On 11 October, the EU4Digital Initiative organised an event to support stakeholders of the Eastern partner countries in joining the European DIGITAL SME Alliance (DIGITAL SME) and initiate collaboration opportunities among participating EaP ICT associations and the DIGITAL SME network.
This session focused on the needs of organisations uniting and supporting digital/ICT SMEs in the Eastern partner countries. It invited a practical conversation with European DIGITAL SME Alliance, the largest network of ICT SMEs in Europe, which was previously introduced during a dedicated networking event organised by EU4Digital to “Facilitate the development of expert communities and increase their involvement into policy design and implementation”.
The event attracted around 20 participants and gathered 15 associations and support organisations of ICT SMEs from the Eastern partner countries. The interested parties received the Guide on using the opportunities provided by DIGITAL SME, and were consulted about particular services for digital business associations.
EU4Digital Facility Deputy Team Leader Rūta Šalvytė-Tamošiūnienė opened the event and EU4Digital ICT Innovation Stream Lead Anna Pobol facilitated the overall discussion together with representatives from the European DIGITAL SME Alliance.
First, Mr. Sebastiano Toffaletti, Secretary General at European DIGITAL SME Alliance, introduced the goals of the organisation to put digital SMEs at the centre of the EU agenda and shared the common challenges addressed by special working groups and task forces in areas such standardisation, digital skills development and intellectual property protection.
Then, Mr. Moritz Zimmermann, Strategy and Business Development Manager at the European DIGITAL SME Alliance, explained how particular SMEs benefit from participation in the Digital Innovators Club initiative; and Ms. Justina Bieliauskaite, Projects Director at the European DIGITAL SME Alliance, provided participants with an overview of the Digital SkillUp Platform, European Digital Skills and Jobs Platform and EUHubs4Data as examples of Europe-wide projects for ecosystem building.
During the final part of the event, participants discussed their specific needs and challenges as well as the possibility to address them through DIGITAL SME. Also, the establishment of B2B contacts among digital SMEs across borders and connection to actual EU initiatives for the development of digital markets was emphasized as crucial for the EaP countries. In addition, Mr. Andrei Kelemen, CEO at Cluj IT Cluster in Romania, head of Digital Transformation WG at DIGITAL SME, shared the practical experience of how digital business associations in smaller countries established the Balkan, Black Sea and Baltic ICT Clusters Network (3B ICT Network) and acquired a collective membership at DIGITAL SME, which helps to increase the capacity of member organisations and enhances international collaboration with innovation ecosystem players. It was noted that a comparable collaboration model might be beneficial for the EaP digital business associations on their path to boost the institutional capacity building and digital markets development.
At the conclusion of the event, participants expressed their interest to take further actions to develop linkages among EaP and EU digital business associations, and the DIGITAL SME representatives reiterated their readiness to serve as the platform for the evolution of future connections.