Brussels, 27 March 2014
VP Tajani visits Italy's Sicily region to jump-start the recovery of local SMEs
Like in many regions in the European Union, companies in Sicily have suffered a lot from the economic crisis over the last years. To help SMEs in Sicily emerge from the downturn and help them participate in the next economic growth cycle, the European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani is travelling to Palermo today. They will be accompanied by representatives of about 600 European companies, who will participate in more than 1300 bilateral meetings with SMEs from Sicily to form new partnerships and discuss opportunities for collaboration in key sectors active in the region such as aerospace, agro food, biotechnology and fashion industries.
Europe 2020 Strategy for growth
An important part of this visit will be the Europe 2020 strategy for growth conference, which the Vice President will open together with the Sicily region President, Rosario Crocetta. Issues discussed will include the EU financing for business as well as the competitiveness and innovation of SMEs. The Vice President will use this opportunity to introduce COSME , a new € 2.3 billion program for SMEs which aims to address the main challenges they are currently facing, such as access to financing, access to foreign markets, improvement of the business environment and support to entrepreneurs. Among other things, this program will help EU enterprises, including the ones in Sicily, deal with the current credit crunch by enabling them to have better access to bank financing and venture capital ( IP/13/1135 ).
Central to this visit, hosted by the region of Sicily, will be the business to business networking event which will take place tomorrow. The aim of the event is to promote business partnerships between Sicily and other EU companies, but also with other non-European countries in sectors identified as key contributors to achieving growth in the region, including:
-Maritime Industry and Fisheries
-Tourism and Cultural Heritage
-Arts and Ceramics
-Textiles, clothing, fashion
-Construction, green building
Favourable Business environment as driver of economic change
Sicily region has suffered during the recent double-dip recession. The creation of a favourable business environment is therefore a key priority to invert the trend and go back to pre-crisis situation. Improved access to finance is another crucial element to support the competiveness and growth of the local companies, especially SMEs.
Against this background, the Vice President will also use this visit to point out funding opportunities which will come out of the new Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. For example, a new "SME Instrument" (with the help of the Enterprise Europe Network) will support innovative SMEs, during an entire innovation cycle: from the conception of the innovative idea, to the final creation of the new product or service. Companies will then have the responsibility to commercialize their innovations using existing mechanisms of access to finance.
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