New EU funds for digital transition will encourage national strategic approaches. However, there is still a need for direct investments in SME digitalisation which is not necessarily prioritised in the national plans for how to spend the new funds. Transnationally coordinated reactions from industry associations may be useful by drawing attention to inspirational cases among neighboring countries
On 12 May 2021 DINNOCAP team organised an online seminar on issues related to funding SME digitalisation initiatives. Participants were 33 industry representatives, government agencies and knowledge institutions from Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Finland, and Denmark.
Provided a snapshot of how different countries are planning to utilise the new EU funds for recovering the economy (RRF) regarding the digital transformation of SME’s.
Discussed the general outlook in the countries regarding challenges and opportunities for financing and investing in industry digitalisation.
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The landscape is rather diversified with huge variations between countries regarding prioritised sectors and themes: ”Digital transition” must consist minimum 20% of planned expenditures but digitising industry is not necessarily in focus and SME’s even less. The planned digital transition investments will generally be based on the development and implementation of broad digital strategies or road maps. A broad spectrum of digitalisation initiatives will be supported, e.g. digital innovation hubs, digital security, digital infrastructure, new technologies, innovation vouchers. Direct investment in SME digitalisation seems not to be an intention. The funding will often be based on seed money with up to 50% cofinancing demand where the aim is to catalyse existing funds and multiply the impact.
In one country all RFF funds are foreseen to be spent in public sector digitalisation, including open data, infrastructure development, and digital public administration. A more efficient public sector – as well as public investments/procurement - can indirectly benefit SME digitalisation and improve framework conditions. Nevertheless, easy and non-bureaucratic access to funding of the first steps into digitalisation is often crucial for SME’s opportunities.
It also varies from country to country how much industry representatives have been involved in the development of the national plan. It will be interesting to see how the European Commission (EC) will react to the national plans. EC may encourage a stronger private sector focus where it is seen to be missing. Also, transnationally coordinated reactions from industry associations in the different countries could be useful for drawing attention to the needs of SMEs.
The seminar was organised by Aalborg University Copenhagen (AAU) and co-organised/hosted by ITL, Estonia’s ICT Association.
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More to come
The seminar is the first out of four online interactive seminars to be organised throughout the year within DINNOCAP WP2. We expect to discuss specific challenges related to these three thematic areas: Financial support and investment; access to work force and know-how; innovation trends and new business models.
The seminars will offer the opportunity to share best practices, get insight into and inspiration from approaches and solutions in neighboring countries, extend the network and develop joint ideas for projects and proposals for funding. The dialogue is expected to lead to a list of actions to implement at the national and transnational level to solve the challenges and help SMEs to engage in digitalisation.
Further information: Torben Aaberg, Aalborg University Copenhagen, email@example.com