On the 9th of October, the final event of the GROW International project took place in the Parque Tecnológico de Andalucía, Malaga, organised by IASP – International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation. The event had the participation of over 30 people in person in addition to 47 people from 10 countries logging in remotely to view the event being livestreamed online.
The Conference saw the wrap-up of this two-year long project, which started on the 1st of October 2013 and was funded with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union. GROW International’s training course encouraged and supported internationalisation processes among innovative Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and New Technology Based Firms (NTBFs). This objective stemmed from the reality that more than 99% of all European businesses are SMEs, constituting the core of the European economy, but at the same time being over reliant on domestic markets. Thus GROW International aimed at helping to develop the skills needed to address their internationalisation needs.
After IASP Director General Luis Sanz’s opening and introduction on the value of thinking globally, Roberto Santolamazza (T2i) gave a very visual presentation on the importance of innovation within the internationalisation process. One of the key points he made was the concern a business must have with the cultural and local background their products are going to be used in. The second session, regarding the development of new skills, saw Manual Arias Maldonado, professor at the University of Malaga, giving an interesting talk on the role of universities in promoting internationalisation through factors such as creating a network that goes beyond the national level, encouraging exchange programs among researchers, teachers and students and thus creating a global elite. The lesson is that businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones, have much to gain from a closer cooperation with universities. It was then the turn of Professor Mario Raposo, who concluded the session discussing tools to encourage knowledge transfer. It was followed by a small coffee break which constituted a good occasion for the professionals to network.
The second part opened with a presentation from Ewa Kopczynska (UBI) giving an overview on the GROW International project and assessing its impact and accomplishments. The general evaluation is positive: it has been relatively successful, though shortfalls in Southern Europe should be noted. This was to some extent predictable when considering the objective conditions of the region, but maybe it is also exactly why further efforts in internationalisations of SMEs in Europe should take this element in consideration to develop solutions that focus precisely on how to encourage internationalisation in the more rural and less developed areas.
An interesting feature of the conference was a round table on SMEs becoming international with the personal insights of four different companies based in Malaga that have already developed their businesses to an international level: Miguel Vazquez from DHV Technology, Vincente Padilla Guillamon from Aertec Solutions, Antonio de las Nieves from Yerbabuena Software and Alfonso Rodriguez from Altra Corporación Empresarial shared their experiences. All the speakers underlined the importance of taking into account differences in cultural interaction and business mentality whenever operating internationally.
Finally, Daniela Marta (from Parkurbis, project leaders) hoped for further future collaborations in the conference closing speech. The participants seemed satisfied and gave good feedback on the conference, underlining the quality of the speakers, the useful examples provided and the fresh points of view on the issue that emerged at times. The material resulting from the project will still be available online for consultation.
The resulting video from the livestreaming will also be available for viewing on the IASP YouTube Channel IASPvisuals.