SME competitiveness

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.

Improving the competitiveness of SMEs is one of the 11 thematic objectives for Cohesion Policy in 2014-2020, but  SMEs are also supported under other thematic objectives, particularly research and innovation, the low-carbon economy and information and communication technologies. With over €65 billion or around 20% of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) that are dedicated explicitly to SMEs, ERDF is one of the main sources of support for the new SME strategy to foster “an economy that works for people”. The increased use of financial instruments mobilising additional EU, national and regional funds during the 2014-2020 funding period is also to benefiting 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
  • Create and scale-up start-ups

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

See ex post evaluation of the 2007-2013 ERDF support for SMEs

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


Thematic Objective: 3 SME competitiveness by Country for 2014-2020

Breakdown Of The Available Funds By Thematic Objective By MS For 2014-2020