SMEs and entrepreneurship



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Small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world demonstrated extraordinary adaptability during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be critical to forge the path to recovery. In the OECD, SMEs account for 60% of total employment and 50-60% of national value added. As such, they are engines of innovation diffusion, productivity growth, and job creation. However, SMEs continue to face barriers in accessing strategic resources, such as finance, skills or technology. They also struggle to deal with inefficiencies in regulatory and framework conditions. Tackling these issues will be key to unleash and fully harness SMEs’ potential for building back better.

In recognition of their contribution to our economies and the wellbeing of societies, the OECD is organising a series of virtual events with partner organisations to explore critical issues for SMEs and entrepreneurship, building on the platform of the Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Day 2021.



OECD MSME Week Events

SMEEO 2021 cover imageMonday 28 June - UN MSMEs Day

2021 SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook: Meet the Authors, 10:00 – 11:30 (CEST) - REGISTER HERE

‌SMEs, self-employed and entrepreneurs have been hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the magnitude of the shock, available data point to vigorous business dynamism, sustained start-up creation, no major increase in bankruptcies. The crisis has also served as a catalyst for (some forms of) innovation and entrepreneurship in most countries. The 2021 OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook provides new evidence on the critical role governments and their support packages have played in cushioning the blow. It also stresses that not all people, places and firms have been able to get support as needed, but those who did have performed better. In addition, the report explores through a forward-looking lens, how the crisis may have exacerbated vulnerabilities or revealed sources of resilience among SMEs and entrepreneurs, looking also at the structural policy responses to the crisis and efforts by governments to foster resilience for a more sustainable recovery



Participation in UN MSMEs Day Event, Launch of the 2021 SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook by OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann, 14:00 – 16:30 (CEST)

REGISTER HEREWatch the event live on UN Web TV

In partnership with the International Council for Small Businesses (ICSB)

The UN MSMEs Day 2021 will take place in a fully virtual format and focus on placing MSMEs at the centre of an inclusive and sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery. Under the theme “Achieving the SDGs requires resilient and flourishing MSMEs everywhere”, the MSME Day aims to strengthen awareness on the contributions MSMEs make to economies, communities and societies, and foster a dialogue on the policies needed to empower MSMEs to drive the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann and H.E. Stuart Nash, Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Forestry, Small Business and Tourism, New Zealand, and Chair of the OECD Digital for SMEs, initiative participate in the high-level plenary session.



Tuesday 29 June - Gender

Launch of Entrepreneurship Policies through a Gender Lens, 15:00 – 16:30 (CEST) - REGISTER HERE

A joint initiative with the Global Women's Entrepreneurship Policy Network (Global WEP)

Cover image for EMS mailout
Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs than men and tend to operate smaller and less dynamic businesses. Is this an inevitable consequence of women’s preferences, or does it reflect poorly adapted entrepreneurship support and institutional obstacles in society and economy? The report Entrepreneurship Policies through a Gender Lens, prepared by the OECD and the Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Policy (GWEP) Network, highlights many long‑standing issues related to the scope and effectiveness of women’s entrepreneurship policies – many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID‑19 pandemic – and points the way to more effective policy. Based on an assessment of entrepreneurship trends and barriers and a collection of 27 policy insight notes by leading international experts, it examines a range of issues including fostering a gender‑sensitive entrepreneurship culture, building entrepreneurship skills for women, improving women’s access to financial capital, supporting networks for women entrepreneurs and creating supportive regulatory environments




Wednesday 30 June - Digital

Launch of Enhancing SMES' Resilience through Digitalisation: The Case of Korea, 9:00 – 10:30 (CEST) - REGISTER HERE

Co-hosted with the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developement (OECD)

Cover image Digitalisation can help small businesses become resilient. For businesses, being resilient means having the flexibility to adapt to disruptions and continue their operations, and digital technologies can serve as a tool for businesses in building their resilient capacity. In general, the limited capacity of SMEs, such as financial and human resources, leave them with little room for manoeuvre in challenging circumstances. However, advancement of digital technologies and development of digital service models offer small businesses enhanced accessibility to business tools, which can allow SMEs to quickly adapt their activities during crisis without the need for a large upfront investment.

