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European innovation policy must take small businesses on board

European innovation policies should focus on the essential contribution made by small businesses in the 'mid tech' and 'low tech' sectors, says UEAPME, the European small and medium sized enterprise (SME) employers' organisation. UEAPME believes that SMEs are the most innovat...

European innovation policies should focus on the essential contribution made by small businesses in the 'mid tech' and 'low tech' sectors, says UEAPME, the European small and medium sized enterprise (SME) employers' organisation. UEAPME believes that SMEs are the most innovative companies in Europe because their methods are characterised by ongoing permanent innovation processes rather than the linear, research-driven inventions carried out by the larger enterprises. The organisation is therefore calling upon the Finnish Presidency of the EU to push forward a broader approach to innovation that would include policies promoting the supply of qualified labour, an improved regulatory environment and better access to finance. 'The high-tech sector is indeed an important driver for innovation, but even in the US its contribution to the GDP does not exceed 5%,' said Paul Reckinger, UEAPME President. 'The European Commission has recognised in its latest communications the need to expand the definition of innovation to focus on SMEs and take account of non-technical innovation in all economic sectors. This new approach must be now implemented in all policy areas to become of use for small businesses,' he continued. In its meeting with Tanja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, the Board of UEAPME stressed the importance of promoting technology transfers via technology centres and incubators. It also suggested that measures to sustain innovation support service providers, clusters and networks should be foreseen in the upcoming State Aid Framework for Research, Development and Innovation. On access to finance, the organisation believes risk sharing models such as mutual and public guarantee schemes should be promoted both at EU and Member State level to enable start-ups, business transfers and innovative companies to fully realise their potential. UEAPME called for a new drive for a European Community Patent to be initiated as soon as possible. Such a system would protect innovation with a system of reduced fees for SMEs and a proper patent litigation insurance structure. The Board also presented Ms Halonen with the SME views and needs on issues such as taxation, flexibility in labour markets, environmental policy, better regulation and better governance. 'European small businesses would definitely benefit from a new, refined innovation policy both at EU and Member State level. The success Finland had in modernising its economy and in understanding the importance of innovation is an example to be followed by all EU Member States,' concluded Mr Reckinger.