ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

As part of the EU's SME Week and within the framework of our Global SME Forums, ACCA and UEAPME (the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) hosted a high-level conference - 'the benefits of the Digital agenda for SMEs: towards simplification, enhanced cross-border trade and diversified access to finance' - at the European Parliament on 6 October 2011.

Hosted by Dr Paul Rübig, MEP, the event showcased and shared best practice, illustrating how the digital agenda can be used as a tool to remove administrative burdens, help with cross-border trade, and remove access to finance barriers for SMEs. The event also debated how remaining obstacles could be removed and future policy options. 

On the occasion of this event, ACCA launched its report, 'A digital agenda for European SMEs'.

Under related documents (at the bottom of the page), you can find the full 'Digital Agenda' report and speaker presentations from the event.

Main conclusions from the event 

  • The digital agenda can help small enterprises take full advantage of the opportunities available in the Digital single market and be able to compete with international players. It is however crucial to raise further awareness of its benefits as its potential is still largely unexploited by this category of users. 
  • The event started with a series of case studies covering a broad range of issues for which the Digital Agenda is impacting SMEs. This included concrete examples of improved efficiency through cloud computing and softwares supporting compliance for EU SMEs, better access to cross-border trade through e-commerce and the interconnection of business registers, as well as better access to finance through online peer-to-peer lending. 
  • All case studies highlighted that technical and legal hurdles still to doing business in the (Digital) Single Market still remain. These include data privacy and security, not so user friendliness of the applications, costs, lack of choice and difficulty to identify the liability, delivery of ordered goods in case of online transactions and payments, lack of IT skilled entrepreneurs and users, VAT and rates issues, rules of origins, etc. In all these domains the Digital Agenda could be deployed more effectively. 
  • The most highlighted point was the lack of trust that results from lack of awareness and knowledge of the existing opportunities as well as perception of risk and potential threats. It was also stressed that financial transparency in an online world is fundamental. Online Peer-to-Peer lending platforms need high-quality financial reports and forecasts, even for SMEs and micro-entities because it is essential for potential investors to make an informed decision. 
  • The Commission and the European Parliament indicated that they are very committed to work towards a balanced and homogenous business framework, especially in the field of e-business, e-invoicing, e-skills and access to finance, but stressed that they cannot do this alone; all stakeholders and a proper implementation at national level are needed to make this a reality. Decision makers were however warned to be careful not to over regulate and to propose only coherent and necessary measures. 
  • All participants also stressed that the Digital Single Market, which is still very fragmented, will be a decisive tool to enhance EU SME’s competitiveness and allow them to unleash their potential. It is already proven that SMEs are growing twice faster once they have embraced the Digital economy. 
  • Speakers underlined the very important role that intermediaries and advisers such as accountants and small business associations had to play in terms of raising awareness amongst the SME community.

Related documents