
  • To provide a "one-stop shop" for information about regional, national and European initiatives and funding possibilities for SMEs;
  • To organise special meetings of governmental eBusiness experts as a platform for sharing practical experience and identifying future challenges.

The eBSN is open to all relevant policy initiatives in support of e-business for SMEs in the Member States, the Candidate Countries and the EEA EFTA States which are willing to share experience and information, as well as to eBusiness experts and representatives of the business community. A standing invitation for expression of interest to join the eBSN is available. The eBSN has become a success story. It has grown to involve more than 200 public policies or private-public partnerships from 30 countries in Europe. It supports policy analysis and benchmarking, shapes policy trends, generates synergies between national policies and inspires new e-Business policies, by exchange of good practice.

eBSN is a “policy intelligence” initiative, which follows policy developments and identifies new policy trends.

At its first steps, eBSN confirmed a policy shift from sponsoring and co-financing ICT investments and Internet connectivity towards policy instruments that stimulate SMEs to explore the innovation potential of ICT and eBusiness.

More recently, eBSN confirmed a new policy trend, namely the sectoral policy approach for eBusiness i.e. supporting SMEs to develop their eBusiness strategy in full cooperation with their business partners, namely their suppliers, customers, or knowledge providers. Emphasis is given to the productive use of ICT by an entire group of enterprises that are interacting in daily business transactions, either within the same sector or between interacting sectors. SMEs do not operate in isolation: they maintain complex business links with business partners, customers and providers, often from different industrial or services sectors and spread all over the world.

A wide range of eBusiness policies at European, national and regional level are increasingly backing up this shift in policy. Therefore, there is a need for greater policy coordination capacity in this field, in order to spur progress towards the Lisbon target.

Moreover, eBSN provides opportunities for international collaboration, among the eBSN members. A good example is to be found in the eInvoicing field: promoting “eInvoicing by SMEs”, a very practical eBusiness initiative running under Finnish regional policy in South Karelia, was successfully transferred to Slovenia, thus demonstrating that transferability of best practices in eBusiness is feasible. This in turn quickly triggered a new series of cross-border joint policy initiatives, between Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria. In parallel, the Finnish regional eInvoicing initiative expanded into cross-border exchanges with Sweden and Denmark.

With its activities, the eBSN is an important pillar of the ICT and eBusiness related policies of DG Enterprise and Industry, in combination with other policy pillars (for example the Sectoral e-Business Watch Function, the European e-Skills Forum, ICT standardisation and interoperability and policies in support of a favourable legal environment for e-business).

Since 2005/06, eBSN has focused on the following thematic priorities:

  • Sector-specific approaches: identify which sectors are most promising for e-business support measures, and whether sectoral policy initiatives are more efficient than others;
  • e-Business for micro-enterprises: discuss policies in this field and what should be the way forward;
  • Improving e-business solution for SMEs: review the specific needs of SMEs and identify good policy practices in helping SMEs to find appropriate solutions;
  • e-Invoicing and e-procurement: identify public policies and public-private partnerships that aim at further promoting the efficient usage of e-procurement and e-invoicing in SMEs.

eBSN Member Registration

The eBusiness Guide for SMEs

Source: European Commission

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