On the 9th and 10th of the December, we held our Annual Meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria. Hosted by the Bulgarian SME Promotion Agency and the Bulgarian Development Bank, with 45 international speakers and hundreds of online attendants worldwide, it was an excellent opportunity to learn and exchange ideas on how to better support SMEs in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.
Over the course of the two days, we learned a number of valuable lessons. Firstly, we learned that Business Support Organisations play a crucial role in tackling the post Covid recovery by advocating for SME needs and challenges and by helping policymakers lay out “mission-oriented” innovation policies. Looking closer at entrepreneurs, we discussed how their needs go beyond mere financial assistance, SMEs not only lack access to finance, but also skilled human capital, as a result of a mismatch between what they require and what the job market has to offer. In the Southeast of Europe, the core ingredients for a positive political and economic transformation are the creation of a strong private sector and of a solid entrepreneurial ecosystem, goals that can only be achieved through the work of SME development agencies. Finally, in the transition toward digitalisation and sustainability, we have discussed how SMEs and innovation are key factors to face long-term challenges, to secure green growth, to drive the recovery and internationalisation.
Taking a look at the INSME Network, there are also some important updates worth highlighting:
The new INSME Vice-presidents are Maurizio Casasco, President of CONFAPI, the Italian Confederation of SMEs, and of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME, and Markus Jerger, Executive Director of BVMW – The German Association for SMEs, who combined represent millions of SMEs in Europe. Together with the reconfirmed VPs Andrea Di Anselmo of META Group, and Raimund Broechler of INTRASOFT International, they will guarantee under the leadership of President Sergio Arzeni a clear vision and strategy.
The new Board members Aurora Candel, Boyko Takov, Patrick Meinhardt and Roberto Santolamazza will reinforce the Board and expand INSME’s global reach. The General Assembly has also confirmed the appointment of Giovanni Zazzerini as Secretary General for another term.
New energy has been brought by the new Members who joined our ranks in 2021, namely Enterprise Greece, ESD, the Lebanese Development Network, and Prishtina Rea and by new strategic partnerships with EUIPO – European Union Intellectual Property Office, DevelopmentAid, Algeria Venture, The Union of Arab Banks, and with The Montreal Group.
We will rely on our enlarged Membership to carry out new projects, such as “RaDAR” with our new partner AQuAS, a conference with the SME Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the training on internationalization for Bulgarian SMEs, which we have already selected and met in Sofia, the training on sustainable finance and social entrepreneurship for Lebanese companies, and much more to do in 2022!
Finally, and most importantly, it became clear that there is more than ever a great need for dialogue, multilateralism, international cooperation, and exchange of knowledge and best practices among public and private stakeholders, which is what INSME is called to do with the help and support of all its Members.
Find the Annual Meeting programme and the photo gallery here.