IFM annual conference: Partners from 15 countries plan further transnational cooperation and EU-Projects

From the 30th of June to the 1st of July, the members and partners of the IFM Institut für den Mittelstand (institute for small- and medium-sized enterprises) held their annual conference in Northern-Italian Pozzolengo. There they unanimously elected the German economist Dr. Dirk Ahner as their new president. Dr. Ahner is the former General Director of the GD Regio of the EU and representative for the IFM in Belgium. In SMEs he sees a Cross-European potential for growth and job development. “Currently there are only few businesses drawing on consultancies that offer them perspectives across national borders. Some are not aware of the possibilities while others might be scared to take their business abroad. The network of IFM sets up at this point and helps entrepreneurs to use their chances”, said Dr. Ahner.”

The conference’s main topic was the further development of the IFM network. The institute has got partners in 15 European countries, all of them and their more than 700 employers confessing supporters of SMEs. Among them are consultants for M&A transactions, lawyers, auditors and tax consultants, management and personnel consultants, insolvency consultants as well as IT specialists. They also focus in consultancy in public subsidies and restructuring. Apart from that, the institute is in touch with different universities. The accumulation of expert knowledge guarantees an extensive consultation for the clients in cross-border cooperation.

A close cooperation with the EU is aimed for. Just recently, the IFM submitted a proposal to the tendering of COSME, an EU-programme to further the competitiveness of SMEs. The proposal has got the title SCEnDiSS (Service Center for Enterprises in Distress and Second Starters) and is conceived to support SMEs in difficulties such as insolvency and second chance situations.

An important element of the project is to build up a database of initially 3000 companies in connection with an early warning system. This ensures assistance can be given in time. For the future, the institute plans the development of further EU-Projects as well as to support IFM-partners and their clients to realize their own EU-Projects.

A cross-European network between regions and institutions was indispensable, said Mauro Parolini. The councillor of Lombardy region gave a guest speech on the economic position and business situation of medium-sized enterprises in the Lombardy. The Northern-Italian region is among the richest and economically strongest European regions. Their success derives from an intense bond between companies on two different levels: One is the collaboration between enterprises of different sizes within the same line of business, the other is the cooperation between same-sized enterprises from different lines of business. “Another measure of ours to strengthen the market is to improve the communication between entrepreneurs and the public administration”, reported Parolini. At the same time, he is sure that this would be one of the biggest challenges to face within the next five to ten years. “The communication between companies and administration has to be as easy, clear and certain as possible to keep the Lombardy attractive.”

Additionally, the councillor considers the cooperation with other regions to be very important. The Lombardy maintains multilateral relations with Catalonia, Baden-Württemberg and Rhône-Alpes. This partnership was established in 1988 with the title “Four motors for Europe”. “There is no future for Europe but a transnational one”, said Parolini. Due to his opinion, the IFM is on the right way to offer a long-term support for SMEs all over Europe.

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