Smart, as well as beautiful: the Bologna Process

Promoting entrepreneurship and innovative SMEs in a global economy
OECD Observer

Small may well be beautiful in the business world, but being small can also be tough going, in good as well as turbulent times. Red tape, taxes and other charges, capital costs, employment regulations, legal costs: issues such as these absorb a lot of small-company time and money, and can, in the end, become a barrier to either going into business, or surviving in it. Still, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for over 95% of all firms and for 60%-70% of employment in the OECD area.

They are key drivers of the economy, combining capital, innovation and skills, while serving consumers and channelling their capital and expertise into larger enterprises, in many cases internationally. So, if only policymakers could do a little more to help them out.

Such was the objective in Bologna, Italy, in June 2000 when the OECD organised the first-ever major international ministerial conference on SMEs. Under the theme “Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs in the Global Economy: Strategies and Policies”, it was a rare opportunity to identify public and private sector action that might help SMEs develop their local strengths, while capturing the benefits of globalisation.

A key outcome of the conference was the adoption of the Bologna Charter on SME Policies by the governments of almost 50 countries, including all the OECD countries, plus several large developing countries like Brazil, China and South Africa, as well as smaller ones like Costa Rica and Uzbekistan. The Bologna Charter provides a frame of reference for countries concerned with improving the efficiency of policies directed at fostering entrepreneurship and assisting the development and competitiveness of smaller firms at the local, national and international levels. It calls for policy dialogue and co-operation between international organisations and institutions, and recommends such concrete initiatives as helping SMEs gain access to national and global innovation networks and to public R&D programmes and procurement contracts, for instance.

The conference gave rise to the Bologna Process, by which the OECD brings together over 70 countries and more than 50 international organisations, institutions and NGOs. The objectives are threefold: to foster an entrepreneurial agenda and SME competitiveness at the global level; to provide guidance to governments that will help entrepreneurs and SMEs worldwide reap the benefits of globalisation; and to further deepen and improve the high-level dialogue on SME policies among policymakers, business, national and international organisations and other institutions.

A second major OECD ministerial conference on SMEs will be held in Turkey on 3-5 June 2004 on the theme of “Promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovative SMEs in a Global Economy”. It will provide another much-needed opportunity for policymakers to take the kind of action that can help SMEs stay smart in today’s world. After all, healthy, thriving SMEs are in everyone’s best interest.

Reference 

OECD (2002), OECD Small and Medium Enterprise Outlook, Paris

©OECD Observer No 238, July 2003




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016