Project summary

If SMEs internationalise they are more likely to survive in global competition, more innovative and more resistant to crises than their stay-at-home cousins.


The Everywhere International SMEs (EIS) project brings together nine partners from seven regions across Europe. The EIS project aims at promoting excellence in regional business support systems for internationalising SMEs by sharing and embedding best practices to enable more SMEs to expand their business across borders. 

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from 1 Jan 2017
to 31 Dec 2020

SME competitiveness


The Everywhere International SMEs (EIS) project was formed out of a recognised regional and European need to encourage more SMEs to internationalise as a central pillar of the post crisis recovery to cement sustainable growth in the EU. The EU’s Single Market of 500 million consumers and the growing opportunities offered by the global economy provide Europe’s SMEs with huge potential if they push their business goals internationally. An estimated 90% of global growth originates outside the EU. Developing and emerging markets are expected to account for 60% of world GDP by 2030. There is huge potential for EU-based SMEs.

SMEs are much more likely to survive in the globally competitive business climate if they internationalise. International SMEs are also more innovative than their stay-at-home cousins and more resistant to local and national crises. 



EIS brings together nine partners from seven regions to work on a four year project (2017-20). EIS partners will develop the EIS tool, a six step methodology to help the participating regions develop robust Action Plans for their stakeholder groups to interrogate as the project unfolds.

All partner regions will implement this common EIS tool in phase two (years 3-4) as part of each Action Plan and apply the EIS tool within their Operational Programmes – an innovative approach for improving Operational Programmes and governance structures for improved policy implementation among the EIS partners. EIS has a very strong focus on European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) with a target impact of in total around €19.5 million of EIS partner regions’ ESIF programmes. EIS counts all seven of its addressed policy instruments as being linked to Smart Specialisation Strategies. The repository of knowledge developed during the EIS project will be put at the disposal of all EU regions via the Interreg Europe programme, the relevant policy platform(s) and through the EIS communication strategy.

What policy instruments does the project address?

The project will focus on Priority Axis 3: Enhancing the competitiveness of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises of the ERDF Operational Programme for England. This states that one of the factors that limit the ability of an SME to grow is:

“The external environment including procurement, access to finance and exporting”.

In Hampshire, we need a more joined up approach among all the SME business support providers to address the fragmented landscape faced by SMEs interested in internationalising their products and services. The current picture can be frustrating for the SME in finding the right support for how to internationalise. At the same time some support services which could help SMEs internationalise are not being sufficiently utilised as they are not widely known and not part of a holistic business support offering.

A key improvement will be to fully map the current business support landscape for SME internationalisation activities, namely who provides what type of support and what advice is available to SMEs. As a result of this, any overlaps, duplication or gaps will be identified and the findings will conclude with recommendations on how to simplify the landscape and improve the customer journey for SMEs who want to internationalise and export.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Hampshire County Council
  • WSX Enterprise Ltd

The specific target of the policy instrument is to increase the number of Growth SME´s by enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs through developing and implementing new business models for SMEs, in particular with regard to internationalisation. Compared to other countries the number of growth SME´s in Denmark is relatively low.

Increased internationalisation can strengthen the SME´s growth potential by assisting them in gaining access to new and bigger markets and by improving the SME´s knowledge. Focus in the regional policy is to identify SME´s with international growth potential and to help them grow through e.g. counselling and strategic networks.

This is done though a system with both local, regional and national business support stakeholders. Many of the stakeholders are coordination their activities through the Danish (Central Denmark) internationalisation network but more coordination is needed to make the policy instrument more effective.

New initiatives and services need to be developed with focus on support for both “Born globals” and SME´s with no or little international experience.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Central Denmark Region
  • Central Denmark EU Office

Priority 3 of BMW ROP, has a specific objective “to increase the number of established SMEs within the BMW region accessing the supports and finance required for sustainability, internationalisation and growth-oriented actions”.

Thus this policy instrument aims to assist in the development of a cohort of new and existing businesses which are capable and ready to enter export markets. This policy and associated investment priorities are based on the need to have a strong and growing cohort of businesses generating sales and income from outside the national market. Currently this priority instrument is implemented through a range of interventions and programmes which seek to facilitate higher levels of value added businesses, increased management capabilities within businesses and higher levels of business expansions through the application of some common business tools, participation on standardised management development programmes, the provision of mentoring and facilitated networking.

