ICO and three counterpart institutions analyse SME investment and innovation in the main eurozone countries
ICO takes part in a joint project with its counterparts: BPI in France, CDP in Italy and KfW in Germany
The study entails an in-depth analysis of the role played by SMEs in the European economy, and in the main eurozone countries of Germany, France, Spain and Italy in particular.
Despite the structural differences in the economies of each country, SMEs account for more than 98% of all companies in the eurozone; they employ more than half of all workers; and they contribute significant value to the economies of these countries. As a result, SMEs play an important role in the sustainable long-term growth of Europe.
The study emphasises the fact that French, Italian and Spanish SMEs are particularly vulnerable to the after-effects of the financial and economic crisis of recent years. Many SMEs have significantly reduced their activities, as well as investment and innovation. Furthermore, it is still difficult for them to access financing. These circumstances are hindering the future competitiveness of SMEs in the eurozone.
In the case of Germany, SME investment and innovation are still much lower than before the financial crisis. While more than 36% of SMEs invested in innovation between 2006 and 2008, this figure dropped to below 26% between 2011 and 2013.
European SMEs can only compete on the international stage based on the principles of quality and innovation. The challenges currently faced by society represent opportunities for companies. Nonetheless, more investment and innovation is needed from SMEs to seize these opportunities and remain competitive in the long term.
The study concludes that development banks such as ICO and its counterparts play an important role in tackling and overcoming the specific challenges faced by each country. European initiatives such as the Juncker Plan are positive steps, but they need to be supplemented by specific national measures for SMEs. Development banks can offer support with made-to-measure financing instruments based on the needs of the companies in each country and establish synergies and alliances with their European partners.