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Commission adopts SME initiative for the Lowland and Highlands & Islands regions of Scotland

On a proposal from Mrs. Wulf-Mathies, member of the Commission with responsibility for Regional Policy and Cohesion, the Commission has adopted two Community SME initiative programmes for the Lowland and Highlands & Islands regions of Scotland.

For the Lowland region of Scotl...
On a proposal from Mrs. Wulf-Mathies, member of the Commission with responsibility for Regional Policy and Cohesion, the Commission has adopted two Community SME initiative programmes for the Lowland and Highlands & Islands regions of Scotland.

For the Lowland region of Scotland a programme will be implemented, at a total cost of ECU 19.7 million, aimed at enabling SMEs in this region to adapt to the demands of the single market. The programme covers two Objective 2 areas (Western & Eastern Scotland) and four Objective 5(b) areas (Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Northern and Western Grampian, Rural Stirling and Upland Tayside). It will cover a five-year period from 3 November 1994 to 31 December 1999. Planned assistance amounts to ECU 7.8 million from the ERDF, ECU 687,000 from the ESF, ECU 8.5 million from the public sector and ECU 2.68 million from the private sector.

The main aim of the SME programme is to offer specific support to SMEs which will complement measures planned under the Objective 2 and 5(b) programmes already approved. The programme includes the following priority measures:

- To increase the international competitiveness of the SMEs: this will involve assisting them in their efforts to become more competitive through innovation;
- To increase SME awareness of advanced telecommunications: SMEs are to be encouraged to make more frequent use of the new telecommunications systems that now exist;
- The creation of joint services for SMEs: SME competitiveness can increase if certain skills, types of expertise and information are made commonly available and if certain forms of cooperation are aided;
- Training for managers of SMEs: The emphasis will be placed on training the decision-makers, especially those involved in R&D projects and innovative sectors;
- Cooperation between SMEs, research and technology transfer centres: This will involve increasing SME awareness of the benefits of R&D and encouraging them to enter into more frequent contact with research and advanced technology centres. Such contacts can only increase their competitiveness and growth.

The programme has been drawn up by agreement between the Commission, the UK and the main local partners. The Scottish Office will be responsible for its implementation.

The programme approved for the Highlands & Islands region of Scotland will cost a total of ECU 6.96 million will also facilitate the adjustment of SMEs. It will run for the same time period and covers the entire area eligible under the Objective 1 programme. The funding to be provided includes ECU 2.81 million from the ERDF ECU 228,000 from the ESF, ECU 3.04 million from the public sector and ECU 878,000 from the private sector

Measures to be implemented are intended, in the main, to increase the competitiveness and international presence of SMEs in the region. The programme comprises four priority areas:

- Specialized services for SMEs;
- Training with formal qualifications;
- Cooperation and market access;
- Technical assistance.

The creation of the "Business Information Source" (BIS) at ten LECs (Local Enterprise Companies) already installed in the region will prove invaluable in providing information and advice to SMEs. This measure is supplemented by two others: the first involves the training of managers - especially in the requirements of total quality control - while the second concentrates on cooperation between SMEs and research bodies, in collaboration with the Euro Info Centre in Inverness, as well as the creation of a network of service offers in the context of public procurement.
DE

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