On 12 May 2021, CMI organised a digital seminar in the DINNOCAP project in cooperation with ITL, Estonia’s ICT Association. The theme was issues related to financing ICT uptake in SME’s. Participants were mainly industry associations – but also government agencies and knowledge institutions - from the Baltic States, Poland and Finland.
The seminar was introduced with learnings related to challenges for ICT uptake in SME’s, from the DIGINNO project, presented by Knud Erik Skouby. After brief presentations from Finland, Estonia and Latvia – with comments from Poland and Lithuania - the moderated discussion focused on:
How do the countries (FIN,EE,LV,LT,PL,DK) prioritise SME digitalisation in the draft national plans for spending upcoming EU funds from the new Recovery & Resilience Facility (RRF)?
The landscape is rather diversified with rather huge variations between countries regarding prioritised sectors and themes:
”Digital transition” must consist min 20 pct of planned expenditures but digitising industry is not necessarily in focus and SME’s even less. The planned digital transition investments will generally be based on development and implementation of broad digital strategies or road maps. A broad sprectrum of digitalisation initiatives will be supported, e.g. digital innovation hubs, digital security, digital infrastructure, new technologies, innovation vouchers. Direct investment in SME digitalisation seem not to be an intention. The funding will often be based on seed money with up to 50 pct cofinancing demand where the aim is to catalyse existing funds and multiply the impact.
In one country all RFF funds are foreseen to be spent in public sector digitalisation, including open data, infrastructure development and digital public administration. A more efficient public sector – as well as public investments/procurement - can indirectly benefit SME digitalisation and improve framework conditions. Nevertheless, easy and non-bureaucratic access to funding of the first steps into digitalisation is often crucial for SME’s opportunities.
It varies from country to country how much industry representatives have been involved in the development of the national plan.
It will be interesting to see how the European Commission (EC) will react on the national plans. EC may encourage a stronger private sector focus where it is seen to be missing. Also transnationally coordinated reactions from industry associations in the different countries could be useful for drawing attention towards the needs of SME’s.
Torben Aaberg, CMI/AAU