Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED Programme)

Capacity building seminar: Implementing SME policy tools in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus (Trento, Italy)


A capacity building seminar dedicated to participants from Eastern Europe and South Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine

25-28 October 2011, Trento, Italy


Jointly organised by the OECD LEED Trento Centre and the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Programme


Background / The Seminar / Participants' Profile / 
Material / Contact Details




"The ‘Small Business Act’ aims to improve the overall policy approach to entrepreneurship, to irreversibly anchor the ‘Think Small First’ principle in policymaking from regulation to public service, and to promote SMEs’ growth by helping them tackle the remaining problems which hamper their development.”

[“Think Small First”. A “Small Business Act” for Europe]


The seminar was part of a wider Enterprise Policy Performance Assessment project that has been developed by the OECD and partner organisations (European Commission, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and European Training Foundation), which aims to provide an in-depth evaluation of the SME policy environment based on OECD best practices and guiding principles of the EU Small Business Act.

The seminar focused on Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) policy tools and instruments, with a selection of themes identified as priority areas from the Eastern Partnership Enterprise Policy Performance Assessment. The seminar contributed to a more practical understanding of the instruments promoted by the EU Small Business Act. The findings and conclusions from the seminar will be the impetus for key contributions to the final report of the Enterprise Policy Performance Assessment for Eastern Partnership countries.

The vital contribution of SMEs and entrepreneurship to job creation and social cohesion is widely recognised by all governments. Entrepreneurship plays a key role in relation to economic development, including local development, and entrepreneurs are key agents of change in market economies. SMEs are a major source of economic growth and can significantly contribute to the transition to a greener and sustainable economy. Given this, the main reasons and motivations for considering SME policy tools as the focus of the seminar were:

  • Weight of small business in international economy - SMEs are widely recognised as being one of the most dynamic local development actors and employment and wealth creators.
  • Both strategic approach to SME development, as well as targeted policy and specific actions are widely recognised to be needed for fostering SME development – The awareness of that concept led to the adoption of the “Small Business Act” for Europe in 2008.
  • Close interlinks between SME and local development – To flourish, SMEs must rely, to a greater extent than large companies, on an external local context favourable to their development. Additionally, “national and local environments in which SMEs operate are very different and so is the nature of SMEs themselves.
  • Specific criticalities affect SMEs stemming from the current international economic and financial crisis - In times of international downturn it is recognised that small businesses “are generally more vulnerable for many reasons.

This seminar proposed to discuss, in order to tackle some of the primary challenges SMEs face, both in general and particularly in the current downturn, the following outstanding issues:


Business cooperation and local governance.


Technology, innovation and green growth.


Access to finance.


The Seminar

The 3.5-day seminar was structured around a mix of presentations by invited experts and OECD staff, followed by discussion and group work utilising case studies and concrete experiences developed by participants prior to the seminar.

The workshop was conceived as a system aimed at establishing a common knowledge and experience exchange platform among the participants. New and fresh knowledge was generated through such exchanges and due to the combination of the experience and knowledge all the participants – speakers, case study presentations, attendees, etc. - brought in.

Such approach was pursued through:


Thematic modules: the workshop was organised in working sessions where one specific theme was the focus.


Orientation to  practice: the introductory speeches to each module were delivered by expert practitioners that had direct, firsthand experience of the subject at an international level; such speeches opened the discussion and were complemented by the presentation of case studies and field visits.


Exchange of experiences: substantial room was given to the presentation of case studies– either brought to the discussion directly by the participants or by other local, Trentino based and international examples,  – and to their analysis and discussion.

Hybridisation of knowledge: all the participants were actively involved in the discussions and in the working sessions so that all individual experiences could be investigated, “re-used” and “capitalised”, seeking new syntheses.


Participants' Profile

The seminar was addressed to participants from Eastern Europe and South Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine - committed to the topic of SME development and policy, and willing to contribute to build a highly interactive environment, by sharing their experiences and learning from each other. It was anticipated that participants were national policy-makers and practitioners, experts in SME development and/or SME policy, or representatives of SMEs in the region. The selection was made by invitation.

Working language: English.






Contact Details

For further information about the seminar, please contact Alessandra Proto at the OECD LEED Trento Centre, Italy or Marina Cernov at the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Programme, Paris.



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