Key players agree to maintain and develop their efforts to encourage SME participation in standardization activities 

Brussels, 30 May 2013 - High-level representatives of the European Standardization Organisations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI), the European Commission, business and industry organisations, and other key stakeholders of the European Standardization System took part in the European Conference on SMEs and Standardization, which was held in Brussels this week. The general consensus was that further efforts are needed to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with accurate and up-to-date information about different kinds of standards, as well as to encourage and support SMEs' involvement in developing and drafting European and international standards.

The European Conference on SMEs and Standardization (in Brussels on 28 May) was organised by the European Standardization Organisations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) in the framework of the SMEST2 (SME Standardization Toolkit) project supported by the European Commission and EFTA, and in partnership with ORGALIME (the European Engineering Industries Association). The 200 participants included representatives of national standards organisations, public authorities, business and industry organisations, and SMEs.

The Conference programme included sessions addressing several inter-related issues such as: how to communicate and raise awareness about the benefits of standards and standardization; how to provide SMEs with information about standards that are relevant for their business; how to ensure that standards take SMEs' specific needs and concerns into account during the development of European and international standards; and how SMEs can be encouraged and enabled to get actively involved in standardization activities at all levels.

Addressing the Conference in Brussels on 28 May, Dirk Weiler, Chairman of the CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Joint Presidents Group, and Chairman of the ETSI General Assembly, underlined the economic importance of SMEs: "For Europe as a whole they are the motor of employment, growth and innovation, and their involvement in standardization has been shown to be one of the drivers for these." Mr Weiler noted that the three European Standardization Organisations have introduced a range of measures during recent years with the aim of helping SMEs discover and participate in the world of standardization.

The European Commission was represented by Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General of DG Enterprise and Industry and Special Envoy for SMEs, who noted that SMEs are the backbone of Europe’s economy, accounting for 85% of all the new jobs created and 60% of all the value added. Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Mr Calleja said: "We are very keen to continue our excellent cooperation with the European Standardization Organisations, with the stakeholders, with the SMEs, with all interested parties. Because we share the same objective: to deliver a stronger European standardization system, a system that will put Europe in a better position to create jobs, to deliver growth, to eliminate barriers, to increase the competitiveness of our companies and to allow us all to face the challenges of the future."

Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of CEN and CENELEC, emphasised the central role of the national standards organisations (i.e. the members of CEN and CENELEC) in terms of providing SMEs with information about standards and encouraging and enabling SMEs to get actively involved in standardization activities. She said that the development of high-quality standards depends on having access to the best available expertise, and in many sectors experts from SMEs are already participating in their national standards organisations and making very valuable contributions to the development of new standards.

The perspective of national governments was represented by John Perry, Minister of State for Small Business in the Republic of Ireland, which currently (during the first half of 2013) holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Minister of State told the conference: "Standards are vital in the current economic climate, and implementing them in business enables companies to improve their efficiency and competitiveness, minimise waste and reduce costs. European standardization is essential to Europe’s global competitiveness, growth and innovation, as well as inspiring consumer confidence."

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PHOTO (from left to right): John Perry, Minister of State for Small Business in the Republic of Ireland; Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of CEN and CENELEC; Dirk Weiler, Chairman of the CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Joint Presidents Group and Chairman of the ETSI General Assembly (© CEN-CENELEC-ETSI 2013)

Under the new EU Regulation on European Standardization (which entered into force at the start of 2013), the European Commission will provide financial support for a European organisation representing the interests of SMEs in the European Standardization System (taking over the role previously played by NORMAPME). Following a call for proposals, the Commission is due to announce the result of its selection process in the coming weeks.

During the Conference in Brussels on 28 May, participants identified a number of other points as being especially relevant in terms of the next steps. These include:

  • the need to continue to develop initiatives that are designed to raise awareness about the benefits of standards and standardization, especially among SMEs, by means of information, education and training activities (notably at national level);
  • the important role to be played by business associations and especially sector-specific industry organisations in helping to ensure that relevant knowledge and expertise from SMEs can be fed into the development of European and international standards;
  • the need to continue and reinforce ongoing efforts to ensure that new standards are written in a way that takes SMEs’ needs into account (for example, by providing training to those responsible for drafting standards, based on CEN-CENELEC Guide 17);
  • the need to continue expanding and increasing the use of new technologies (such as online consultations, e-commenting and web-conferencing) in order to make it easier for SMEs and other stakeholders to participate in standardization activities.

Notes

The three European Standardization Organisations (ESOs) are: CEN (European Committee for Standardization), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute).

The European Conference on SMEs and Standardization took place at the SQUARE in Brussels on 28 May. It was organised by the European Standardization Organisations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) in the framework of the SMEST2 (SME Standardization Toolkit) project supported by the European Commission and EFTA, and in partnership with ORGALIME (the European Engineering Industries Association). Videos of all the conference sessions can be found on the following web page: www.squarestream.tv/smeconference (until end of June 2013)

The SMEST2 (SME Standardization Toolkit) project was launched in 2011 and has been implemented by a consortium including CEN and CENELEC, NORMAPME (European Office of Crafts, Trades and SMEs for Standardization), and the National Standards Bodies of Austria (ASI), Germany (DIN) and the Netherlands (NEN), supported by the European Union and EFTA, The SMEST2 project included the development of an improved ‘SME Standardization Toolkit’ intended for use by national standards organisations and business associations, containing information about more than 130 examples of good practice, as well as a series of national workshops in 20 European countries. For more information, see www.smest.eu

The 'SME Toolbox of Solutions' makes it easier for SMEs to access information about standards, and find out how they can get involved in contributing to the development of new standards. The Toolbox has been developed by CEN and CENELEC and can be found in the SME section of the CEN-CENELEC website: www.cencenelec.eu/sme/std

 

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