The European Commission is publishing a new blueprint for micro enterprises and SMEs in various regions to go digital, which will include a measure to provide digital innovation vouchers worth up to €10,000.
Such ICT innovation voucher schemes are being piloted in the Spanish regions of Murcia and Extremadura.
In Ireland, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte announced in July that from next year at least 2,000 firms will secure e-commerce vouchers worth €2,500 to change their fortunes but the wider target is 10,000 firms.
Rabbitte said that in Ireland today some €3.7bn a year is transacted online. Some six out of 10 Irish adults now shop online and 61pc of consumers plan to increase their online expenditure. However, 73pc of this is leaking out of the Irish economy to international vendors.
“There’s no point in trying to stop that, but what we can do is compete and sell our wares and services online. Twenty-three per cent uptake of e-commerce by indigenous firms (CSO) is disappointing. We’ve set a target of trying to get 10,000 business online for the first time.”
Getting Europe digital
European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes said: “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.”
Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn said: “Giving access to digital technologies is one of the many ways that Regional Policy can help small businesses be more competitive. For 2014-2020, the Digital Agenda and support for SMEs are key priorities for structural funds. SMEs are the lifeblood of Europe’s economies and the source of future jobs in our cities and regions.”
Going online and using other digital technologies increases competitiveness, exports, and domestic market opportunities. Web-connected small businesses across G-20 countries have 22pc higher revenue growth than those with low or no web use. In Germany, 93pc of small and medium-sized businesses with an active web presence increased employment over three years, compared with only 50pc of those not online.
The regional voucher schemes would allow small businesses to exchange their vouchers for specialist ICT services, such as website development, learning how to sell through e-commerce, or adopting more sophisticated ICT tools for business processes, such as supply chain management and customer relations management.