The Enterprise Europe Network Annual Conference is the Network’s flagship event. This year’s edition took place on 25-27 October 2022 in Prague, Czechia.
The conference brought together Network partners, representatives of EU institutions, and key external stakeholders to discuss how the Network’s business support services can best meet the evolving needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As a representative of the Southeast Digital Innovation Hub (DigiHub), which is part of the pan-European network, Mrs. Ina Agafonova took an active part.
The opening session was webstreamed live and openly accessible to the public. The Network’s Twitter and Facebook accounts provided regular updates about the conference.
The conference has three main objectives:
- Exchange ideas on how the Network can contribute to the European industrial transition.
- Share best practices to improve the quality and visibility of the Network’s services.
- Foster cooperation and synergies among Network members.
Sessions wере revolve around four main strands: the Single Market and beyond, the industrial transition, innovation, and quality, as the overarching theme is: “New Network, new realities, new impact”.
Reports and discussions on the industrial transition reinforced the idea that:
- The sustainable and digital transition is at the core of European industrial transformation and the new portfolio of EEN services thanks to the newly established EEN Sustainability Advisors and digitalisation services.
- Businesses will need to transform their business models and operations to support circularity of materials, resource and energy efficiency, as well as using new technologies and data most effectively.
- The global scale impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shown the importance for the European industry to strengthen its resilience to political and economic changes by increasing businesses capacity to react to sudden disruptions in the value chain.
Sessions explored how the EEN can continue to evolve to support this transition, including exchanging best practices.
In terms of the Single Market and beyond, the strengthening of the single market was discussed, which is crucial to strengthen the EU’s preparedness for value chain disruptions arising from external shocks. Reinforcing the Single Market is crucial to strengthen EU’s preparedness to value chain disruptions originating from external shocks. The EEN has already helped a lot SMEs get the best out of the Single Market, but more can be done. Tapping the potential of regions and European Regional Development Funds is also an integral part of this renewed effort to support access to the Single Market. Facilitating SMEs’ access to third markets is a key element of the service offer of the EEN including with the newly appointed International Network Partners who can facilitate commercial partnerships between European SMEs and companies in other continents. Sessions took a look at how these services can continue to improve and how the EEN can play a role in the EU’s Global Gateway.
With new EU funding instruments fully operational, such as Horizon Europe and its EIC, the Network has the opportunity to really make a difference and help SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups make the most of their innovation potential. Opportunities for innovation exist in many areas, from circular economy to digital technologies, from energy efficiency to bioeconomy. During the sessions, it was discussed how the EEN can best help SMEs benefit from these opportunities and the different tools and approaches available.
To improve the quality of EEN’s work Internal tools, improved operation management and strategic collaborations can strongly contribute to a better performance of the Network and thus deliver a stronger impact. In particular, collaborations with other European networks, such as EDIHs and European clusters, and cooperation with national and regional stakeholders are to be sought. Sessions took a look at best practice with a particular focus on improved communication and visibility.
The participants of the Enterprise Europe Network 2022 annual session came together around the following conclusions:
- With the European economy dealing with the cumulative shock of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, it is vital that the services offered by EEN partners evolve to meet these challenges.
- This means a stronger focus on the industrial transition: sustainability, digitalisation and resilience.
- It means a continuous effort to improve SMEs’ access to the Single Market and global markets – including better integration within regions.
- It means harnessing the power of innovation to support these goals and notably the twin transition.
- And it means raising quality across the renewed Network to deliver the maximum impact in a way that is most visible to SMEs and stakeholders.