The European Commission has announced on 14 October that it will hand out vouchers worth up to €10,000 to stimulate SME’s using digital technologies. The vouchers can be spent to enhance e-commerce and ICT capabilities. Currently, there is a pilot project running in the Spanish regions of Murcia and Extremadura.
European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes stated: “Small businesses using digital services grow twice as fast, export twice as much, and create twice as many new jobs. Everyone should benefit the way Murcia and Extremadura are benefiting in Spain.”
Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hain stated: “Giving access to digital technologies is one of the many ways that Regional Policy can help small businesses be more competitive. For 2014-2020, the Digital Agenda and support for SMEs are key priorities for structural funds. SMEs are the lifeblood of Europe’s economies and the source of future jobs in our cities and regions.”
Statistics underline the argument that going digital is good for business. SME’s with web-connection have 22% higher revenues than those who have not across the G-20 countries. As stated by Vice-President Kroes, SME’s active on the web are also creating jobs. This is proved by the example of Germany: 93% of the companies with an active web-presence increased employment over three years, whereas only 50% of the companies that were not really present online had. In general, European companies have been slow in adopting ICT to their businesses – between 2010 and 2012, there was a mere 6% increase in business that had set up a website.
The European Commission has published a blueprint that will help authorities identify the needs of SMEs to go digital and to assess whether the vouchers are the appropriate tool to help SMEs. The value of vouchers depends on the needs of SMEs and will be tailor-made. The vouchers should allow ICT services to be purchased from a range of providers including private companies, universities and research centres.