Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europe's economy. They represent 99% of all businesses in the EU. They employ around 100 million people, account for more than half of Europe’s GDP and play a key role in adding value in every sector of the economy. SMEs bring innovative solutions to challenges like climate change, resource efficiency and social cohesion and help spread this innovation throughout Europe’s regions. They are therefore central to the EU’s twin transitions to a sustainable and digital economy. They are essential to Europe’s competitiveness and prosperity, industrial ecosystems, economic and technological sovereignty, and resilience to external shocks.
See the ‘Unleashing the full potential of European SMEs’ factsheet.
Coronavirus response in relation to mitigation of effects on SMEs
The Commission has made liquidity measures available to support European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is also helping SMEs through innovation partnerships on areas linked to COVID-19 (such as personal protective equipment and medical equipment) and advice on accessing dedicated European and national financial support. In addition, the Commission is advancing and adapting several measures of the new SME strategy to cushion the impact of the crisis, such as working with EU countries on the enforcement of the Late Payment Directive or cutting red tape.
The Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs plays an important role contributing to the Commission’s economic response to the outbreak, ensuring the exchange of essential protective equipment on the internal market, as well as helping affected industries mitigate the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
See the European Commission’s Coronavirus response website.
The Commission will also respond to the COVID-crisis with a recovery strategy that aims to build resilience within European supply chains and ecosystems, restore consumer and business confidence, stimulate investment and help the unemployed back to work. The new SME strategy will feed into this recovery strategy and notably support SMEs during the sustainable and digital recovery phase.
See the SME definition.
What the European Commission does for SMEs
At the centre of the Commission's action is the new SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe. It aims to considerably increase the number of SMEs engaging in sustainable business practices as well as the number of SMEs employing digital technologies. Ultimately, the goal is that Europe becomes the most attractive place to start a small business, make it grow and scale-up in the single market and beyond. More on SME Strategy.
Reduces regulatory burden and improves market access
The SME strategy proposes actions to remove regulatory and practical obstacles to doing business or scaling up within the Single Market and beyond. More on reducing regulatory burden.
The Commission’s priority is also to ensure that enterprises make the most out of cross border activities, both within the EU Single Market and outside the EU. More on SME internationalisation.
Improves access to financing
Access to finance is one of the most pressing issues for many small enterprises. The Commission works on improving the financing environment for SMEs and provides information on funding. More on access to finance.
An EU country partnership for delivery
To deliver results, the new SME Strategy will be underpinned by a robust partnership between the EU and EU countries, including regional and local authorities. The EU SME envoy will work together with national envoys to ensure and monitor the implementation of the strategy and the application of the ‘think small first’ principles in all EU policies. More on EU SME envoys and creating an EU country partnership for delivery.
Entrepreneurship means acting upon opportunities and ideas and transforming them into value for others, which can be financial, cultural, or social. More on entrepreneurship support.
Provides key support, networks and information for SMEs
- The Your Europe Business Portal is a practical guide to doing business in Europe. It provides entrepreneurs with information and interactive services that help them expand their business abroad.
- The Enterprise Europe Network helps SMEs and entrepreneurs access market information, overcome legal obstacles, and find potential business partners across Europe.
- The SME Internationalisation support page provides information on foreign markets and helps European business internationalise their activities.
- The single portal on Access to Finance helps SMEs find finance supported by the EU.
- The European Cluster Collaboration Platform offers dynamic mapping of over 1000 profiled cluster organisations worldwide or supports the emergence of new value chains through cross-sectorial cooperation.
- Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a cross-border exchange programme that gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other participating countries.
- COSME, the EU Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs, supports SMEs in accessing finance, markets and creates a business-friendly environment.
- The SME Assembly, the most significant event for SMEs in Europe, presents different approaches to promoting SME entrepreneurship.