As Europe drifts through its ongoing state of indecision, it continues to also neglect the entrepreneurs and small businesses SMEs who can pull it out of economic and social decline and into genuine, sustainable and more equitable growth. The SME sector is the backbone of the economy, but remains neglected and overshadowed by the demands and lobbying of European big business and international trade deals.
Innovation and ideas are not absent in the European Union - it is well documented as to how many of our brilliant ideas go to the US or Asia for investment - but without support to turn these ideas into action, these ideas are just wasted thoughts.
Europe has the potential to create entrepreneurs, to transform small companies into big ones, to empower innovators to take projects from concept to commercialisation and in turn to create much needed jobs, improve social infrastructure, attract investment and build strong European foundations on which Europe could be seen as a global leader for knowledge and technology transfer.
However, while SME Week is a great concept, it remains just words. The Small Business Act (SBA) remains just text and the Think Small First strap-line remains just a motto. There are no contacts for second chances entrepreneurs and being a female in business, there is little more than a platform on which women can complain to each other about the lack of concrete measures.
Horizon 2020 remains for the elite and the European Commission fails to recognise that the real drivers of growth - the ideas from entrepreneurs - come from the grass roots. These are the people who need to be empowered and supported. Sadly, SME Week and European projects are failing to address the concept of ideas to action.
Yes, we can all complain, but entrepreneurs are about action and overcoming challenges, so despite these times of austerity, what concrete measures are needed to stimulate growth?
Entrepreneurs and SMEs need support, genuine learning from experience and direct hand holding throughout the growth stages of business. They need knowledge on how to pitch and to be investment ready and they need to know the shortest routes to the people who can help them fastest.
Small businesses need access to new markets and that means an in-depth understanding of the cultural differences in those markets. All this support requires those who have been there and done it, those with experience and know-how: the business people, not bureaucrats or politicians.
Consider if we added up the total funds spent in preparation for recent international trade deals TTIP, CETA, EU-India, etc., none of which have come to fruition. Now, if we had invested that same money - likely millions of euros - in supporting our organic home-grown entrepreneurs and SMEs, how many jobs could we have created, how much innovation could we have developed, what new products could we be offering to new markets who wanted the products not the trade deals?
We have failed to properly evaluate our action and their impact in our desperate need to build more trade deals to support more big companies. Austerity has not damaged the backbone of the economy, the blindness of those in the decision making process has.