European Commission Proposes Vouchers To Help SMBs Go Digital

Vouchers for ICT services worth up to €10,000 available in two Spanish regions as part of the pilot

The European Commission (EC) has published a blueprint of a system that encourages SMBs to go digital, by providing vouchers worth up to €10,000 that can be exchanged towards things like website development services and software training.

The “innovation vouchers” are currently being tested in the regions of Murcia and Extremadura, Spain.

“Small businesses using digital services grow twice as fast, export twice as much, and create twice as many new jobs. Everyone should benefit the way Murcia and Extremadura are benefiting in Spain,” said Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president responsible for Digital Agenda.

European ParliamentEasy money

EC says that across G20 countries, small businesses that engage customers online experience 22 percent higher revenue growth than those which don’t. In Germany, 93 percent of SMBs with an active web presence had increased the number of employees over three years, compared with only 50 percent of those without a website.

The “innovation vouchers” issued by local authorities could help smaller companies sign up for eCommerce services, or adopt more sophisticated ICT tools for business processes, such as supply chain management and customer relations management.

The blueprint will help local authorities identify the needs of SMEs and “assess whether vouchers are fit to address this”. The value of the voucher may vary according to the regional priorities. The blueprint prescribes that any local initiatives should be light on paperwork and allow for services to be purchased from a range of providers including private companies, universities and research centres.

“Giving access to digital technologies is one of the many ways that Regional Policy can help small businesses be more competitive,” said commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn. “SMEs are the lifeblood of Europe’s economies and the source of future jobs in our cities and regions.”

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