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European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA)
News article6 July 2022European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency3 min read

EU SME Centre in China: launch of phase IV and results of phase III

Since 2008 the EU-SME Centre in China provides high-quality business support services to help companies to seize the opportunities and face the challenges of the Chinese market. The new phase has just started.

​​​​Trade and investment between the EU and China have been growing at a fast pace. Indeed, China is a promising and fast-developing but complex market. On the one hand, its dynamic business environment constantly creates new business opportunities. On the other hand, its fast-changing business environment prevents foreign companies, above all SMEs, from benefitting from that broad range of business opportunities.

The EU intends to ensure mutually beneficial economic relations with China, through the respect of a level playing field for all companies in line with the rule-based multilateral order. Considering the economic potential and size of the Chinese market, the extent of difficulties faced by SMEs in accessing that market and the gaps in existing first-line business support services for SMEs, since 2008 the European Union has been funding the EU-SME Centre in China.

The first phase (2010-2014) and second phase (2014-2020) were managed by DG DEVCO (now DG INTPA). Then, the initiative was taken over by DG GROW, which has delegated its management to EISMEA. Phase III, funded by the COSME programme, started in October 2020 and ended in June 2022. Phase IV, funded by the Single Market Programme (SMP), has just started and will run for 36 months.

The main goals of the EU-SME Centre in China are:

  • Assisting European SMEs in assessing their readiness to enter the Chinese market and providing advice on opportunities and risks of establishing and developing a commercial presence in the Chinese market (through exports, investments or both);
  • Improving synergies and sharing best practice at the European, national and regional business association levels, including collaboration with other EU-funded projects, with the ultimate goal to benefit the target SMEs intending to do business in China;
  • Strengthening the advocacy activities of the EU business community.

Consequently, the activities of Centre target the following groups:

  1. SMEs from EU as well as from COSME (phase III) and SMP (phase IV) participating countries;
  2. Business support organisations and intermediaries from the above-mentioned countries, both in China and Europe;
  3. European Union Delegation to China and Market Access Teams, European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC), EU and COSME/SMP countries' Chambers of Commerce (with focus on those without a presence in China).

The final conference of phase III, held online on 10 June 2022, was a good opportunity to take stock of the project achievements in the past 21 months. All speakers acknowledged that the Chinese market represents a chance but also a challenge for target SMEs, particularly nowadays because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. They also underlined the importance of the Centre, which has become over the years a real and valuable “knowledge centre” recognised by the business community. In that respect, they confirmed that this kind of EU-funded projects are needed not only to support business relations but also cultural exchanges and better mutual understanding between European and Chinese business communities. All speakers congratulated the consortium managing phase III for the efforts done to implement the project as expected notwithstanding the heavy impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, beneficiaries worked hard to adapt their activities to the new circumstances and continue to offer high-quality business support services.

The event represented a great opportunity to share the main results of the project, such as:

  • the development of a self-diagnosis tool to help target SMEs to understand their readiness for China;
  • 4,500+ participants trained via 65 training sessions in Europe and China;
  • synergies with other EU-funded projects, such as the Enterprise Europe Network and the China IPR SME Helpdesk;
  • the update and upgrade of a database currently including 68 FAQs;
  • the publication of eight new reports on different sectors or aspects of the Chinese market and the update of seven reports produced in phase II;
  • the publication of the annual SME Policy Environment Report, providing an overview and analysis of recent developments in SME policies in China;
  • the signature of 40 Memoranda of Understanding with EU and COSME countries business support organisations;
  • 13,000+ followers on social media from Europe and China.

During phase IV, the Centre will continue to support target SMEs and its partners by updating and upgrading its business support services as well as by offering new ones, in line with the new EU policy priorities.

For more information, visit the Centre’s webpage or contact EISMEA at:

EISMEA-COSME-EU-SME-CENTRE-CHINAatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (EISMEA-COSME-EU-SME-CENTRE-CHINA[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu)