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EEN helping SMEs navigate in COVID-19 crisis

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, small and medium-sized enterprises around the world are struggling to bounce back from the challenges they are currently facing. Their priorities have shifted and their needs have changed. To help them navigate in these unfamiliar waters, the Enterprise Europe Network is showing what resilience is all about.

The abrupt and sweeping changes the world is facing have forced everyone to adapt quickly to an unprecedented situation. This is just as true for SMEs who are struggling to stay afloat and to adjust to the current crisis.

Business obstacles, broken supply chains, an urgent need to find new clients, access funding and to reinvent themselves, a sudden switch from office work to virtual working methods. This is what companies have been facing since the start of the pandemic and the Enterprise Europe Network stands strong and resilient in helping them overcome these challenges.

#EENCanHelp, business support on your virtual doorstep

In a time when people could not be further apart, the Network has found new ways to bring people together. In the early days of the crisis, Network partners set up helplines to support SMEs. Most calls expressed concerns about liquidities and measures for workers to limit lay-offs. The Network has proven itself instrumental in providing information about regional, national and European measures.

Companies all over Europe are benefiting from the Network’s support during the crisis. To cite just few examples, the Italian Network partner Veneto Innovazione supported JONIX srl, an Italian SME that develops air sanitisation and decontamination solutions. Thanks to the coaching on industrial expertise provided by the Partner just before the outbreak, JONIX was able to build the expected number of devices for one year in the space of a month.

Malta Enterprise, the Maltese partner in the Network, enabled Blokkx Ltd to open up new markets for their innovative COVID-19 self-testing kit. Thanks to the collaboration with the Greek partner, PRAXI Network/FORTH, Blokkx Ltd was able to increase its revenues by having a Greek SME sell their kit while introducing a high-demand and easy-to-use product to a new market.

In Sweden, the Network partner Invest in Skåne helped its client Hygiene of Sweden to find business opportunities in China. The company produces high quality, 100% alcohol free hand hygiene products that protect against COVID-19. Similarly, the Italian partner Unioncamere Calabria has helped GMED PHARMA to find new distributors in Slovakia, Qatar, Malta and Vietnam for their antiseptic and germicidal hand gel.

The two companies Gimoto and Lavgon decided to convert their production to produce face masks. To do so, they asked for the support of Network partner CNA Lombardia who provided them with a clear picture on legal regulations and the types of masks they could produce.

These are just few examples of the valuable work that Network Partners have been doing to support SMEs around the world.

Building bridges in times of confinement

Thanks to the collaboration with its Belgian partners, the Network launched the ‘Care & Industry together against CORONA’ platform. It brings together actors in healthcare, industry, academia and government in Europe and offers a market place to match offers and requests for products, services, partnerships and investment. In less than two weeks, over 280 organisations registered and about 500 opportunities were posted. To this day, the number of opportunities has raised to 1,092.

Solidarity between SMEs and participating organisations has been a major asset. As an example, the Chinese Network partners located in Chengdu contacted EASME staff to offer 10,000 masks, which EASME offered to five Brussels hospitals.

The COVID-19 outbreak has indeed changed the way the Network supports SMEs. For example, the Slovenian Network partner Jožef Stefan Institute is conducting company visits on a virtual space via screen sharing and chat. The EEN Ouest – France consortium is using the expertise of Photonics Bretagne to create a special COVID-19 newsletter that helps companies in finding solutions to face the pandemic. In Albania, the Network Partner Chamber of Commerce & Industry Tirana (CCIT) has started discussions with epidemiologists and virologists in the country to conduct online training for member businesses to prevent the spread of the virus in their workplace.

Commitment, perseverance, teamwork and effective use of international business expertise in combination with local knowledge. These are the pillars supporting the work of the Enterprise Europe Network in the current crisis. They say that every cloud has a silver lining and the Network and its partners are doing their best to make that lining shine a little bit brighter.