The global economy has begun to recover from the succession of recent shocks, including COVID-19, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and also other geopolitical tensions. As the international community continues to reflect on and adapt its policy responses to address the immediate impacts of these shocks, governments also need to consider the longer-term policy challenges. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs have been on the front-line of these developments and many countries provided significant policy support to shield them from the shocks. Now, building resilience to future crises and harnessing their potential to contribute to major economic, environmental, and societal transitions, will require more targeted efforts.

Governments have been engaged across multiple fronts to enable SMEs and entrepreneurs navigate this complex and evolving environment. This includes efforts to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of global value chains (GVCs) and increase the capacity of SMEs and entrepreneurs to integrate, partner and build stronger linkages with multinationals, as well as by closing gender gaps in exporting through targeted programmes. They have also continued supporting SME integration into (global) knowledge and innovation networks and deployed efforts to respond to rapidly changing skills demands.

As governments revert back to more prudent fiscal policies and phase out blanket temporary support for SMEs and entrepreneurs, they will need to ramp up their support to increase SMEs access to technology, data, finance, and skills. Business networks are an often under-utilised vehicle to help SMEs access key resources and to scale-up their businesses, as they contribute to knowledge spillovers and generate external economies of scale. SMEs and entrepreneurs still have limited participation in GVCs due to their lack of access to business networks. And the simultaneous disruptions and shifts now occurring across a multitude of both production and innovation networks may reduce their chances to develop, integrate and evolve across different networks.

The 2023 edition of the SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook provides new evidence and analysis on the structure and performance of the SME and Entrepreneurship (SME&E) sector and developments in business conditions to help inform policy responses. It also takes a deep dive into ongoing or possible disruptions and reconfigurations of different SME&E networks, during and post-COVID, and the role governments can play, and are playing, to improve SME&E access to production, knowledge and innovation networks for driving the recovery and adapting to major transitions.

This SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook will support the 2023 Meeting of the Committee on SMEs and Entrepreneurship (CSMEE) at Ministerial Level, where it is being launched. This publication, alongside the OECD Recommendation on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy, the Recommendation on SME Financing and the OECD Data Lake on SME and Entrepreneurship Policies, is part of the OECD’s efforts to monitor SME&E business conditions and performance, and support governments in ensuring that their SME and Entrepreneurship policies help them prepare for future changes in their business environment.


Mathias Cormann

OECD Secretary-General

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