Boosting Competitiveness of European Industrial Enterprises

Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska on new EU programmes and incentives to support businesses

What are the main targets of the new commission to boost competitiveness of industrial enterprises?

Enterprises thrive in the right value chain; often that means crossing borders. Removing barriers to businesses is one of the first targets. Making the single market work, allowing businesses to expand across borders and to compete globally is a high priority.

We aim to accelerate change in European industry, ensuring that the technologies to power tomorrow’s manufacturing are taken up and developed in Europe.

We can help in many ways, from effective cluster strategies to boost research and innovation, through to regulations and procurement strategies that create demand for cleaner and more efficient products.

How will industrial enterprises benefit from the massive investment programme proposed by the commission?

The Juncker plan will be a game-changer for the EU, a catalyst to transform the business environment, build confidence and inspire the changes we need for competitiveness.
We see a large investment shortfall and we want to mobilise 315 billion euro. The plan aims to turn things around, to catch up on the lost years by a mix of public and private investment for real businesses, in infrastructure, including the knowledge infrastructure we need for competitiveness.

Removing barriers to investment will have a long-lasting benefit for Europe.

What measures and programmes are foreseen to accelerate the process of investment and how to guarantee growth effects in the corporate sector and sustainable employment?

There are EU programmes such as regional funds, Horizon 2020 and my particular responsibility COSME, focused on SMEs. These require engagement: research partners commit their own resources; our investment tools draw in up to 15 times as much private investment. We partner national and regional authorities: a landmark agreement in Spain will turn 800 million euro of EU funding into 5 billion euro for SMEs.

We promote smarter, cleaner industry. The energy union will reduce energy consumption and emissions and we aim to reduce consumption of raw materials and more recycling in a circular economy.

We must sustain jobs in Europe. If manufacturing jobs leave, service jobs follow. We must get the business environment right, make the EU an attractive place to set up and grow a business.

With your personal experience from Poland: What does it take from administrations, private sector to encourage a rapid development of a vital SME sector?

Firstly, smart regulation on both the EU and national level. In the European Commission under the Small Business Act we have been working towards simplification of starting a business. We are planning more improvements soon. Secondly, access to finance is essential. We work with partners who understand local conditions: regional administrations and local banks. Finally, businesses need workers with the skills to be competitive in today’s economy.

Since growth is related to success on international markets: How can EU contribute to further internationalisation of SME and boost export activities?

It costs time and effort to find opportunities and to understand how to enter new markets. Many SMEs worry about protecting their property rights. Our SME internationalisation portal is a one-stop-shop to help businesses find services they need. The Enterprise Europe Network gives practical advice and support.

The Commission is developing a new trade and investment strategy to promote market access and protect European investment abroad.

Which role do international trade shows like HANNOVER MESSE play in this context? What are your expectations from your first visit at HANNOVER?

Trade fairs have been bringing people together for more than five hundred years and they don’t seem to be losing their appeal even in our digital age. They are a good place to build new business partnerships and a great shop window for Europe’s finest products. I look forward to the opportunity to see at first hand some of our world-leading technology and to meet some of the people who are driving our economy forward.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska is a Polish politician. She has served as Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and Transport. In 2014, she was nominated by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, as a European Commissioner