Seven is widely considered the luckiest number around. In the case of the PIMAP+ consortium, however, the magic number is 6. That’s how many European clusters the project has brought together to accelerate innovation and the industrial modernisation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe.
The aim of this ambitious objective is to create a springboard for cluster SMEs to internationalise. In this context, PIMAP+ is on a mission to establish an effective inter-clusters collaboration on a European scale. It also geared towards facilitating the implementation of a joint internationalisation strategy (targeting the US, Canada, Japan and China markets), supporting cross-sectoral cooperation in the fields of photonics, advanced manufacturing, metalworking and the aerospace industry.
During the period 2020-2022, 6 European Clusters (ALPHA-RLH, le pôle français des ondes de l’innovation, AFIL- Associazione Fabbrica Intelligente Lombardia, Triple Steelix, Business Joensuu Oy, PRODUTECH – Production Technologies Clusters and Moravian Aerospace Cluster) accelerated the access to international markets for SMEs. They also supported the development of business agreements and B2B cooperation.
“SMEs are the backbone of the European economy as they represent 99% of all EU businesses and 67% of all jobs in the non-financial private sector,” said Alithea Lafaye, the PIMAP+ project coordinator. “To access international markets is a key for European SMEs to boost their growth and be more competitive on the long-term perspective. Yet only 25% of EU based SMEs had been involved in exports and only 13% have targeted markets outside the EU.”
In an interview, Alithea Lafaye explains the overall goal of PIMAP+: to shorten the time it takes for European SMEs to access new and relevant non-EU markets. Thanks to the project activities, more than 90 SMEs have benefited to date.
What challenge is the PIMAP+ consortium tackling?
SMEs lack market information, and face difficulties in locating possible customers as well as finding the right partners. PIMAP+ is therefore looking to overcome this issue by leveraging from the clusters’ capacities. Indeed, for years now, our 6 clusters have created significant connections with international partners. Therefore, we can provide a key support to enable our SMEs to shorten the time to access new relevant non-EU markets.
What have been the main objectives?
Under the EU Clusters GO-International, the main objective is to facilitate SME access to global value chains through specialised business support services arranged by cluster organisations, like international study visits, partnering and matchmaking missions.
Based on PIMAP Partnership project results (2018-2020), the PIMAP+ consortium established deep and trustful connections with foreign clusters and local partners able to support us in organising customised business missions for our SMEs.
In addition, the cross-sectoral aspect of our project – gathering the entire photonics value chain and looking to address metalworking, aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries – enabled us to establish synergies between our members. This increased the innovation potential and growth opportunities at EU level.
What are the main social or economic benefits arising from the cluster?
The PIMAP+ project is strongly participating to reinforce mutual intercultural understanding at European level and international level through the business culture trainings and the international meetings organised throughout the project. It also reinforces the links between the European cluster managers that wouldn’t necessary work together otherwise. It generates opportunities and synergies to establish other cooperation for EU projects and boost the cross-sectoral innovation potential.
Economically, the growth linked to international sales is a factor of continuity for SMEs. It enables them to be more innovative and competitive on the global market. It’s crucial for most of the European SMEs to diversify their customers worldwide to generate profit and reinvest in innovation activities. PIMAP+ project is supporting them through key internationalisation services such as market analysis, webinars, individual B2B support, collective visits, networking with pitching sessions and visits to international exhibitions. Thanks to our business missions, our SMEs met with 35 new potential customers and 31 potential new partners, 25 potential contracts will potentially be signed and 40 post-meetings events have been planned.
What was the support from the Single Market Programme (SMP COSME)?
It has financially supported (almost EUR 450,000) the project’s entire consortium.
Is there a particular achievement that would not have been possible without SMP COSME?
Strand 2 of Cluster GO-International enabled the consortium to pursue and expand the activities initiated during PIMAP Partnership Strand 1, particularly the collaboration built with international clusters, such as Optonique in Canada and Optics Valley in the US.
To date, and for the benefit of European SMEs, PIMAP+ organised the following:
- 4 business missions in the US, Canada and Japan
- 4 Memoranda of Understanding
- 15 events (matchmaking meetings, working groups, networking, workshop, etc.)
- 30 inter-cluster meetings (between European and international clusters)
- 90 SMEs directly benefited from the project activities
- 7 webinars delivered to raise awareness about Japan, China, US and Canada markets.
- Publication date
- 16 August 2022
- European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency