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Policy:

SME finance workshop: step one in commercialising research

Policy Update

The first small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) financing workshop, focused on bringing successful research results into the market, was held in Brussels on 10 March. The event not only offered practical advice to SMEs but also gave them the opportunity to meet representatives from the European Commission, venture capital firms, the European Enterprise Network and other SME-focused organisations. The day emphasised the Commissionís commitment to devising policies that create a more effective environment to foster the commercialisation of SME research.


Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)

Apart form the financial institutions present at the workshop, the EEN was also represented: this is a network of 570 business support organisations from 45 countries that support SME development. Filippo Pasquet from the EEN made it clear that with 5 000 staff and more than 500 branches across the EU, the network is available to help in any way it can. One of the services it offers, for instance, is free legal advice on matters concerning European legislation, which can assist SMEs in cutting through red tape.

Networking

The importance of networking throughout the EU, both across SMEs and the Commission, was emphasised by Dr Reichert. Regional contact points, for example, are a key resource for SMEs to gain information on financial aid. It is crucial for regions to disseminate information to one another: sharing experiences will create effective synergies throughout Europe that will benefit all.

The workshop itself was also a tool for networking. It allowed SMEs to discuss their projects, meet other companies in similar situations, share ideas and learn more of the available options for resources.

The successful commercialisation of SME research was also presented at the workshop. One such example was the Brandenburg project in Germany: here a region previously suffering from high unemployment became a European Entrepreneurial Region award winner through the effective use of research.

The first 'Financing for SMEs' workshop was a great success. Representatives from more than 70 SMEs travelled from across Europe to attend the event. Kurt Weingarten, an SME participant at the workshop, comments: 'This is great, a very useful and insightful day that offers practical hints and knowledgeable experience. Itís just what we need.'

To conclude, Dr Reichert admitted that despite some problems, the Commission is determined to renew policies to make the world of SME research a commercially successful place.

'I am not a magician,' he says. 'But we are doing all we can and our primary focus is getting successful research to the market. Communication is crucial and this financing workshop has built a solid foundation to build on.'