MINISTERS AND REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF1 Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam, participating in the Bologna Conference:

RECOGNISING the increasing importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in economic growth, job creation, regional and local development, and social cohesion, also through the role played by women and young entrepreneurs;

RECOGNISING that entrepreneurship and a dynamic SME sector are important for restructuring economies and for combating poverty;

RECOGNISING that globalisation, the acceleration of technological change and innovation create opportunities for SMEs but also involve transition costs and new challenges and that globalisation should lead to higher living standards for all and that its benefits should be accessible to all on an equitable basis;

RECOGNISING that SME policies need to be tailored to the circumstances and priorities of individual countries and sectors, while contributing to sustainable development and social progress;

WELCOMED the work on SMEs by the OECD and other international institutions and encouraged continued multilateral exchange of experience and best practice policies with a view to strengthening partnership and co-operation among SMEs in OECD and non-OECD countries. In this perspective, this first Conference of Ministers responsible for SMEs and Industry Ministers, jointly organised by the OECD and Italy, is a major opportunity to identify public and private sector actions to help SMEs develop their local strengths while capturing the benefits of globalisation and trade liberalisation.

ACKNOWLEDGED that SME competitiveness would benefit from:

RECOGNISING the vital contribution of innovation to SME competitiveness, the central role played by SMEs in national innovation systems, and the importance of improved access to information, financing and networking in facilitating the innovation process, RECOMMENDED that in developing SME policies, the following be considered:

RECOGNISING that, in a number of countries, clusters2 and networking can stimulate innovative and competitive SMEs, RECOMMENDED that in developing SME policies, the following be considered:

RECOGNISING that electronic commerce creates opportunities and challenges for SMEs, RECOMMENDED that in developing SME policies, the following be considered:

With regard to enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs in transition economies and developing countries in the global economy and their partnership with SMEs of OECD countries, RECOMMENDED that in developing SME policies, the following be considered:


Ministers and Representatives of governments of countries participating in the Bologna Conference:

AGREED to work together and within international organisations to improve the complementarity of bilateral and multilateral initiatives to foster global SME partnerships and enhance the availability of financial and non-financial instruments to promote SME development;

AGREED on the usefulness of benchmarking the effectiveness of SME policies, regulatory environment and performance, based on data and statistics collected at national and sub-national level, including on electronic commerce;

TOOK NOTE, with interest, of the Italian proposal for an International Network for SMEs (INSME) and the Italian initiative to promote it. They WELCOMED Italy's offer to carry out a feasibility study, including a need assessment, to define its possible design and development, which could also benefit from support by interested countries and private sector inputs. Ministers and the OECD will be kept informed on the results of the feasibility study [see the Conference document entitled: Italian Proposal for an "International Network for SMEs (INSME)"];

AGREED on the importance of building on the achievements of the Bologna Conference and of pursuing the policy dialogue among OECD Member and non-member countries, and LOOKED FORWARD to the possibility of holding a second Conference of Ministers responsible for SMEs and Industry Ministers to assess the impact on SMEs of new developments relating to globalisation.

1     Including the European Community.

2     Clusters can be characterised as production networks of strongly interdependent firms (including specialised suppliers) linked to each other in value-adding production chain. In some cases, clusters also encompass alliances with universities, research institutes, knowledge-intensive business services, bridging institutions (brokers, consultants) and customers. [OECD (1999), Boosting Innovation: The Cluster Approach].