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Empowering Business Ecosystems of Small Service Enterprises to Face the Economic Crisis

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Better business via networked small enterprises

An EU-funded project has advanced new collaboration practices to enhance the business-to-business dealings of small companies across different industrial sectors. Work focused on providing easily accessible, high-tech services enabling community building, and network building and operation.

Digital Economy

The global economic crisis looms large over small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). European SME associations/groupings’ observatories have voiced concerns, noting that some 40 % of such companies face crisis-related closure or major changes in operations. The 'Empowering business ecosystems of small service enterprises to face the economic crisis' (EBEST) project helps SMEs provide services to other businesses. Examples of such SMEs are typically found in the textile, construction, mechanical, and information and communications technology (ICT) and media sectors. The added-value activities of the targeted service companies are performed at intermediate phases of the value chain and/or in the repair and maintenance phases. EBEST members sought to develop, test and promote the adoption of new collaboration practices for each business ecosystem and across ecosystem borders. Their approach relied on the use of shared knowledge, an agreed corpus of rules and codes of practice, and an array of ICT tools supporting SME networks. The tools will help them act as an efficient single organisation, and better carry out daily operations of executing customer requests and orders. With two sets of objectives (the first operational and the other fundamental), project efforts focused on innovation in two main areas: collaboration models and collaboration tools. The work plan was organised into thematic work packages: validating the EBEST vision, designing and developing organisational and technological components, and integrating these into the organisational model and software platform. The fourth stage encompassed a real-life validation activity for the EBEST solution for final refinement. An intense demonstration phase was identified as the best way to facilitate its adoption and deployment to business ecosystems. Pilot experiments were conducted in Belgium and Spain to test an Ecosystem Shaping component. Experiments on the platform's Collaboration Portal took place in Greece and Hungary, and those for the Operational Platform in Italy and Slovakia. EBEST successfully achieved its particular objectives, with results from these and other experiments showing a range of benefits and potential for realising the project's general goal. Overall, project outcomes stand to benefit SME associations/groupings, enterprises leading established supply chains, ICT and business sector stakeholders, and political institutions that can use the EBEST solution to promote SME networking.

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