Project summary



COMPETE IN focuses on SMEs competitiveness by improving regional policies to support the internationalization of territories, leveraging on the local system of actors and regional distinctive competencies. The COVID-19 has had a significant negative impact on global economic activity and global supply chains. The sudden outbreak of the pandemic has caused a severe economic disruption among European SMEs, also having significant policy implications at the local and regional levels. In the initial stage, SMEs have dealt with logistical issues and demand/supply shocks. Subsequently, repeated lockdowns have deeply affected SMEs growth and investments, interrupting international business networks and exchange opportunities with key stakeholders on international issues. COMPETE IN ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES will help to shift from the initial emergency solutions to a medium/long-term structural strategy based on innovation, internationalization and networking to contribute to SMEs renewal and growth and to improve related regional policies. The additional activities will address the topic of SMEs internationalization analyzing the innovative measures adopted by territories to enable business to be more robust, developing ability to cope with future shocks.
PPs will present GPs related to: smart and digital investments, green and circular solutions, supply chain and logistic restructuring, new innovative services/tools for SMEs. In particular PPs will focus on: digital skills and digital export, e-commerce, mentoring programs for exporting SME’s, digital tools in the international communication, supply chains/target countries/service tools implemented through a digital platform for businesses, inucubators exchange and internationalization of start-ups, sustainability for competitiveness, attraction of talents.

COMPETE IN 2016 - 2020

Seven partners around Europe, work together for 5 years to strengthen the support to Small and Medium-sized companies in their attempt to go global. Compete In looks to improve the effectiveness of regions and cities as facilitators of internationalisation processes. Cities and regions promote international relations and act as governance actors and enablers for a range of local stakeholders who cooperate to make regions as better able to pursue internationalisation.

A new approach   

The project deploys a new methodology: approaching internationalisation not by addressing uniquely SMEs, but by addressing the regional systems’ of distinctive territorial competences, always bearing in mind that the final objective is to support SMEs going global.


The interregional learning

The interregional learning process will be developed through study visits, transfer workshops, meetings and interregional events during the entire length of the project. Partners will exchange their local best practices on internationalisation, focusing on three main areas: the attraction of investments, the penetration of new markets and territories and the creation of international partnerships.


from 1 Apr 2016
to 31 Mar 2021

SME competitiveness

Main results

The expected outcomes of Compete In project are  improvements of internationalisation policies through the development of local action plans and the creation of local cooperation processes making all relevant stakeholders (SMEs, universities/research centres, trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, local/regional governments) acting as part of a regional system to be internationalised.

What policy instruments does the project address?

DUP Strategic Priority 1 tackles the transition, for Reggio Emilia, from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, this by leveraging on local distinctive competences (Education, Mechatronics, Agrifood, Energy & Services) in line with the Regional S3 and by fostering internationalisation of the local system through the international relations built by the city with several countries, both EU and outside EU, for the benefit of SMEs.

Reasons for improvement are:

1. ERDF OP measures targeting internationalisation struggle to have complete effectiveness at local level, since mismatches between regional and local programming exist: dialogue and integration between these 2 levels must be improved, to guarantee harmonisation of internationalisation policies and a full integration of ERDF priorities in local planning.

2. Co-existence of several stakeholders with different levels of internationalisation (SMEs, universities, R&I centres) and with different roles in support of internationalisation (Local Authority, Chamber of Commerce, Trade associations): governance of these organisations has to be improved to avoid duplication, define and share a common vision for economic development and internationalisation of the regional system The new approach must be to build and promote cooperation processes (replacing standard competitive processes) that put together different local and international actors in a “knowledge creation chain”, consisting in partnerships and collaborations. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Municipality of Reggio Emilia

Valencia ERDF OP, Axis 3 is aimed at improving innovation & internationalization of SMEs, in line also with the region’s general promotion strategy. The ERDF OP is intended to respond to the weakness local SMEs have demonstrated in finding new solutions to overcome the weak Spanish domestic market, and to stimulate the growth of technology oriented SMEs. Up to date, the regional programme intervenes via a set of priority actions such as:

- Selection of service providers in foreign markets.

• New services and assistance for internationalization beginners

• Foster companies to establish abroad

• Financing and insurance

• Logistics

• Foreign investment attraction

Nevertheless, this approach still presents some aspects that need improvement:

• Communication with local enterprises: not efficient, too many stakeholders involved, coordination is required

• Exporting companies’ needs are constantly changing. Services and programmes must adapt to the new exporting companies’ profiles

• General remark: innovation is strictly connected with internationalisation, thus need to improve internationalisation approaches to foster SME innovation

• Cooperation among SMEs is not well developed and has to be enhanced

• New emerging sectors, such as technology oriented sectors, require a specific and different approach. Knowledge has to be acquired on how to support advanced services and creative industries

• Clusters are still too weak and need improvement, especially in IT & health sectors

Which partners are working on this?
  • Valencia Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness Institute

In the previous programming period the internationalization of SMEs was laid down in the ERDF OP – TO 6.1, namely in the "Passport to Export" Project, managed by national level (PARP – Polish Agency of Economy Development). These measures were focused on projects aimed at increasing the share of exports in total sales, intensifying relations with foreign partners and increase brand recognition and companies on foreign markets. Now, based on above mentioned experience, the regional authorities were forced to carry out such activities by themselves. Silesian Voivodship authority intends to increase the internationalization capacity of regional SMEs by services provided by regional BSO, starting from the acknowledgement that SMEs participation at trade missions is useless without proper support and market information. Additionally, the regional authority is willing to support regional SMEs which respond to RIS smart technologies requirements. This implies that relevant organizations within Silesian Voivodship have to build competences at regional level, to better address internationalization issues and better assist SMEs. Weaknesses exist in the regional system that must be tackled by learning from more experienced regions on this subject.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Upper Silesian Agency for Entrepreneurship and Development Ltd.

