Small and medium-sized enterprises are vital for the EU's economy, accounting for more than 99% of European businesses and two thirds of private sector jobs. The European Structural and Investment Funds will make available more than €450 billion to Member States in 2014-2020 to finance investments for enhancing jobs and growth.
Improving the competitiveness of SMEs is one of the 11 thematic objectives for Cohesion Policy in 2014-2020. Additional investments in SMEs will also be made under other thematic objectives, particularly research and innovation, the low-carbon economy and information and communication technologies. €57 billion or around 20% of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will be dedicated explicitly to SMEs. The increased use of financial instruments mobilising additional EU, national and regional funds during the 2014-2020 funding period is also expected to benefit SMEs.
These investments will help SMEs to:
- Access finance for investments through grants, loans, loan guarantees, venture capital, etc.
- Benefit from targeted business support, e.g. know-how and advice, information and networking opportunities, cross-border partnerships.
- Improve their access to global markets and international value chains
- Exploit new sources of growth such as the green economy, sustainable tourism, health and social services including the “silver economy” and cultural and creative industries
- Invest in human capital and in organisations providing practice-oriented vocational education and training
- Forge valuable links with research centres and universities to promote innovation
New simplified and common rules and measures make it easier for SMEs to access Cohesion Policy Funds in 2014-2020. These include:
- online reporting of how the Funds are used
- clearer eligibility rules
- more targeted and less frequent audits for small operations
- wider scope and simplification of the set-up and access to financial instruments
Increased investment in SMEs in 2014-2020 will build on the achievements of EU Cohesion Policy during the 2007-2013 funding period:
- More than 95,000 start-ups supported
- More than 300,000 jobs created in SMEs
- Regional policy for smart growth of SMEs
- Smart Guide to Innovation-Based Incubators (IBI)
- Building Entrepreneurial Mindsets and Skills
- Supporting the internationalisation of SMEs
- Other European Commission guides on how to design SME support schemes
- Access to EU Finance portal
- European Commission Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
- European Commission Research & Innovation – SME Techweb
- Research and innovation
- Information and communication technologies
- SME competitiveness
- Low carbon economy