SMEs in Europe
The economic force of SMEs within Europe is clear. SMEs form the backbone of the EU-25 enterprise culture where over 99 % of businesses employ fewer than 250 people (Europe in figures. Eurostat yearbook 2005) and thus play a significant role in the market. In 2003 it was estimated that there were over 1.9 million SMEs' in Europe employing nearly 140 million persons with an average turnover of over â,¬1.5 million per enterprise (Europe in figures. Eurostat yearbook 2003). In addition to being an important economic force SMEs are a huge competence resource which should be utilised for the development of the European economy, culture and research potential. Yet, the marine environmental market is underdeveloped and has turned out to be a rather complex and challenging market.
Although such a market is available, it is paradoxical to note that SMEs that are generally identified by the European Commission as key players in the development of these niche markets but don't have the financial capability to address this challenge (this has been partly addressed in FP7).
Despite the growing international European awareness of the marine environment and despite the rapidly increasing need for marine information, the market for these products and certainly biodiversity related products remains complex and difficult. As a consequence the emerging market for marine biodiversity related products and services is too complex and full of uncertainties and risks. This situation is hampering the 'break through' of innovative SMEs in the biodiversity related products and services market.
Within the marine biodiversity sector SMEs form a very heterogeneous group. In addition to acting as participants in biodiversity research programmes and applications they are significant users of various kinds of biodiversity and biodiversity information. Most importantly they form an important bridge between basic research and major end users such as the energy industry, fisheries, as well as policy makers on regional, national and EU, and international level.
Three main groups of SMEs can be identified in the marine biodiversity sector:
- producers, exploiters and marketers of biodiversity (mariculture, fisheries, tourism, bioprospecting etc)
- manufacturers and developers of equipment and products (commercial equipment and gear for the group above, research equipment etc)
- research and consultancy companies providing a service to industry and governments
At a European level there may be considerable national differences in the role of SMEs and applied research unit connected to research institutes.
What is MarBEF doing
Thus SMEs have a specific, if not unique role, in marine biodiversity research projects. Within MarBEF a number of specific goals have been identified, being:
- Increase SME end users' awareness of biodiversity, and their use of biodiversity in broad terms in their activities
- Increase involvement of SMEs in biodiversity research in general
- Increase funding of SMEs working with biodiversity research and biodiversity applications
- In fulfilling goals 1-3, increase the general awareness and funding of MarBEF activities
- Explore how SMEs can act as a mechanism for the exploitation of new and existing technologies and observing systems, in the exchange between basic research institutes and the industry. This might involve the establishment of a controlled forum where mutually beneficial co-operation can be explored.
These objectives need to be considered taking into account the aims and objectives of SMEs and this should include proper consideration for funding.
In achieving these goals two main tasks are being carried out under MarBEF.
- A pilot national database on SMEs, end users and policy makers involved in marine biodiversity, and their specific tasks and roles is being created based on Norwegian experiences. The database will be used by MarBEF researchers to ease their efforts to identify stakeholders and potential partnerships.
Please provide details of SMEs, industry representatives and stakeholders who utilise, impact upon or contribute to marine biodiversity research and represent the following sectors. The aim of the questionnaire is also to identify organisation or individuals who may wish to become further involved in MarBEF as a priority. We have included a Norwegian example of the information required.
Please return your complete questionnaires to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- To establish a think tank core group on SMEs activities within MarBEF. The aim of this group will be to outline a plan for the further actions to reach the goals (1-5 above) such as dedicated workshops, meetings with end users and possible funding sources (both SMEs and others), work with end users to organise showcases and to develop projects on biodiversity research. The think tank group should also prepare proposals including costs to carry out the activities and fulfil the ideas. These activities should connect real SME projects to all the proposed activities. All the proposals should be defined as projects, and SMEs should be invited to take on and perform these according to contracts.
Contact: Chris Emblow or Sabine Cochrane.