Meeting between DIGITAL SME members and Members of the EU Parliament22.09.2019
DIGITAL SME members convene in Brussels to discuss Key Priorities for Europe’s Digital Future with Members of the EU Parliament
“Enable, enable, enable!” DIGITAL SME President Oliver Grün’s message to MEPs at the European Parliament was clear. Enabling digitalisation, enabling connections, enabling innovation. On 11 September, representatives of 28 national and regional digital SME associations and clusters from across Europe came together to talk about their key priorities for our common digital future. The day’s busy schedule included DIGITAL SME’s General Assembly, a visit to the Commission as well as a welcome event at the European Parliament. The goal was to deepen relationships between our members and to bring their voices to the centre of European policymaking.
DIGITAL SME membership is growing
The momentum for small and medium-sized companies in ICT is growing. DIGITAL SME’s General Assembly warmly welcomed four new members: DIGITAL SME France, the Italian DIGITAL SME Alliance, Agoria from Belgium, and Skillnet Ireland. The General Assembly unanimously re-elected SME entrepreneur Dr Oliver Grün as President until 2021, as well as a new board of directors.
After an informal networking-lunch, the group moved to the European Commission building to learn more about its SME-related activities.
Information is power: Making use of the Commission’s SME resources
The goal of the Commission visit was to put SME associations in touch with the central policy organ of the EU. Especially for the new members, information about the available support and funding structures for SMEs in Europe could make an enormous difference in their functionality. Dave Feenan from Skillnet Ireland put it this way: “Our membership at DIGITAL SME affords us the opportunity to access key decision-makers at the Commission”. Our members were delighted to receive an informative lecture about the Enterprise Europe Network—but they also raised some issues with the Commission representative. As mentioned in our previous article about Digital Innovation Hubs, ICT associations and clusters are keen to see their already existing networks and platforms recognized as potential partners by the European institutions, not neglected and “artificially duplicated” by new structures.
Touching base with Members of the European Parliament
In the afternoon, DIGITAL SME invited its members and newly elected Parliamentarians to a welcome event at the EU Parliament. Several elected deputies followed the invitation: Ivan Štefanec, John Howarth, Svenja Hahn, Marion Walsmann, Ivo Hristov, and Petra Kammerevert, who kindly hosted the event. In her opening speech, Ms Kammerevert confirmed the importance of this first meeting of DIGITAL SME members with Parliamentarians: “European digital SMEs are the future of our digital single market, and their position has to be heard and they should be strengthened.” Keynote Speaker Oliver Grün reiterated the importance of empowering SME innovation instead of over-regulating: “The focus should be to enable, enable, enable—not building hurdles”. The ten key priorities laid out in DIGITAL SME’s Manifesto for Europe’s Digital Future (available here in four languages) received a lot of attention in subsequent remarks and discussions between Members of the European Parliament and representatives of SME associations. Ivan Štefanec for example, a Slovak Parliamentarian for the European People’s Party, agreed strongly with our manifesto’s priority no. 7 that “to close the digital skills gap, we can allocate much more of the European budget to educational programs, which will enable the use of ICT technologies for all age groups”.
The events on Wednesday aimed at connecting European digital SMEs with the European institutions; to open a door for the exchange of ideas, consultation, and beneficial agreements. This goal was very successfully achieved. DIGITAL SME will work hard to ensure that it was only the beginning of a fruitful relationship between our members and policymakers in Europe!