The report investigates the role of government programmes in strengthening SMEs’ resilience to external shocks, by focusing on SME digitalisation policies implemented in Korea during the COVID-19 outbreak. The report examines how digital tools and services have made SMEs more resilient during the pandemic, as well as the challenges that SMEs face in “going digital”. The analysis is complemented by additional evidence and insights coming from international policy experience.




Frontiers of Digital Learning: Bridging the Digital Skills Gaps for SMEs and Entrepreneurs, 16:00 – 18:00 (CEST) - REGISTER HERE

A joint OECD webinar with the Digital for SMEs Global Initiative (D4SME) and Geography on Higher Education (GoHE)

Life-long learning systems are critical to improve availability and access of digital skills to SMEs, in all regions and cities. The OECD report on The Digital Transformation of SMEs highlights that the digital skills gap is one of the greatest barriers to SME digital adoption. Due to size and resource constrains, many small firms are more dependent on their ecosystem and networks to access the relevant skills to transform their business models to be digital, and accordingly more productive, sustainable and resilient. This means, that SMEs have to be aware about their needs in terms of digital skills and proactive in reaching out to their ecosystem and networks to up-skill, re-skill, or externalise digital functions.

Actions are needed to help SMEs access to digital skills within their ecosystems, and help them close the digital skills gap. Higher education institutions, for example, can improve availability and access to digital skills. Higher education institutions, governments, large firms and technology practitioners can work together to develop practical and innovative digital learning for SMEs. Proximity among these actors can facilitate collaboration. Impactful digital learning is achieved when stakeholders from private and public sectors come together with education institutions to implement an effective lifelong learning system.

This webinar will discuss the many innovative approaches that can improve availability and accessibility of digital skills for SMEs, in all regions and cities. The discussion will highlight the role HEIs, large firms and technology providers are increasingly playing to offer learning opportunities, which SMEs should take advantage of to close the digital skill gap.



Thursday 1 July - Finance

Mobilising SME Finance for a Resilient, Sustainable and Inclusive Recovery, 14:00 – 16:00 (CEST) - REGISTER HERE
Joint event with the Bank of the Council of Europe (CEB)

SMEs were hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, often relying on government support to survive the initial shock, prolonged restrictions and a drop in demand for their products and services. This has left many small businesses with a high debt burden. The degree to which this will lead to high levels of insolvencies in the coming months is still uncertain and a cause for concern.

As businesses and governments look to the recovery, SMEs will be front and centre in providing employment as well as innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, such as the climate crisis, while ensuring that no one is left behind. Sustained access to a diverse range of financing instruments will be crucial to continued contributions by SMEs and entrepreneurs to sustainable and inclusive growth.

This webinar, organised by the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), will bring together experts, policy makers, financial institutions and SME representatives to discuss some of the key issues around SME financing today.


Friday 2 June - Skills

Introducing EECOLE - Entrepreneurship Education, Collaboration, Engagement, 13:00 – 15:00 (CEST) - REGISTER HERE

EECOLE is an international network connecting higher education institutions (HEIs) with their partners, including public authorities, firms, banks, civil society, etc. By joining EECOLE these actors, all together, can create shared narratives and common goals, in a neutral environment, facilitated by the OECD Secretariat.

HEIs have the potential to help their communities and networks be more entrepreneurial, more innovative and sustainable, and more inclusive. They can provide individuals with entrepreneurial mind-sets and skills to improve their resilience and productivity vis-à-vis the future of work and society. HEIs can support regional development and post-pandemic recovery plans by providing information and intelligence about investment opportunities, in all regions and cities. HEIs can generate economic and societal value in many different areas. However, to achieve these results there is a need for policy synergies, specific institutions and professional figures to be created. Above all, there is a need for mutual understanding and support between HEIs and their partners. There is a need for EECOLE.

In this webinar, international experts will discuss how EECOLE can help strengthen the linkage between HEIs and their partners, in all regions. 




Full Programme (English version)


Full programme (French version)



Other links

A Recovery of Small Beginnings: OECD MSME Week Blog


Small goes digital: How digitalization can bring about productive growth for micro and small enterprises - Launch event 28 June 14h-15h15, International Labour Organisation


SME Competitiveness Outlook 2021. Empowering the Green Recovery (International Trade Council)


ICSB 2021 Global MSMEs Report




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