The development policy of Wielkopolska Region in field of economic growth is focused on establishing an innovative and competitive economy by i.e. supporting local enterprises in expansion on international markets and building cooperation with foreign partners. Increasing the value of international trade exchange of SMEs will accelerate their development and improve competitiveness on global market. Therefore the internationalization level has a direct impacton improvement of region’s competitiveness and investment attractiveness. 

According to regional analyses the main barriers for SMEs from Wielkopolska to expand on foreign markets is lack of relevant information and insufficient knowledge in the field of strategic international management. The support should be provided by regional authorities to companies on different stages of internationalization - from the concept phase through implementation of the idea up to improvement of existing cooperation, by leveraging on regional systems as a whole. Therefore it is necessary to develop new tools adjusted to actual needs of enterprises by using potential and experience of the entire regional system. By engaging various local partners (trade associations, clusters, universities) and using other regions’ knowledge Wielkopolska will be able to generate the added value in terms of improving the competitiveness of its SMEs. The regional approach will also allow small enterprises to engage into international markets which until now where beyond their reach.

Which partners are working on this?

The policy instrument seeks to improve awareness of, involvement in and more value-added being derived by SMEs from international markets: it focuses on developing an improved way of SME learning to entry new markets. This will directly improve ESIF support activity to improve SMEs involvement in 3rd markets. The innovative aspect is overcoming individual SME’s lack of awareness and general inertia on internationalisation by focusing on collective learning and exchange between SMEs within and between regions. Traditional barriers of individual adoption of new behaviour will be broken down by emphasising collaborative learning networks so as to reduce risk and transaction costs and to enhance SME’s abilities to enter new markets. Firms that trade internationally are more benchmarked against global competition and generally invest & benefit more from innovation. Wakefield’s SMEs are more inward facing and trading regionally rather than internationally, thus their competitiveness has a much narrower and regionally determined basis. The aim is to improve the sustainable competitive advantage of SMEs vis-à-vis other more internationally active businesses by reducing economic and transaction costs (information gathering, risk assessment & management, partner search..) to enter new markets. Wakefield will act as an honest broker and intermediary to reduce various barriers to entry and to enhance the know-how capabilities of the business to make a calculated entry into new markets.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Leeds Beckett University - partner from 28 November 2017

The business structure in North Central Sweden is one-sided and traditional. There is a need for a more diversified business structure to decrease vulnerability, enlarge markets and widening of the labour market. Identified strengths are strong (large) export companies with high-end competence, a strong tourism sector and closeness to growth regions like Stockholm, Göteborg and Oslo.

Important learnings from the last programming period 2007-2013 is that the actions should build on the needs & demand of the companies. Particular focus on new, fast growing companies, with active support of business development, internationalisation, commercialization, innovation capacity and access to finance. Sustainable development should be seen as a step to create growth in SMEs, as an example; take advantage of foreign born as a resource for export and internationalisation of products & services.

In order to increase the SME internationalization and get a more efficient support system, adapted to the economy of tomorrow, where the joint resources deliver the most result, there is a need to:

- create a common vision and objectives for the support to SME internationalization among local/regional stakeholders

- develop a regional internationalization action plan for SMEs, involving all relevant stakeholders and making cities/regions acting as facilitator of the internationalisation of regional systems.

Gävle, with the Region of Gävleborg, will coordinate this process. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Municipality of Gävle

Emilia-Romagna Regional OP – Axis 3 is characterized by multi-year interventions regarding internalization process towards new markets based on a production chain logic, supporting sectorial, vertical or horizontal associations, also through the export consortia and guiding the business export activity, highlighting entrepreneurial associations and innovation centers’ involvement. The main strategy underpinning this Axis is to support recover and growth via innovation, internationalisation and business creation, by applying RIS3 priorities with a cross-sector approach to the regional productive system. In particular business check-up, buyers and importers search, B2B meeting and visits, business, industrial and productive cooperation agreements will be financed. What needs to be improved is the governance, as far as the “Triangle of knowledge” is concerned: research institutions, public authorities, SMEs. These actors have different roles and have different levels of internationalisation: alone they struggle to success, whereas, if they cooperate and act as a system, they can maximise the result. Regional government thus intend to improve the governance of the programme and of stakeholders linked to internationalisation of SMEs, by further cooperating with the local sector to allow for a more effective application of ERDF instruments within the territories. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • ART-ER Joint Stock Consortium Company (until 30/04/2019 ERVET)