All these enterprising companies are trying to find their niche in the economy and respond to needs in society. But, while they are creative and dynamic, their size is such that their market influence is very small. Equally SME capabilities for developing new products are inevitably restricted. In the same way, even earlier in the chain of knowledge and innovation, their access to expertise, finance and markets is similarly circumscribed. However, the brightest ideas come from small and medium-sized companies.
Moreover, different policies are necessary to support the crucial front runners that have the creative ideas and equally important late adapters that take such ideas and help society arrive at its goals. The front runners have already shown their willingness and readiness to think ahead of environmental legislation. They help policymakers formulate new policies, whereas the late adapters need to be brought in to adapt existing knowledge. So we need them all.
The Bilbao Forum is intended first of all to get entrepreneurs themselves to speak about their specific needs and the barriers to their development. These will be examined against the background of what governments and other organisations are already doing to support SMEs in the eco-innovation sector.
Concrete examples will be presented of best experiences and best practices of how SMEs can respond to develop their niche in the economy. The intention is to elaborate recommendations for more effective government policies at the regional, national and European level. Participants will include a number of specific SMEs together with policymakers, finance institutions, research institutions and relevant non-governmental organisations.