The economic force of small enterprises
Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Europe
There are an estimated 23 million SMEs in Europe, employing 75 million people. They form the backbone of the European Union economy, contributing 65% of GDP (gross domestic product). For the European Union to retain and further enhance its competitiveness, the development of SMEs is essential. Encouraging innovation by enhancing investment in research activities to acquire new knowledge for growth in Europe’s knowledge based economy is the key to this development.
Marine biodiversity and SMEs
The MARBENA project
Marine biodiversity research is a sector which has a wide diversity of SME involvement. During the MARBENA project, a precursor to the MarBEF network, a position paper was produced to examine the possible role of SMEs and large industries in marine biodiversity research. [http://www.vliz.be/marbena/Docs/final/MARBENAStatementMarineBiodiversityandSMEs.pdf This paper] concluded that a series of actions were needed to increase the involvement of SMEs in research networks. The MarBEF network aimed to explore these further, and established some long-term aims:
- to increase awareness of biodiversity issues within SMEs and end-users, and to identify where biodiversity research could benefit their activities
- to increase involvement of SMEs in biodiversity research in general
- to increase funding of SMEs working with biodiversity research and biodiversity applications
- to 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.
MarBEF addressed these points through a number of targeted actions led by the two main SME partners directly involved in MarBEF, namely Ecological Consultancy Services Limited from Ireland and Akvaplan-niva from Norway. Both companies have first-hand knowledge of how SMEs operate within the marine biodiversity research sector and what the needs of SMEs and end-users of marine diversity information are.