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How Europe helps small businesses expand internationally

How Europe helps small businesses expand internationally
By Euronews
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Small businesses often think big and in their desire to grow seek international expansion, but that's not easy. The EU has a professional network ready and willing to help, the European Enterprise Net

Business Planet takes you to Greece this week to discuss international development with Georgia Tzenou from the European network, Enterprise Europe Network.

Going global: key facts about the EEN

  • The Enterprise Europe Network helps ambitious small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) innovate and grow internationally in the EU and beyond. The network has 3,000 experts across 600 member organisations in more than 60 countries.
  • The Network experts recognise innovation potential and can help SMEs access funding, such as for example via the SME Instrument (Horizon 2020).
  • The Network is co-financed under COSME (Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), an EU funding programme that runs from 2014-2020 with a budget of EUR 2.3 bn.
  • Provided with about € 3 billion in funding over the period 2014-2020, the SME Instrument helps high-potential SMEs to develop ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes that are ready to face global market competition.
  • Intale is a Greek start-up that developed a user-friendly app which offers retailers an efficient IT solution that integrates stock management, promotional offers and electronic payments. The app also generates retail data.
  • Thanks to the support from the Network, Intale was able to access EU funding through the SME Instrument. Started as a six-staff company, Intale now employs 28 people and are looking to expand abroad.

Useful links

The EEN helps innovative
SMEs make it to the big league and export their goods. But what exactly does it offer to companies?

“We provide tailored services to SMEs, including start-ups, on how to access funding, how to reach new markets, business innovation and technology transfer,” says Tzenou.

One example here in Athens is a start-up that helps small shop owners save time and money.

In just six years, an app developped by Fanis Koutouvelis has become Greek retailers’ vital ally. Installed on an iPad, it works alongside a barcode scanner. Stocks are updated whenever a transaction is made.

“The software handles everything : ultra-fast transactions, inventory and procurement automation, real time analytics. Through it we digitize the convenience retail market helping all the supply chain stake holders make better decisions based on actionable data,” says the CEO of Intale, Fanis Koutouvelis.

With more than 800 subscribing customers in Greece, the level of success is encouraging Fanis to think bigger. To export his innovation, he turned to the local branch of the European network Enterprise Europe Network.

“The network helped us get European funding dedicated to the most innovative companies in Europe. The outcome is scalable cloud software that is applicable to many international markets”, says Koutouvelis.

The company’s staff has grown from 6 employees in 2010 to 28 today and Fanis is negotiating with several countries to export its product. The potential is huge as the global convenience retail market is worth more than 2 trillion dollars.

Business Planet asked the EEN how it could help Fanis tap into the global potential of his product.

“We have colleagues in more than 60 countries that know their local market and the international business environment,” said Tzanou. “So through trade events and online matching, in Greece we have approximately 100 international agreements per year.”

According to Eurofound’s latest annual report, young innovative SMEs with high international potential are the biggest recruiters in the European Union. Making their development as easy as possible is therefore of great importance.

Which criteria must SMEs meet in order to be eligible for the network’s help?

“We target ambitious companies irrespective of size, sector or development stage,” says Tzanou. “So actually, together with the company, we assess their potential and then we intervene at the right moment with cost-effective solutions to facilitate their growth.”

For more information check out our Business Planet web page on the euronews website.

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