A significant development in Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) can no longer be postponed in the European industrial world. Although this need has been recognised for several years, recent recommendations from the European Commission have recalled the urgency of promoting new and more robust SME organisations, owing to two critical factors: the rise of enormous global markets and the emergence of a new industrial system originating from the distinctly different business culture of the Far East. Globalisation forces enterprises to maintain a recognisable impact on markets in both the Old and New Worlds, but this requires efforts sustainable only by either large enterprises or agglomerations of SMEs. On the other hand, the industrial systems of the Far East enjoy a competitive advantage based on very low wages, which can be only be counteracted by the use of newer and newer technologies, requiring investments too heavy for SMEs. These two issues have caused deep crises in several industrial sectors across Europe. A "road map" for the survival of SMEs in Europe would have to be based on an accurate analysis of the most significant causes behind the weaknesses of SMEs. Several recently published research projects concluded that SMEs must join together to create "networks." Responding to this, many "industrial districts" arose in Italy, along with "poles of competitiveness" in France, and "networks of competence" in Germany. Yet the majority of these networks suffer from a lack of real coordination: it is clear that a method for analysing the governance of the network and its collaboration efficiency is essential for assuring effective performance. A Road Map to the Development of European SME Networks: Towards Collaborative Innovation addresses this task: describing the method of analysis, allowing comparisons to be made between SME networks in different European countries, and providing information on a supporting web site.
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