With the support and facilitation of the EU4Digital Facility, the associations uniting digital SMEs of the Eastern partner countries successfully joined the European DIGITAL SME Alliance (DIGITAL SME) for a one-year sponsored membership starting from March 2022.
One of the EU4Digital Facility’s activities was to promote and extend EU networks and platforms to the EaP, one of which being the EU digital business association – DIGITAL SME. The association counts more than 45,000 SMEs in the ICT sector, 450 experts in working groups, and 30 national and regional SME associations from EU member states and neighbouring countries.
After the EU4Digital promotional event in early October 2021, the DIGITAL SME Alliance attracted high interest among the associations of EaP ICT SMEs willing to become members of the network. Hearing the needs and challenges of the EaP stakeholders, EU4Digital on behalf of the European Commission decided to support EaP organisations in joining the DIGITAL SME by organising consultations throughout the joining process and sponsoring the first year of membership.
Together with DIGITAL SME, potential members were identified, whose activities are focused on ICT and/or digital SMEs support at national level. The selected EaP organisations have now joined the EU network as a non-formal EaP network, starting in March 2022, which will be coordinated by the Moldovan Association of Information and Communications Technology Companies (ATIC) to ensure proper communication of the membership.
The membership will benefit the EaP associations in three main areas: policy, networking, and funding. Members will receive information on ongoing legislative discussions and their impact on SMEs, ICT standards for SMEs, as well as funding opportunities. Also, organisations will be invited to participate in networking events, knowledge-sharing workshops and training organised by the DIGITAL SME Association.
Overall, it is expected that the knowledge and the new tools gained will empower EaP associations to expand their activities, strengthen their capacities as key supporters of digital SMEs in the EaP region, and enhance cross-border collaboration in the region and with the EU. As for the bigger picture, the EU4Digital Facility believes that such an initiative will contribute to harmonising digital marketsbetween the EU and the EaP regions. To further support the integration of the EaP stakeholders with EU networks and platforms, EU4Digital prepared a guide, which provides an in-depth overview of the possibilities for EaP organisations to join specific EU networks and platforms in the area of ICT Innovation.