Last week was the EU’s annual SME Week and the SFA participated in the SME Assembly in Tallinn, Estonia. The Assembly brings together hundreds of business people, entrepreneurs, representative bodies and policy-makers from across the European Union. It focuses on how to make SME policy work on the ground so that Europe's businesses really thrive.
The theme for this year’s Assembly was ‘Start. Scale. Spread your wings’. There were plenary session, workshops, masterclasses and panel debates on a range of topics from economic trends to the future of work to the impact of climate change on business (“there are no jobs on a dead planet”).
There was a particular focus this year on digitisation, including e-commerce, e-government, data protection and cyber security. This was no surprise given Estonia’s role in the digital vanguard of Europe. For the Irish delegates and others, hearing about the ubiquity of digital signatures and the ‘digital nation’ that Estonia is building through e-residency was a highlight of the conference.
The Assembly was also the scene for the launch of the latest suite of Small Business Act Fact Sheets. These fact sheets, with one per member state, compare performance across a range of policy areas. Ireland was found to be the top performer in skills and innovation in the EU. In eight of the nine areas — entrepreneurship, second chance, responsive administration, state aid & public procurement, access to finance, single market, skills & innovation and internationalisation — Ireland performs above or well above the EU average. On the environment, Ireland was found to perform in line with the EU average.
The other Irish success story at the Assembly was the qualification of the Irish entry in the ‘Ideas from Europe’ pitch competition. Fiona Edwards, founder of ApisProtect, will go through to the final of the competition in April, where she will again present her business which combines sensor technology and bee keeping as a solution to the global bee crisis.