Just like startups, large corporations and nonprofits, SMEs are eligible for various European assistance programs. But often, business owners are unaware of these programs and lack the time or resources to find out about them. The COSME program, for example, is specifically designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and should really be more widely known.
COSME is a program managed by the European Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Designed to help SMEs become more competitive, it has a budget of €2.3 billion for 2014-2020.
The program has four objectives:
1- Provide access to finance
Taking two forms:
• An equity facility for growth, providing venture capital for investment to SMEs at the expansion and growth stages. SMEs thereby gain access to repayable equity capital.
• A loan guarantee facility, which finances guarantees to financial intermediaries. This ensures SMEs will have access to higher-value loans, and enables them to finance guarantees paid to leasing firms.
2- Support the international development of SMEs
COSME offers support and advisory services to businesses with opportunities for international growth through exports. These services are provided by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), which comprises nearly 600 local and regional organizations and chambers of commerce.
These services support SMEs by providing advice and information regarding European legislation, assistance with finding business and technology partners and informing them of European finance options. For example, French businesses can join the network and reach out to German organizations in order to learn about regulations in their country.
Support for innovation and technology transfer is also available, which includes advice for accessing resources provided through the Horizon 2020 plan.
In addition, businesses can seek comprehensive and concrete information from a series of Helpdesks set up and financed by COSME, including the Your Europe Business portal and the SME Internationalization Portal.
3- Ensure EU businesses stay competitive
Various systems are in place to complete this mission:
• Identifying and sharing best practices among different national administrations, in order to reduce the administrative and legislative burden on businesses.
• Analysis tools to compare the business environments of different countries.
• Efforts tailored to specific sectors (such as tourism).
4- Promote entrepreneurship
The goal in this area is to foster the entrepreneurial spirit of the next generation of entrepreneurs, young people and women. This feature of COSME includes Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, an exchange program aiming to facilitate the mobility of investors starting their business.