The aim of PR1 was to analyze the needs of SMEs to support the development of a targeted and efficient learning programme. The activities of PR1 included desk and field research, which was conducted between March and September 2022.
During the desk research the participated partners collected information regarding 23 academic and vocational learning programs on digital business, digital marketing, and e-commerce. Moreover, they located 53 key knowledge, skills, competencies related to SMEs’ digital internationalization. Such skills fall under 5 main categories, namely: Strategy and Management, Digital Literacy, Operations & Automation of Organizational Processes, Marketing and Digital Marketing, and Soft Skills.
Then, an in-depth analysis of skills gaps in SMEs’ workers was made during the field research. The participated partners conducted focus groups in Slovenia, Greece, Poland, Italy, and Spain with SMEs representatives (owners and executives), trainers, consultants, and researchers. The field research confirmed most of the results of the desk research, regarding skills categories and specific skills needed under each category.
Based on the answers of the focus group participants, most SMEs do not have a clear strategy for internationalization. They are aware of the existing digital tools but cannot decide which ones are the right for them, based on their size, financial capability, and aims. COVID-19 forced most SMEs to go digital, but this was a survival tactic not something that derived from analysis. Lack of human and financial resources is common among the participating SMEs. Most SMEs have used some form of national subsidy to create e-shops, invest on equipment, or network at foreign level, but are not aware of all the opportunities available at EU level. Finally, most of the participating SMEs give emphasis on transversal (soft) skills and their combination with digital literacy for results.
Based on the results of both desk and field research, a set of thematic areas to be covered by the IDEA syllabus was proposed and discussed among the IDEA partners. The partners concluded in two key modules for the learning program: Strategy and Digital Tools, and the following eight units that will cover all the necessary aspects that SMEs need for internationalization through digitalization: Market Strategy, Business Model Innovation for Internationalization, Financing and EU Opportunities, Networking Strategy for Internationalization, Market Analysis, Communication and Cross-cultural Issues, Marketing, and Logistics.