SME export in the era of COVID-19
How businesses survive and throve?

UpGradeSME – our 5-year learning process – is the close cooperation of 8 actors representing 6 European regions of Hungary, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

Since our establishment and since 2016 – the start of our cooperation - our aim is at improving SME internationalization policies through interregional learning processes in which processes we observed, exchanged, proposed, debated and finally learned how to compose new policy measures in traditional regional ecosystems with the novelty of proven good practices.

This whole learning process was funded by INTERREG EUROPE program and through its Policy Learning Platform our exchange of experience was supported with current and comprehensive professional background material.

In February 2016 the partnership started its cooperation by involving policy makers and local actors, so called stakeholders who really had first-hand experience in SME survival, financial and legal challenged and could share knowledge how to export and how to support export. But these actors did not have real experience in how to defeat the obstacles created by a world-wide pandemic – which is called COVID-19.

SMEs, intermediary organisations and decision makers relevant in the issue of SME export challenges worked actively between 2016 and 2021 to reach the set goals namely to put on the table 6 well-founded regional action plans enriched with new international examples, which provided assistance to political actors to support the export aspirations of SMEs with innovative measures.

As the COVID-19 crisis ‘arrived’ it not only changed everyday life but also the economic perspectives of small and medium sized enterprises. Therefore UpGradeSME partnership decided to strongly focus on the current situation and received the possibility from the INTERREG EUROPE program to continue the common work, the exchange of knowledge by focusing on the effects of the pandemic on export activities, on the reactions of the economy and the policy level.

Our partnership together with 133 SMEs and policy makers of 6 policy instruments analysed the past problems caused by COVID-19 and tried to formulate new measures to help in a positive direction.

In the form of a JOINT REPORT, they summarized the experiences and the COVID-19 based measures initiated by the policy instruments.

During an online INTERNATIONAL LEARNING EVENT numerous relevant projects and local initiatives have been invited to “put their achievements in one large basket” how they survived the pandemic and what were the discoveries born in different regions of Europe. 

11 GOOD PRACTICES presented functioning measures how small regions fought for their SMEs to keep exporting. 

The acquired knowledge, which originally came from the local actors, enriched with international experience was directed back to these local actors and decision-makers in order they can provide a relevant policy response to the emerging socio-economic situation.


UpGradeSME Team