Back to overview

Register now! Partners for SMEs – 24 May 10:00-13:30

Register >> here << until 22 May 12:00

It is our pleasure to invite you to our annual public event:

Partners for SMEs: Intermediaries in Regional Innovation Ecosystems

Wednesday 24 May 2023 10:00-12:30

House of Dutch Provinces, Rue de Trèves 59, Brussels

Small and medium-sized enterprises have often been called the backbone of Europe’s economy. They represent 99% of all businesses in the EU, employ around 100 million people and account for more than half of Europe’s GDP. SMEs are indispensable for Europe’s competitiveness and social cohesion, offer innovative solutions to the green and digital transition, and help to spread these solutions throughout Europe.

Several European programmes exist to support SMEs, such as the EU Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Horizon Europe pillar dedicated to an Innovative Europe. These programs stem from policies such as the EU Industrial Strategy, the EU Green Deal, the EU Digital Strategy, the New European Innovation Agenda.

Despite efforts to support SMEs, several challenges remain to effectively engage SMEs in European programmes to overcome innovation gaps, including access to finance, the administrative burden, lacking innovation infrastructures, skills gaps, and lack of awareness of the existence of European support instruments.

Besides the European Union, there are other stakeholders that can support SMEs, including regional and national authorities, innovation agencies and knowledge institutions. Such institutions have existing networks with SMEs, and there is untapped potential in further streamlining support through these established partnerships. For example, the role of Universities of Applied Sciences as intermediaries between the EU and SMEs in their regions has been demonstrated in the UAS4Europe publication ‘A UAS’ers guide to building innovation ecosystems’.

During this event we explore the current challenges that SMEs face in the European context, examine best practices on multi-stakeholder cooperation aimed at supporting SMEs, and flash-forward to the ways public authorities and intermediaries can further support SMEs in the future.


Location: House of Dutch Provinces, 4th Floor, Trierstraat 59, Brussels
Moderator for the day: Simon Pickard, Network director at Science|Business
Language: English

10:00    Walk-in and networking coffee

10:30    Words of welcome Rob Verhofstad, President of UASNL and HAN University of Applied Sciences

10:35    Words of welcome Rob van Eijkeren, Head of Office House of Dutch Provinces

10:40     Keynote by Dr. Joachim Schwerin, Principal Economist at DG Grow

11:00     Pitches on role of intermediaries for SMEs in different innovation programs

  1. BOOST Robotic EastNL – European Digital Innovation Hub
    Anka Mulder, President Saxion University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands
  2. EmpowerED – European network of EdTech initiatives
    Dr. Heidi Fagerholm, President Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Finland
  3. Katapult initiative – Network of 450 Dutch partnerships between SMEs and education institutions
    Pieter Moerman (director and co-founder), Tess van der Hoek (project manager)
  4. TraCs3 – Use of Regional Innovation Infrastructure in the EU
    Johanna Vannes, Senior Specialist, The Baltic Institute of Finland

11:50    Coffee break
12:00   Opportunities in Regional Innovation Valleys
12:10    Interactive part
12:20    Closing remarks
12:30    Networking lunch

*For late registrations or questions about the event, please contact Loes Rutten at

Back to overview