Innovation drives the growth of SMEs. Hence, it is highly recommended for entrepreneurs to create and maintain favourable conditions for innovation, such as creativity and responsiveness. Indeed, innovation is a powerful strategy to make SMEs more competitive in the marketplace. Nonetheless, entrepreneurs are facing difficulties on the path towards innovation. UNITEE and the FEDIF Grand Est organised this roundtable to discuss the interdependence between innovation and the economic development of SMEs.
The expert roundtable took place on February 6th, 2014 in UNITEE’s Strasbourg Office with an impressive panel of speakers:
• Mr Abdurahman ATLI, Head of UNITEE Strasbourg and Secretary General of FEDIF Grand Est (Moderator)
• Mr Marc TARABELLA, MEP (S&D)
• Mr Jean-François JACQUEMIN, Managing Director Alsace Innovation
• Mr Vincent FROEHLICHER, Managing Director ADIRA (Agence de Développement Economique du Bas-Rhin)
• Mr Thierry MICLO, CEO INOVAME, laureat “Concours Alsace Innovation 2013”, category “Coup de cœur du Jury”
• Mr Frank KUPFERLE, CEO C4Ci, laureat “Concours Alsace Innovation 2013”, category “Entreprise Primo-innovante”
The Need for a Common European Industrial Policy
Mr TARABELLA pointed out the lack of a common European industrial policy. Indeed, more common decisions need to be made on the European level to support the development of innovative SMEs. However, Mr TARABELLA clarified that the innovation sector is based on the EU’s Horizon 2020 strategy. Likewise, Mr JACQUEMIN insisted on the need to encourage innovation at the regional level in order to contribute to the economic growth of Europe.
The Lack of Financial Means
All speakers agreed on the need for improving the financial means. In a situation of economic crisis, the banks too often refuse to support the entrepreneurs’ projects, which hinders the capacity of innovation. Mr TARABELLA emphasised that the EU has the duty to support SMEs by offering the appropriate financial means. Mr JACQUEMIN added that innovation is expensive and requires considerable capital. The speakers also underlined the need to re-establish real confidence in entrepreneurs and to encourage them in their approach.
The Issue of Patents
The question of the patents was another major issue in the discussion. The patent is essential for fostering innovation. Mr TARABELLA emphasised the need for a stronger European cooperation concerning patents. Mr KUPFERLE highlighted the challenges of innovation, such as the very long and complicated process in obtaining a patent. Continuing on the same note, Mr MICLO added that filing a patent in every EU country is too expensive for SMEs.
Read the full report here.