How does digitalization impact internationalization activities of businesses? Is the policy level prepared for it, and what can be learned from each other? These were the two main topics that a large number of participants of the UpgradeSME mid-term conference participants debated heavily.


On 19th March an event, co-organized by Pannon Business Network and Steinbeis Beratung GmbH took place in Stuttgart, with close to 100 participants. Following the welcome address of Mrs. Dr.-Ing. Petra Püchner, Commissioner for Europe of the Minister of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing Baden-Württemberg and the key note speech by Mr. Dr. Balazs Barta, managing director of PBN, a panel discussion started from high level policy officials – like the Foreign Trade Attaché, President of the Baden-Württemberg Craftsmen Association, or video message from DG Connect.

It was a general conclusion that there digitalization has a strong disruptive character, and business models and the arena is changing dramatically. While SMEs are struggling with operational burden – shortage of labour force, digitalization gap, capacity management -, the large companies are reshaping their setting – preparing for the shared economy, application- and service-driven dominance, etc.

Five SMEs introduced themselves in the second panel from five countries. The discussion was about the impact of internationalization on their individual strategies, why and how they started foreign-relations. As a starting debate reference, UpgradeSME research was presented, highlighting the differences between central and peripheral regional business behaviour.

As a closing panel, six countries’ managing authorities shared their learnings from the UpgradeSME project. It is no question that centralized systems will stay as they were before, and the same applies for the decentralized regions, yet a vast amount of actions were listed from the policy stakeholders.

The conference ended with a visit at the Porsche Company, where digitalization activities were presented from the German automotive industry.