How the EU can help businesses across Europe

The Commission is working on building a positive environment for all businesses in the EU, writes Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

Elzbieta Bienkowska | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual

By Elzbieta Bienkowska

22 May 2018

This year, we celebrate 25 years of the EU single market - the world’s largest market, where people, goods, services and capital can move freely.

Thanks to the single market, EU companies, big or small, have access to 500 million potential customers and can o¬ffer their products and services across borders. Moreover, they can employ the services of world-class engineers and research teams to help them develop innovative products.

The Commission works on building a positive environment for all businesses in the EU, and has a specific policy for supporting the start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the highest potential for growth and job creation. With the right environment and access to capital, these companies can compete in global markets. That’s why they are at heart of EU policies.

The capital markets union, digital single market and single market strategy have all been designed with the needs of start-ups and SMEs in mind. They aim to remove the barriers that hold businesses back, helping them exploit the full potential of the EU single market. 

With our initiatives, we are improving eCommerce, making free movement of goods and services smoother and supporting the adoption of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, high-capacity batteries, connected and automated cars, supercomputing and robotics.

We have just closed a public consultation on the definition of SMEs. As the business landscape changes, we need to ensure that we target our efforts at businesses with the right profile.

Even in the right environment, businesses need access to capital to grow. We all know that in the past many companies decided to move their businesses to the US because they could not get the venture capital they needed to expand.

The pan-European venture capital fund-of-funds programme recently launched by the Commission helps address the issue and gives high-potential businesses the support they need to succeed globally.

The six participating funds aim to raise up to €2.1bn of public and private investment. this is expected to trigger around €6.5bn of new investment in innovative start-up and scale-up companies across Europe, doubling the amount of venture capital currently available in Europe.

Already, many SMEs and start-ups are getting financial support from the EU. Under the investment plan and the EU programmes, such as Horizon 2020, COSME, SME instrument, LIFE and EFSI, the EU has already supported over 300,000 small businesses, ranging from start-ups working with Copernicus data to medical technology companies or battery cell producers, helping them grow and create new jobs.

For example, Swedish start-up company Northvolt will build a first-of-a-kind battery cells plant thanks to a loan of up to €52.5m backed by the EU InnovFin programme. A French online automotive retailer, Aramis Auto, has revolutionised the way second-hand cars are traded, thanks to a venture capital investment backed by the European investment fund. The financial support allowed them to purchase land and construct a factory to run the new business line, servicing 800 cars per month and creating 100 new jobs.

Our efforts don’t end with money. We o¬ffer businesses in the EU a number of support services and programmes. 

The Enterprise Europe Network helps ambitious SMEs innovate and grow internationally in the EU and beyond. The network is active in more than 60 countries worldwide. It brings together 3000 experts from more than 600 member organisations, all renowned for their excellence in business support. 

The network experts recognise innovation potential and can help SMEs find funding, for example via the SME Instrument that helps high potential SMEs to develop ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes ready to face global market competition.

Another good place to start and learn about all thing business is the EU website Your Europe Business.

The IPR Helpdesks provide support for SMEs on intellectual property issues in EU funded projects and in transnational commercial cooperation. They focus on training, awareness-raising and advice on the registration, use and management of intellectual property. They operate in Europe, China, South-East Asia and Latin America.

When doing business across borders in Europe, businesses may sometimes encounter problems while dealing with public authorities in a different EU country. If they believe their rights were breached, they can turn to the SOLVIT network. SOLVIT aims to find solutions within 10 weeks.

Looking ahead, our goal is to make Europe a place where people can start and grow their business easily. We will continue to encourage this by removing barriers in the single market and helping SMEs exploit their full potential, stimulating investment and together with the member states working to create the best possible environment for SMEs.

For that to happen, we need to see the proposals we have put forward become reality. I highly appreciate our cooperation with the European Parliament; we have had many fruitful discussions during the trialogues and we are working together towards the same goal - making the life of citizens and businesses in the EU easier. For the remainder of my mandate, we shall continue working closely together with the Parliament to ensure the adoption of the many proposals still on the table.