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Key Enabling Technologies and Digital Economy

What is eBSN?

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.

What are the origins of eBSn?

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.

What is eBSn for SMEs?

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".

 

What are the objectives of eBSn?

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 policy experiences, deciding strategic policy orientation, and, where possible, coordinating actions;
  • 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.

New policy trend and international cooperation of eBSn

More recently, eBSN confirmed a new policy trend, namely the Digital Supply Chains 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, along the entire value chain. 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. This is why DG Enterprise and Industry has launched, as part of the SBA, three large scale pilot actions, to support the participation of SMEs in Global Digital Supply Chains, in the textile/clothing and footwear sectors and more recently in the automotive indsutry and the transport and logistics sectors.

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).

Priorities of eBSn

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.

FAQ

About eBSN

  • What is eBSN?
    eBSN is a virtual European e-Business Support Network for SMEs that brings together e-business experts in Europe in sharing experience and good practice in support of e-business for SMEs.
  • What are the origins of eBSN?
    • Industry Council Conclusions (6 June 2002) inviting the Member States and the Commission to "intensify dialogue, exchange regularly experience, identify specific goals for e-business policies and to share best practices."
    • The Go Digital initiative.
    • Various Benchmarking national and regional policies in support of e-business.
  • What are the Objectives of eBSN?
    • Better co-ordination among e-business policy initiatives in Europe
    • Promotion of the exchange of best practice in the field of e-business policies in favor of SMEs
    • Discussion of new challenges in this field with a view to adapting e-business policies
  • Who are the Members of the network?
    • E-business experts from public administrations in EU Member States, the EU acceding and candidate countries, the EEA countries and the European Commission;
    • Representatives of European, national and regional initiatives, providing support to SMEs with regards to the take-up of ICT and e-business.
  • Who is eligible for participating in the eBSN?
    eBSN members must be involved in an e-business policy initiative in the e-business field for SMEs and have some financial support from public authorities (at local, regional, national or European level).
  • Why join the network?
    • To liaise with other e-business policy makers
    • To learn from and share experience
    • To co-operate on concrete initiatives to adapt e-business policies

 

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