Supporting SMEs to Become Leaders in Sustainable Digitalisation

It is clear: digitalisation is in full swing and governments need to take bold action to shape this transformation to the benefit not only of the economy but also the environment and society as a whole. With its Digital Strategy, the German federal government has put together measures to ensure that digitalisation and innovation work as enablers for the kind of economic growth that is attentive to these needs and expectations.

As the backbone of the German economy and with strong ties to local communities, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), constitute a key stakeholder in the digital transformation. To support them, the German Ministry of Economics has initiated a large programme called the Mittelstand Digital, with 26 Competence Centres for Digitalisation spread all over Germany. The centres support SMEs with hands-on knowledge and expertise in transforming their business models, digitalising their value chains, and integrating new technologies into their operations. The initiative has been a success and has reached over 200.000 SME representatives of through projects, trainings, and conferences since 2015.

Since 2017, the CSCP co-leads the Competence Centre eStandards, operating Germany-wide as the first and only of the 26 centres with a strong focus on sustainable digitalisation. In line with major European frameworks such as the EU Green Deal, the Ministry of Economy has recognised the opportunity and the necessity to integrate sustainability into the entire initiative and strengthen its positioning among the 25 other competence centres.

Enhancing the digital transformation of the German economy without fully considering adverse ecological and social effects or without harvesting the potential that new technologies can have to create a sustainable economy would have been a missed chance. The Ministry of Economy has taken action by initiating a horizontal working group within the Mittelstand Digital initiative, whose work will be to ensure that sustainability becomes an integral part of all competence centres. Most importantly, the CSCP-led working group will support the competence centres to make sustainable digitalisation a priority for the SMEs they work with.

As a first step, the CSCP will give train-the-trainer workshops on sustainable digitalisation to support the competence centres build the necessary capacities. Throughout 2021 and 2022, the CSCP will focus on passing on its knowledge and methodologies on topics such as building circular economy business models with the use of innovative technologies, using artificial intelligence to ensure sustainable values chains or shaping a sustainable digitalised work environment.

“Different competence centres have a focus on different technologies, such as augmented reality, industry 4.0, artificial intelligence or blockchain technology. Bringing together these different partners with their unique and highly specialised expertise allows us to understand how we can use digitalisation to create more sustainable business models and value chains. It’s a strong message from the Ministry of Economics to integrate sustainability into the federal digitalisation strategy and will take us a step closer to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and the EU Green Deal” says Thomas Wagner, Project Manager for the Competence Centre and coordinator of the working group.

Are you an SME who is looking to tap into digitalisation as a means toward becoming more resilient? There are many ways the Competence Centre eStandards can support you in building the right skills for that. Detailed information is made available in numerous guides, brochures and checklists. You can also experience the concrete benefits of eStandards for your digitalisation project using our demonstrators on site or virtually in our experience and training centres. Through telephone consultations, focus groups and practical forums, we inform and inspire you to lead successful digitalisation processes. As part of our capacity building, the centre offers online seminars, workshops and training courses, where you can clarify your individual questions in an exchange with the speakers.

For the whole offering, check out the Competence Centre eStandards website and get in touch with Thomas Wagner!