It’s quite clear that SMEs play a key role in the European economy. Their contribution as innovation actors has been repeatedly amplified: 99.8% of the European non-financial business sector enterprises are SMEs, and more than 93% are micro SMEs.

SMEs accounted for 67% of total employment and 57% of value-added in the EU 28 non-financial business sector in 2016 and have generated, between 2008 and 2017, 47% of the cumulative increase in gross value added and 52% of the cumulative increase in employment.

Shifting the focus from the systemic to the individual level of SMEs allows us to highlight the same positive effects of innovation and IP on firm growth. In the „Annual Report on European SMEs 2017/2018” the high-growth SMEs have been defined as “having at least 10 employees at the beginning of their growth and increasing the number of their employees annually by 10% or more in 3 consecutive years”.

A recent study of the European Investment Bank shows that there are approximately 10.000 SMEs in Europe that base their business on the development and commercialisation of Key Enabling Technologies. These SMEs are having impressive R&D results but they don’t have access to resources and capabilities to get across the “valley of the death”, meaning lack of industrialization processes, manufacturing, marketing, distribution … required to uptake technology innovation.

The sad part of the story is that, in many cases the technologies are developed in Europe but commercialized on other continents.
“SMEs that have filed at least one IP right are 21% more likely to experience a growth period afterwards and are 10% more likely to become high growth firms (HGF) than firms without IP rights applications (9% for patents and 13% for trade marks)” – European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) study.

Based on these facts, Leadership 4SMEs was initiated.

Protecting intellectual property has several benefits, such as:


  • If you protect an invention, such as a new product, you are the only person who has the right to use or reproduce it. If someone else wants to copy or reproduce it, they must ask your permission.
  • When you protect your invention, the quality of the product is guaranteed and its origin is clear. This can be an advantage for your business, as customers may prefer a product that has successfully passed more restrictive controls (a controlled product).
  • You can earn money not only through the direct use of intellectual property, but also through indirect use, that is, by granting license agreements. The companies you license are allowed to use, for a certain period of time, the object protected by intellectual property rights.
  • In some cases, for example with regard to copyright and unregistered designs, the protection of your intellectual property is done automatically and does not require any formalities.
  • If you own a patent or trademark, the market value of your business could increase and you will be more likely to find investors or other financing opportunities.
  • For more information on intellectual property, personalized support and trademark registration, see the digital office of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

Explore the website and find out more about IP management and how to leverage your IP assets and stimulate your growth by accessing suitable funding opportunities.

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