Togetherness + Resilience = Recovery

The 2021 SME Assembly, the first European-wide, post-COVID conference organized by the European Commission to be actually held in person, took place in 15-17 November at Portorož in Slovenia, under the auspices of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In light of the pandemic, this year’s gathering had a special significance and focused on the following motto: Togetherness + Resilience = Recovery. Spreading across a three-day programme which included catching panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses and a truly impressive Award Ceremony, the SME Assembly brought together stakeholders from the European and international business ecosystems, including SME owners, SME support organizations and policymakers, with a view to working together towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Day 1 kicked off with a captivating lecture delivered by climate scientist, Professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj who has conducted pioneering research on the impact of climate change. Professor Bogataj elaborated on the effects of climate change on SMEs in particular, focusing on the need for SMEs and enterprises to achieve a transition to a more sustainable economy and prepare and adapt to face climate change. Day 2 evolved around a series of simultaneous panel discussions, policy workshops and masterclasses on different topics. Participants had the chance to listen to presentations from entrepreneurs who have succeeded defying the odds amidst the COVID pandemic and who are aiming towards a sustainable and digital recovery. The morning panel discussions of Day 3 – the final day – dealt with environmental, social and governance issues; transfer of business; European scale-up firms; and SME support under the new Multi-annual Financial Framework. The final discussion focused on SME economic performance and the prospects for recovery and resilience in 2022. Day 3 ended with some policy conclusions presented by Outi Slotboom, Director for Strategy at the European Commission.

The conclusions of this year’s SME Assembly evolved around digitalization, sustainability (green economy) and the effort to promote the entrepreneurial spirit, particularly amongst girls and women. Undoubtedly, the pandemic reality and the challenges and implications it has brought about for the business world as a whole, and SMEs in particular, has brought us one step closer to realizing the necessity for effective preventive measures and mechanisms that will enable SMEs to be more resilient and alert when it comes to potential future crises.