However the experience and results from this approach over the last Operational Programme period were very mixed and what is required is a more focussed and target policy with tailored interventions appropriate to the individual businesses and delivered as part of an integrated intervention system. Through the EIS project we would hope to identify good practice across Europe, new and innovative approaches and develop new tools to assist in achieving this objective.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Donegal County Council (Local Enterprise Office)

We are focussing on the Action 3.4.1: “Projects for export promotion devoted to single SMEs or group of SMEs, selected on a territorial or sectorial basis” within the above mentioned policy instrument. The main goal of the programme is to cultivate strong and diversified exporters.

This Action promotes plurennial interventions supporting the SMEs’ internationalization process towards new markets. Priorities are set for project addressing supply chains or sectoral clusters of SMEs. Target of this policy instrument are: single SMEs or their groups/networks or consortia.

The action is intended to address 3 different typologies of SMEs:



  • companies already internationalised, for which the goal is to strengthen their international positioning, in particular in extra-EU markets;
  • potential new exporters, for which the goal is to establish the capabilities needed to export, facilitating the access to specialised services (i.e. training; company check-up, export managers, promotional events all over the world, support on brand protection and commercial risks);
  • start-ups for which the goal is to help them to operate on international markets, providing them with tutoring by successful companies in terms of: training, coaching, financial facilities, networking and support in testing the markets.

A better definition in targeting the different typologies of final beneficiaries and in designing specific patterns in implementing the policy instrument.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Emilia-Romagna Region

The ROP – Regional Operational Programme for Alentejo Region is the financial instrument that supports 2014-2020 Structural Funds implementation in the region. The addressed policy instrument within Priority Axe 1 – SME Internationalization and competitiveness is tackling Thematic Objective 3 - Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The measures of these investment priority aim at supporting companies – with focus on SME’s – in strengthening business capacities for internationalization, promoting increased exports and the international visibility of the Alentejo Region.

Different types of support are addressed such as direct support to investment in the creation of small and medium–sized enterprises, state aid schemes for SME’s internationalization projects, collective actions for internationalization, pilot projects, and experimentation actions, among others.

Internationalisation of SMEs is one of the principal goals for Alentejo within the next few years. Thus it is essential to foster SMEs’ competencies and capacities to reach international markets by reinforcing organizational models, knowledge about international markets and the cooperation between SMEs. The international cooperation will be, for sure, a great contribution to improve regional support mechanisms to help SMEs internationalise.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Development Agency of Alentejo

The main objective of the addressed policy instrument is to Improve competitiveness of SMEs.

The priority 2 concentrates on supporting investments for developing enterprises, especially for small and medium enterprises, strengthening international activity of enterprises and economic clusters, improving investment proposition and business opportunities. They are especially directed to smart specializations in order to increase eco- effectiveness, to improve international activity of SME, business environment and external investments support. Actions supporting the internationalisation of SMEs will be realised by Pomerania Export Broker (PEB).

However PROP describes only a main direction and main activities which will be supported during project realization. The actions are not detailed enough to answer the internationalisation challenges. In our opinion, the support should be directed to the tools and activities supporting internationalisation SME that were already successfully practised in other EU countries and brought the effective results. They should meet SMEs’ needs: both to the start-ups and experienced export players on the market.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Pomerania Development Agency Co.

The EIS project focusses on the specific objective “3d1 - SMEs' development and growth improved in domestic and foreign markets” as part of investment priority “3d – Supporting the capacity of SMEs to grow in regional, national and international markets, and to engage in innovation processes”. It belongs to priority axis 03 - Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises and the agricultural sector (for the EAFRD) and the fisheries and aquaculture sector (for the EMFF).

The aim is to increase the performance of the SME sector. In order to enable the access of SMEs to international markets, it is necessary to support them in meeting the applicable requirements of standards, conformity assessment and certification like improving the quality and conformity of their goods, services or processes.

For SMEs the addressed policy instrument provides support, reliable information and advice on the opportunities to enter into or expand in international markets, as well as more dedicated support in the process. It is expected that by investing more into such activities, more SMEs will be better prepared to enter foreign markets and increase sales of new products internationally. Furthermore, attracting a greater share of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by promoting Croatian regions will also create opportunities for local SMEs to integrate into global supply chains and benefit from positive externalities associated with export oriented FDI.

Which partners are working on this?