The main aim of the present study is to provide a comparison of the six regional reports on the internationalisation of SMEs from the first stage of the SME Internationalisation Exchange (SIE) Interreg project. This study builds on the findings produced by regional studies from Kent County in the UK, Cantabria in Spain, Aquitaine in France, Kujawsko-Pomorskie (Torun) in Poland, Usti in Czech Republic and Molise in Italy. It focuses on identifying the levels of internationalisation across regions, facilitating factors and barriers to internationalisation of SMEs, measurement of the effectiveness of support mechanisms and providing useful recommendations to further support the internationalisation of SMEs within and across the partner regions. Despite the differences in the methodological approaches from the different partners a number of findings have been put forward. Levels of Internationalisation (page 15) ? Most regions have gone through a period of large trade deficits in the last 20 years. Deepening of EU integration and the availability of funding to support internationalisation initiatives has enabled regions to turn around and demonstrate trade surpluses in the last decade. Despite the spread of internationalisation activities in the different regions it is common that a substantial proportion of them can be attributed to a rather small number of companies and an even smaller number of sectors. For all regions, other EU markets represent the key customers of their international activities. Facilitators to Internationalisation (page 19) ? Ability to innovate has been identified as a key facilitator. Both process as well as product innovation have been brought forward by SMEs as factors that enhance their internationalisation efforts. Access to specialised information through the local support mechanisms and access to financial subsidies have also been identified as important facilitators. Barriers to Internationalisation (page 21) ? Both external and internal barriers exist. External barriers are usually associated with the volatility and the uncertainty of the institutional environment that creates additional risks for SMEs. Internal barriers are either informational ones or functional ones. The former correspond to lack of access to specialised information about foreign markets whilst the latter correspond to lack of specialised, primarily marketing, resources to effectively enter foreign markets. Support Mechanisms (page 25) ? All studies identified a complex and bureaucratic environment of support mechanisms. Significant overlaps exist between national and local/regional support mechanisms and this leads to lack of awareness and therefore lack of engagement from SMEs. A number of best practices have been identified throughout the regions that facilitate better engagement, better information dissemination and a more focused or tailored approach to the needs of individual SMEs. Recommendations (page 28) ? Two major recommendations have been put forward. First, the establishment of a cross-regional business network that will enable SMEs to take advantage of opportunities in other regions and share risks across borders. Trust in this network will be infused by the existing collaboration of partners across regions. Second, the establishment of a policy laboratory that will foster sharing of best practice across regions but will also monitor and evaluate the implementation of policies across regions through engagement with a small number of SMEs.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Mar 2018|