On 19-21 September, the OECD delivered a training course on “Policies for SME Development” at the JVI, with a specific focus on Digitalisation, Monitoring & Evaluation, and Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). Animated by 10 international speakers from the OECD, the EBRD, and Slovenia, the training course gathered 24 governmental officials from Eastern Partner (EaP) countries with responsibilities in SME-related policymaking.
The training was tailored around the needs of SMEs in the EaP region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). Building on the preliminary results of the forthcoming 2024 edition of the SME Policy Index, the training addressed the most pressing challenges to the growth of SMEs in EaP countries, ranging from access to finance and the regulation of digital financial services to the promotion of digital skills. It also explored different techniques to evaluate the impact of SME policies and the key steps to build well-functioning RIA systems. In doing so, the course provided participants with a mix of guiding principles and concrete examples of policy instruments routinely applied across both OECD members and EaP countries.
Best practice exchanges were at the heart of the training course. In all sessions, participants were invited to showcase their countries’ progress, as well as the main challenges encountered and success factors to introduce new policy instruments and practices. This was instrumental to exchange on common challenges and envision solutions adapted to regional and local specificities. In this regard, a key part of the training was Georgia’s detailed account of the monitoring practices of its enterprise support agencies, which highlighted the importance of gathering microdata on companies’ financial performance and the methodological challenge to compare beneficiaries’ performance with appropriate control groups.
The course also covered international perspectives to chart the next steps of SME policy making in EaP countries. The contribution of OECD and EBRD experts, as well as of policy practitioners from Slovenia, broadened the international perspective of the training and was instrumental to showcase how more advanced economies have been addressing common challenges for SME development. This was the case, for instance, when a representative of the Slovenian government illustrated her country’s path to develop an SME test as part of its RIA framework. Such a practice, to date, is still largely missing across EaP countries despite being an essential component to implement fair and effective SME policies, laws and regulations.
As part of the training course, the OECD organised an on-site visit to the R&D labs of Revo foods, a Vienna-based start-up manufacturing plant-based seafood. Participants gained direct insights on how digital technologies (3D printing in this case) can create new markets and provide opportunities for new business creation, as well as the key role that well-designed policies can play in fostering the emergence of innovative companies.
Daniel Quadbeck, Senior Policy Analyst, OECD