Over 1200 Catalan SMEs received support from the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) in 2019. Services provided by the European Commission–funded network include advising SMEs on innovation and internationalisation, facilitating access to funding for European projects, and supporting SMEs in their search for international partners. In Catalonia, the Agency for Business Competitiveness (ACCIÓ, which reports to the Ministry of Business and Knowledge) leads the EEN strategy in consortium with the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and the General Council of Catalan Chambers of Commerce.
Over the course of 2019, within the framework of the EEN Network in Catalonia, nine business missions – to Germany, China, France, the Netherlands, Turkey, Israel and Chile – were organised to support Catalan SMEs in their search for new international opportunities. Catalan companies ended up closing 61 agreements with international partners through the EEN Network. Eighty-six percent of these companies expect to improve their position or increase their presence in new international markets thanks to the support they received; 70% believe their turnover will increase; and 39% think these deals will allow them to create more jobs.
In addition, 40 brokerage events – in which participants (companies, large corporations and technology centres) take part in 20-minute face-to-face meetings to explore opportunities for collaboration – were held. In total, over 2700 face-to-face meetings were held, with the participation of 700 Catalan companies. Brokerage events were organised during international events such as the Mobile World Congress, the Smart City Expo World Congress and the IoT Solutions World Congress. Around 40 training sessions and awareness-raising activities were also conducted throughout Catalonia.
The main sectors in which companies are pursuing collaborations are ICT, health and biotechnology, industry 4.0 and construction.
Industry 4.0 among priorities for 2020–21
The new EEN Network operational plan for 2020–21, with a budget of €2.2 million, has just been launched. Priority objectives include transforming Catalan SMEs to move towards industry 4.0 through activities that focus on acceleration and scaling-up in more technological and high-growth markets, and promoting innovative approaches to public procurement and identifying opportunities for Catalan companies in this area. The circular economy and promotion of sustainability – goals actively pursued in 2019 – are also among the priorities set out in the new operational plan.