Project summary

The 7 SIE partner regions are keen to respond to the challenge of increasing SME internationalisation capacity and this project will help them to assess the effectiveness of current policies and the support initiatives that they cover.

Each partner will showcase successful support interventions in its region  so that the other regions can test new ways of helping companies. 

SIE will include study visitslocal stakeholder groups, joint research into barriers faced by SMEs and regional action plans to improve policy design and implementation.

The partners will explore how different SME support mechanisms (workshops, trade missions/fairs, investment funds, B2B matchmaking and online tools) work in each region. The project activities will focus on a variety of topics including digital vs physical exports and international vs European trade. 


from 1 Apr 2016
to 31 Mar 2021

SME competitiveness

Improving SME Internationalisation Support

Internationalisation is a key way for SMEs to innovate & grow and is an essential part of ensuring that Europe continues to compete in the global market.

SMEs want to find new markets for their products & services but internationalisation can be complex. Companies face barriers when doing business in other countries but with the right support, internationalisation can help businesses to grow & become more innovative.


What policy instruments does the project address?

SIE will primarily influence the South East of England (SELEP) ESIF strategy which is related to the delivery of EU structural funds in Kent. The ESIF strategy links to the UK's national ERDF Operational Programme which is split into 39 local strategies.

The SELEP ESIF strategy includes a thematic objective on SME Competitiveness which focuses on “increasing trade & inward investment”. The policy recognises low levels of exporting in Kent and the barriers to international trade. It aims to overcome these by encouraging business support initiatives which help SMEs to access international markets.

SIE presents a significant opportunity to improve this policy through inter-regional working by learning and applying best practice from the 6 SIE partner regions.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Kent County Council

The ERDF OP for Molise focuses on "competitiveness in the production system" (Priority axis 3) and its main thematic objective is "to promote the competitiveness of SMEs".

This objective will help "to develop and realise new patterns of activities for SMEs" and in particular relating to the internationalisation process.

Specific objective 3.3 of the ERDF programme's thematic objective is "to increase the level of internationalisation of the production system".

SIE will help to improve this policy by capitalising on best practice and methods used by the different project partner regions.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Molise Region

The national Czech OP includes investment priority 2.2; the "Development & implementation of new models for SMEs, especially in the area of international trade", this policy aims to:

  • Improve SME advisory services
  • Help SMEs to identify foreign markets
  • Support SMEs in strategic planning & management for foreign markets, increase efficiency in processes and develop a proactive approach to internationalisation
  • Facilitate economic growth through increased exports

 The policy includes 3 measures:

  • Services for SMEs to facilitate access to international markets
  • Advisory services (from experts with knowledge of the international business environment) & services for strategic & innovation management
  • Support services focusing on SME internationalisation

The policy covers a very wide a range of initiatives; Ústí Region will learn from the SIE partner regions to highlight and focus on implementing methods which prove most effective in unlocking SME internationalisation capacity.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Ústí Region

The 2014-20 Operational Programme in Lower-Saxony includes a focus under investment priority 1B, on boosting the competitiveness of SMEs. The programme has adopted a specific sub-action to support SME growth within regional, national and international markets and to help companies become more innovative.

Nbank is responsible for the implementation of the majority of aspects of the OP and SIE provides a good opportunity to make improve this policy instrument and assistance for SMEs through the inter-regional exchange process and by learning from the different approach of partners.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Investment and Business Development Bank Lower Saxony - NBank

The main objective of the Region Kujawsko-Pomorskie ERDF programme is to boost competitiveness and innovation. In particular, the OP's Priority 1 focuses on "Strengthening Innovation & Economic Competitiveness". Thematic objective 3 "Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises" will be the main priority of the programme within which a number of SME internationalisation support measures will be launched. The policy has a specific target to “increase the level of foreign trade among regional SMEs”.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Torun Regional Development Agency

SIE links to thematic objective 3 of the ERDF OP for Aquitaine  which aims to “Improve business competitiveness”. Investment priority 3d aims to "develop SME's capacity to grow in regional, national and international markets”.

The Aquitaine Regional Plan for Business Internationalisation also sets out several priorities for SME internationalisation in Aquitaine:

 An “export pathway” with successive steps to ensure that all potential exporters get the prerequisites for a successful internationalisation including:

  • An internationalisation diagnosis by the International Chamber of Commerce 
  • Training of SME staff to develop export strategies 
  • Markets selection based on a multi-criteria analysis
  • Developing and following up Export Business Plans

 There is scope to improve various aspects of these policies through applying innovative solutions identified from partner regions.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Nouvelle-Aquitaine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (until 31/12/2016 CCI Aquitaine)

The regional ERDF OP in Cantabria emphasises the importance of SME internationalisation for the development of the local economy. Priority 3b & d aim to "Improve the Competitiveness of SMEs". In particular the OP focuses on:

  •  Development & application of new SME business models, particularly for internationalisation
  • Supporting the capacity of SMEs to grow in regional, national and international markets, and to engage in innovation processes

These strategic objectives are not only part of the regional ERDF programme but also the RIS3 strategy for Cantabria which seeks to address the following issues:

  • Regional companies suffer from reduced critical mass and low levels of co-ordination. This hinders their access to international markets and their ability to mobilise resources to achieve growth and innovation. 
  • There is a low level of cooperation between SMEs; only 22.3% of innovative companies developed collaborations in 2012.

A key need in Cantabria is to facilitate access for SMEs to financial resources and cooperation platforms or spaces that improve regional business growth and competitiveness.

There are also strong links through the SIE project to the National Chamber Internationalisation Plan  in Spain which focuses on how to help SMEs develop internationalisation capacity. 

Which partners are working on this?
  • Official Chamber of Commerce of Industry, Services and Navigation of Cantabria