The Bologna conference on SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), which finished on 15 June in Italy, has published its 'charter on SME policies'. Attended by ministers and representatives of approximately 50 governments, the conference's conclusions took in the importance of the role of SMEs, the new requirements both of them and for them and their differences from country to country. Some of the key conclusions include the following: - SMEs hold a key role in contributing to sustainable growth, restructuring of economies, social progress and combating poverty; - SMEs would benefit from many changes in their operating environment, including a less burdensome regulatory environment, easier access to the human resources and skills necessary, and a strengthened public-private relationship. Some of the recommendations that the charter suggests include: - reduction of the financial barriers SMEs encounter; - encouraging SMEs access to, and participation in, national and global innovation and R&D programmes and infrastructures; - facilitation of increased partnerships, with other private sector bodies, NGOs, public administrations, etc; - increased awareness by SMEs of the opportunities in the information society and electronic commerce. The conference agreed on a number of issues at the conclusion of the conference, which included the benefits of benchmarking, and looked forward to holding a second conference of this sort to analyse the effects of globalisation on SMEs.