HRH The Grand Duchess of Lithuania is Guest of Honour at the 2015 SME Assembly in Luxembourg

We were honoured by the presence of HRH The Grand Duchess of Lithuania at the 2015 SME Assembly (Luxembourg on 18-20 November), which was managed by Low Associates. 

Following the tremendous success over four years, the 2015 SME Assembly was yet again the most important event for SME policy taking place in Europe this year. The Grand Duchess attended the opening session when she was able to listen to keynote speeches from EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska and Luxembourg State Secretary Francine Closener; and then she took part in a fascinating panel discussion about women entrepreneurship, moderated by our Associate Penny Hunt. 

For the very first time, the Assembly hosted the final selection of ten entrepreneurs who will have the honour of presenting their world-changing ideas at TEDx Binnenhof 2016 in The Hague. 

The SME Assembly was also the focus of the European SME Week, for which Low Associates are also the contractor. As with previous years, the European Enterprise Promotion Awards Ceremony was a key feature of the Assembly. The grand Jury prize was won by Lisboa Empreende/Lisbon Micro-Entrepreneurship, is a programme that works to support responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship - from helping to develop business plans to advising on how best to obtain funding. 

The SME Assembly brought together over 700 SMEs, business organisations, European, national and regional government, academia and the media. The delegates took part in a wide range of interactive and expert-led sessions on issues as diverse as digital skills and crowdfunding through to the circular economy and Single Market strategy. 

Once again Low Associates was proud to be the organising contractor for an event that has become the 'must attend' conference for all those interested in growth through enterprise.

Closing the Loop - Circular Economy: boosting business, reducing waste

The Circular Economy involves re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products.  What we now think of as ‘waste’ can in fact be turned into a valuable resource. 

Dame Ellen Macarthur spoke eloquently of the potential benefits for the European economy (€1.8 trillion by 2030), and to the sustainability of the planet (a halving of C02 emissions by 2030); quoting new research published by her foundation and McKinsey.

The tricky bit of course (and this was the main reason for the event) is how to close the loop and, as far as the EC is concerned, how to devise the rules that will underpin the new economy, not least on how to treat waste. The debates were intense, at times combative but always constructive. A clear warning emerged from the wider small business community; don’t frame this new economy with only big business in mind. It is now down to the EC to deliver, which it will do this September.

If you would like to know more, you can watch the entire event here.

"It might never happen”

LA/INTEREL BREXIT BREAKFAST BRIEFING

The UK General Election result raises plenty of questions for any company doing business in Europe today: What deal will the UK seek? What will other EU countries accept? How important is timing to the final result?

On Wednesday 3 June 2015, Low Associates and Interel brought together Andrew Lansley CBE, former UK Secretary of State for Health, and Richard Corbett MEP, former adviser to EU President, Herman von Rompuy to answer these questions from either side of the political fence.

Andrew Lansley, speaking in his personal capacity, suggested that the UK government would be aiming for a referendum in September 2016. This timing would allow for a reasonable deal to be struck with other EU member states and avoid the issue of Europe dominating Cameron's mandate.

Achieving a deal that would fly with British voters and the other member states was of course essential to Britain remaining in the EU. The UK government’s red lines on migrant benefits, or a red card for national parliaments would need to be seen to be met; and the deal would also need to be, at least in part, good for the rest of Europe (with more single market; more growth orientated policies).

But although a deal is necessary, and in his view, achievable, it would not form the substance of the campaign. The campaign would be about competing visions of Britain’s future and it was imperative that a large rump of the Conservative party fall in behind the PM in order to secure a Yes vote. Businesses would play a key role, not least in funding the Yes campaign. If Britain wants to continue to trade with the rest of Europe, it needs to remain in the EU.

Richard Corbett agreed with Andrew’s assessment of the challenges ahead but warned that achieving a deal on migrants would be extremely difficult given the position of other EU member states; and that any serious attack on the social chapter would see the unions and part of the Labour party joining the No campaign. 

He urged Mr Cameron to jump on the current reform bandwagon which would allow him to return from his negotiations with an even larger bag of goodies. He said that the Yes campaign would have to be a constellation of distinctive voices, with all parts of society playing a role; taking voters on a journey rather than telling them how to vote.