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Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are often referred to as the "backbone" of the European economies being the main source of development and employment in Europe representing 99% of businesses and two-thirds of private sector jobs. Despite their vital role in the European economy, one of the most important problems is their access to finance.
The current economic and financial crises have further limited access to finance for SMEs, this has been particularly severe in transition economies.
To alleviate these difficulties, the European Commission and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank Group and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have put in place a variety of programmes for SME financing through equity, loans and guarantees.

These assumptions made the basis for the development of the multi-step 24-months project "Financial Facilities for SMEs: training and capacity building for Business Support Organisations in non-EU member states of the Central European Initiative - FIT4SMEs" implemented by Informest, Development Agency for Economic Cooperation based in Gorizia, Italy and financed by the Central European Initiative (CEI) through its Know-How Exchange Programme (KEP) and by the Autonomous Region Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy.

Considering that Business Support Organisations (BSOs) such as chambers of commerce, business and SME associations, business incubators are independent source of advice and practical support for many SMEs, the project aims at training staff of selected BSOs locate in non EU-CEI members countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine) in order to strengthen their internal capacities and knowledge on instruments available through major IFIs.
It is expected that upon conclusion of the project, BSOs will be able to promote the above instruments among local enterprises and, upon request, provide comprehensive information on eligibility criteria and relevant application requirements.

The first project step was held in the period 11-2010/04-2011.

The focus of the first phase was the individuation of the Project participating BSOs and the creation of a core partnership implemented since the Conference held in April in Trieste, with a first level of need assessment related to knowledge and skills in the field of finance facilities offered to the SME and economic systems of the Project recipient countries. The main output of the first phase was the publication of the Main International Financial Facilities available for SMEs. Project Recipient Country Surveys defining a comprehensive framework of the main international financial instruments offered to national SMEs operating in East European transition country markets.

Activities of the Project second step
From October 1st 2011 starts the second step of the FIT4SMEs Project. The Project will last until March 2012, and is addressed both to already registered and other BSOs from the nine Project recipient countries.

arrow Training needs assessment

Informest will design and deliver a questionnaire to all the BSOs registered in FIT4SMEs database in order to get the current knowledge and experience in the field of existing IFI facilities addressed to SMEs, the existing competencies and skills in assisting SMEs to access to finance and to guarantee the involvement of all the registered BSOs in the project training activity. The needs assessment ensuing from the questionnaires will contribute to the training contents fine-tuning.

arrow Training programme

Informest, together with selected external experts, will design the training programme taking into consideration the feedbacks and contributions received from the BSOs during the first Project step and the delivering of the Country Surveys output. The training programme will focus on finance facilities put at disposal by IFIs for the beneficiary countries of the Project. Three trainings will be organised defining as many groups of countries on the basis of the assignment of the financial facilities put at disposal with a distinguished outline for each training session, adjusted to the participating BSOs. Three BSOs will be in charge of the on field training organisation and implementation under Informest supervision.

arrow Preparatory phase for a pilot action

Each BSO, supported by Informest, will identify 2-3 SMEs for each territory and included into a SME Project database. The database will be used for the pilot action to be developed in the third phase of the Programme that will consist on giving technical assistance to selected SMEs to facilitate access to finance.

Target group

Selected Business Support Organisations such as chambers of commerce, business and SME associations, business incubators, scientific and technology parks, development agencies, located in non-EU CEI members countries.



FIT4SMEs II ľ Final Publication

The BSO Profiles and the training proceedings publication is now available! You can download it here


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Know-how Exchange Programme (KEP) is a grant facility created in 2004 to support transfer of best practice and transformation experience fromáCEI EU to non-EU Member States.
The Programme originates from the conviction that economic development in non-EU MS can be strengthened by transferring sound approaches (good practice) already in place in more advanced CEI countries.
In the CEI region, there are currently 9 EU and 9 non-EU members. Even though the non EU Member States have undergone a significant reform process, in many areas..
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