Internationalisation of European SMEs. Final Report

Internationalisation is vital for SMEs to prosper in an increasingly competitive world and could contribute to sustaining employment, according to a recent study. The survey maps the level of internationalisation of European SMEs, identifies the main barriers and advantages of internationalisation and proposes policy recommendations.

The European Commission-funded study, ‘Internationalisation of European SMEs’, was carried out in 2009 and analyses all modes of internationalisation, namely direct exports, direct imports, foreign direct investment, subcontracting and international technical co-operation.

The study finds that there is a direct link between internationalisation and increased SME performance: international activities reinforce growth, enhance competitiveness and support the long-term sustainability of companies. Consequently, two main points highlighted by the study are: there are economic welfare gains from increasing the number of internationally active SMEs, and public support should play an important role in promoting greater internationalisation.

One important finding of the study is that a quarter of SMEs in the EU export or have exported at some point during the last three years. However, international activities are mostly geared towards other countries inside the Union’s single market and only about 13% of EU SMEs are active in markets outside the EU. Nonetheless, European SMEs are more internationally active than their US and Japanese counterparts.



EIM Business & Policy Research (Ed.): Internationalisation of European SMEs. Final Report, Zoetermeer 2010.



Publication Year



Published by
Entrepreneurship Unit
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry
European Commission
B-1049 Brussels

Geographical focus
  • Europe
  • European Union (EU 27)
  • International; Other
  • SEE
  • Western Balkans
Related organisations

Entry created by Katarina Rohsmann on September 16, 2010
Modified on September 16, 2010