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SME Innovation & Digital Readiness to ‘Build Back Better’

When: Thursday 27th May 2021, 4:00-5:00pm CET

Watch: YouTube

Some of the world’s most successful companies began as startups. They made the transition from an idea, to a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), to the world leading companies we know today. Startups are at the heart of almost all industries, and contribute heavily to the economy of a country as well as having a positive impact on the future of young people in the EU and across the globe. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and young people are beginning to look beyond more traditional sector jobs by taking their career into their own hands. Figures continue to grow on youth taking up the opportunity to become self-employed, with the numbers boosting since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased lack of traditional job security. However, the pandemic has also had a hugely negative impact on SMEs, with new and innovative approaches being adopted to rise to the challenge.

The impact of digital tools and technological advancements has opened up significant opportunities for young entrepreneurs, however they also face heavy competition and other significant challenges. Even before the pandemic, while the growth in startups and entrepreneurial activity was on the rise, the failure rate was still a very real issue.

With many of the challenges startups and SMEs face being exacerbated by the pandemic, the take up and use of digital tools has helped many navigate this challenging period. For many they have acted as a safety net, helped boost resilience, and laid the groundwork for future evolution and success.

From a policy and regulatory perspective, the EU recognised the need for action in light of the pandemic, particularly as before its onset SMEs employed roughly 100 million workers and generated more than half of the EU’s gross domestic product. Calls were made to update the European Commission’s SME Strategy by aligning it with the Industrial Strategy, the European Data Strategy and the European Green New Deal. This was seen as integral in order to actively involve SMEs in the transition towards a greener and digital Europe. Calls have also been made to extend Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, and the need for pilot initiatives to boost SME uptake of e-commerce solutions, new digital business models, and digital technology integration.

Today’s young people are more entrepreneurial than any generation before. They are adopting a completely new approach to business, especially in their leadership style and unique ambitions.5 With this in mind, how can the EU ensure the right policy environment and actions are taken to help young entrepreneurs? What is the link between digital tool uptake, levels of SME innovation, and recovery? And how can the EU ensure the required steps are taken for SMEs to not only survive but to become competitive and move towards a digital and green transition.



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