Visegrad Fund - EaP SME Networking Platform

The aim of the project is to improve the business environment and strengthen SMEs competitiveness in EaP region by developing the SMEs and SMEs cluster-to-cluster networks.

In the past decade, significant efforts have been made to develop stronger, more diversified and dynamic economies across the EaP region. Indeed, SMEs in the EaP region show low levels of labour productivity in comparison to EU levels. This reflects their concentration in lowvalue-added sectors of the economy but also their limited integration into global value chains. According to the SME policy index, EaP countries have made significant progress since 2016. The EaP countries have organised SME policy interventions around multi-year SME development strategies. EaP countries have established SME development agencies and are developing systematic public-private consultation processes. However, SMEs tend to face high barriers in entering new markets – both domestic and foreign – due to lack of information about export opportunities and internationally incompatible quality standards. To fill the gaps it is significant to improve information and data collection on SME internationalisation, their integration into GVCs and use of e-commerce. Efforts may include market-making initiatives such as e-platforms where SMEs can interact to find buyers for their products or input suppliers, and industryspecific matchmaking events where SMEs can identify potential business partners and develop cluster-type relationships along their value chain. While improving SME skills intelligence and addressing the gap in training provision. Our V4 partner countries' experiences as the EU member countries will be critically essential for sharing the experience of SMEs development to EaP countries.

The aim of the project is to improve the business environments and strengthen SMEs competitiveness in EaP region through building their own innovative capability and to reach their markets, both in EaP countries as well as to reach out the EU market. The specific objectives of the project are (1) to develop the SMEs and SMEs cluster-to-cluster networks through creating SMEs membership networking e-platform for all sectors in EaP region; (2) to foster the Global Value Chain integrations of EaP SMEs through sharing information, knowledge and know-how with V4 countries during the online networking events; (3) to enhance SME Skills intelligence in EaP countries by developing online education system and mentoring/coaching services through the platform. Empirical studies have confirmed that collaborating firms are more innovative than non-collaborating ones, irrespective of their size. Inter-firm collaboration within networks is now by far the most important channel of knowledge sharing and exchange. Interactions should also be intensified between firms and a number of other institutions involved in the innovation process. The networking e-platform will help SMEs in EaP countries to share the experience, establish cluster-to-cluster networks through various events, enhance the knowledge and skills through various educational activities, and on the other hand, get consulting services from online mentors and coaches on the platform.

It is crucially important for the EaP countries to share the European experience specifically the exchange the expertise of Visegrad countries that are closer to the region historically or geographically. Both regions have more opportunities to cooperate closer and share the information, knowledge and expertise through an online platform as well as collaborate effectively, develop networks and foster SME cluster development as well as a cluster to cluster cooperation for the economic growth in Europe. After the post-pandemic period, it will be especially important together to tackle the contemporary economic challenges caused by the Covid-19, through promoting exchange and wider dissemination of knowledge and good practices among the countries.

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