Recently, I have been conducting research interviews concerning the value of business support. One interview was with a group in the West Midlands who provided business support to a large number of clients with advice and financial support available to growing small firms in their region. They were re-bidding to develop the project further. The money was coming from the EU programmes.
I've been asked to comment on the implications of 'Brexit' for business support. In truth i don't believe that the implications for business support is the most central to the decision to stay or leave the EU. Nonetheless I think there are three points that might be made:
- The EU policies are strongly in support of supporting small businesses. The The Competitiveness of SMEs (COSME) is the EU programme specifically dedicated to improving competitiveness and SMEs, with a total budget of € 2.3 billion over 2014-2020 - a lot of resources albeit over a wider area (source: Directorate- General for Enterprise and Industry Annual Activity Report 2014).
- There is a drive towards better evaluation of these programmes too, although programme deliverers always argue that the cost of the evaluation takes away from the ‘good work’ that they are accomplishing
- On the other hand, some talk that the US SBIR programme that top-slices money from the federal innovation budget for SMEs could be difficult to implement in the UK it because of its anti-competitiveness. But if we still want to access the EU market after brevet - and everyone agrees with that then we will still have to abide by the rules.
In summary the reasons why brexit might be harmful to business support is that the EU finances a great deal of business support; and the reasons why it might be beneficial is the familiar argument surrounding what would and would not be possible.