Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities

Conference on SMEs and the Urban Fabric - Full details


 15-16 April 2019 Trento, Italy   

Organised by the OECD Trento Centre for Local Development and the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation, Sweden


What makes a liveable place? What makes a place a thriving hub of entrepreneurship and growth?

These two questions might have the same answer. SMEs and entrepreneurs can benefit from well-functioning, well-designed and well-planned cities, the same way these cities and their neighbourhoods can benefit from local entrepreneurs and SMEs that create jobs, but also authenticity, charm, social integration and social connections.

But the ecosystem for entrepreneurs and SMEs is not guaranteed given, as not all urban environments are conducive to having a dynamic business community. It is therefore crucial to understand what economic policies, business regulation, land use and urban planning can help leverage the benefits that SMEs and entrepreneurs can provide to create liveable places.

What will be discussed

The two-day OECD conference on SMEs and the Urban Fabric helped assess how far we can go in answering two questions: “What can SMEs do for their cities?” and “What can cities do for their SMEs?”. 

This conference brought together speakers that tackled the questions at different scales, such as cities, clusters, or neighbourhoods, and from different backgrounds, that took an economic, planning or social lens when considering the complex interplay between SMEs and the city.



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Agenda (PDF)

Interactive agenda (web)


Day 1 | 15 April 2019

18.30 - 14 April - Welcome cocktail

08.30 - Registration 

09.00 - Opening remarks 

09.30 - Keynote 1 🔑

10.45 - Small, medium, strong: The value of SMEs 💬

12.45 - Lunch 🍴

14.15 - Keynote 2 🔑

15.00 - What can SMEs and entrepreneurs do for our cities? 💬 

17.30 - Closing Day 1

18.30 - Dinner reception at MUSE, Science Museum of Trento 🍴🍸

20.00 - Guided tour of MUSE 📷



Day 2 | 16 April 2019

09.00 - Opening remarks

09.15 - Keynote 3 🔑

10.30 - The shape of cities 💬

12.30 - Lunch 🍴

14.00 - Keynote 4 🔑

14.45 - Policy, governance and regulations 💬

17.15 - Endnote 🔑

17.45 - Closing remarks 

18.00 - Farewell drink 🍸





Post-event | 17 April 2019

09.30 - Departure from Trento 🚌

10.00 - Visit to Manifacture Project 🔎

11.00 - Transfer 🚌

11.10 - Visit to Mechatronic Pole 🔎

12.15 - Return to Trento 🚌




Keynote Speakers

Saskia Sassen
Professor of Sociology,
Columbia University, US

David B. Audretsch
 Distinguished Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, US

Christopher B. Leinberger
Chair, Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis, George Washington University School of Business, US

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose
Professor of Economic Geography, London School of Economics, UK

Peter Nijkamp
Emeritus Professor in Regional and Urban Economics and in Economic Geography, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

Biography Biography Biography
Biography Biography

Videos & Presentations

Watch & Access All Presentations

This event brought together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to discuss ways in which policies, regulations and planning can help create an environment for thriving entrepreneurship and SMEs, while at the same time leveraging these entrepreneurs for local development. The discussion combined presentations of academic research with practical examples and open discussion with all participants.




OECD Trento Centre for Local Development
Vicolo San Marco 1, 38122 Trento, Italy
T.+39 0461 277600 | E.


Travel and accommodation

The Verona airport “Valerio Catullo” in Verona is the closest to Trento (93 km away).

The Verona Airport is connected to the Verona train station – “Verona Porta Nuova” – via a Shuttle service that runs daily at 5.35 am, 6.30 am, 6.50 am, 7.10 am then every 20 minutes until 11.30 pm. A single ride ticket costs 6.00 €. From Verona train station, Trento can be reached in about one hour. Check the trains schedule here.

Venice, Milan and Bergamo are other possible arrival cities. 

Browse the list of hotels and how to get to Trento



All sessions were conducted in English. Italian interpretation was provided.

Contact - OECD Paris

 - OECD Trento Centre




in collaboration with