Integrate to innovate

Commentary by Jonás Fernández MEP, Member, Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, European Parliament, S&D

Jonas Fernandez I am delighted to associate myself with this edition of 1000 Companies to Inspire Europe. This report clearly illustrates that SMEs play an important role in economic growth and high-quality job creation, stimulating entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. More importantly, it shows that this achievement is spread across the 28 member states and through different sectors of activity, business models and ownership structures. 

In fact, one cannot forget that SMEs represent 99% of all businesses in the EU and are responsible for 90 million jobs and 60% of the value added to the economy. However, it is also important not to forget that the SME sector is not homogeneous. It encompasses enterprises with different ownership structures and varying numbers of employees and sectors of economic activity, which translate into different levels of access to financing alternatives, administrative and regulatory burden and information and financial literacy.

Recognising the importance of the sector for Europe’s growth and future, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council have worked to improve and facilitate access to finance for SMEs. This is through the creation of EU funds such as COSME (Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme or, more recently, the EFSI (European Fund for Strategic Investment). It also includes measures to tackle the fragmentation of the financial markets in Europe, where the capital markets union (CMU) and the new fintech markets are of undeniable importance.

However, we as politicians must be aware that no measure, no matter how sound it might be, will produce the intended results if not known and used. And what we can still see in our constituencies is that the majority of SMEs, especially micro and small enterprises, lack knowledge of the existence of financing alternatives and the expertise to deal with these more complex, bureaucratic and costly options.

Our priority must now be to complete the CMU and to establish the mechanisms to help all SMEs under-stand the alternative funding opportunities, and how to reach them, and aid them in finding the specific needs of different business types.

If we manage to do this in a consistent and widely spread way across the EU, the capacity for innovation, growth and job creation stemming from SMEs will materialise and fulfil its potential.

This is my wish.