The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has launched a new audit to examine whether EU funding for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is helping to make them more competitive and future-proof. The auditors will assess whether the European Commission’s support from the European regional development fund (ERDF) is ensuring lasting competitive gains for start-ups and scale-ups. In addition, they will check whether Member States funnel this funding to relevant recipients, address the most pertinent needs, and whether the projects funded are delivering results. The audit comes against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, which demands extra effort from EU companies to survive on the market in a more challenging business environment.
SMEs are the backbone of the EU’s economy and help spread innovation throughout its regions through cutting-edge solutions to challenges, such as climate change, resource efficiency and social cohesion. The EU aims to become the world’s most attractive place for starting and scaling up businesses. SME funding from ERDF - currently under the auditors’ microscope - provides just under €55 billion for the current 7-year budget period (2014-2020), mainly for Poland (around €11 billion), followed by Italy, Spain and Portugal (between €4.5 billion and €5.5 billion each). This includes almost €26 billion to make SMEs more competitive.
“Our audit is aimed at helping the Commission and the Member States make better use of the ERDF to make EU SMEs more competitive, resilient and fit for the future,” said Pietro Russo, the ECA Member leading the audit. “This is particularly important given the challenges SMEs are facing in the COVID-19 crisis and the major role ERDF funding plays in some Member States for start-ups and scale-ups.”
Press Release: European funding for boosting SME competitiveness being probed by EU Auditors