Early Warning programmes – a new way to support small & medium-sized enterprises

The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the lack of innovative tools to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) confront crises. In Europe, experts are signalling that a new wave of bankruptcies is approaching. However, even before the pandemic, every year more than 200,000 European Union (EU) businesses go bankrupt, states the European Commission (2016). Yet, innovative Early Warning systems can play a central role in helping SMEs overcome crises before they even begin.

"Early Warning programme aims to help companies, which are facing difficulties, not only to inform about the impending crisis but also to provide them with targeted information on possible help/advice from experienced professionals. The experience of other EU countries shows that professional advice given at the right time helps businesses to avoid major crises. It also encourages companies to look for opportunities to direct their business to other markets and thus maintain further business growth," Inga Juozapaviciene, director of the Entrepreneurship department of a non-profit agency "Enterprise Lithuania", contributing to the development and implementation of a possible model for the Early Warning System in Lithuania, states. 

Early Warning Program in the Baltic Sea Region

Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is home to some of the most innovative EU member states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany. The data from "Creditreform" shows that despite a decrease of bankruptcies in many of the BSR countries in 2015-2016, the number of bankruptcies is still well above the pre-crisis levels in all BSR countries, except for Germany. Indeed, the number of bankruptcies has been increasing in Denmark and Lithuania (Creditreform 2017).

In response to this issue, the „Interreg Baltic Sea Region“ project "Restart small and medium-sized enterprises in the Baltic Sea Region" ("Restart BSR"), coordinated by "Lower Silesian Intermediate Body", Poland, is addressing the need to develop early warning programs for SMEs.

"The "Restart BSR" project addresses not only the importance of helping companies during the crisis. It also highlights the need to develop tools to motivate owners of the companies, which are facing a business crisis or going bankrupt to identify operational difficulties, seek help and start other activities," Vilma Puriene, director of the Knowledge and Technology Transfer Centre of Vilnius Gediminas technical university (VILNIUS TECH), says. VILNIUS TECH is one of the "Restart BSR" project partners.

"A project consortium representing partners from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark and Estonia, using the "Design Thinking" methodology, is developing action and tool maps to promote non-technological innovation for companies in stagnation or on the verge of bankruptcy to recover. National maps of support and mentoring actions and tools are being developed to focus on guidance and capacity building, and support for business owners in difficulty," Vilma Puriene states. 

V. Puriene also highlights that, "the aim is to help the owner of a business in difficulty to re-start or restructure its business and to avoid bankruptcy, job losses and, in the long term, to enter a new path of growth and job creation".

Besides, according to V. Puriene, "the "Restart BSR" project also focuses on the policy dimension by involving innovation actors, enterprises, stakeholders and public authorities at all government levels in transnational policy dialogue and policy development".

The need for an Early warning program in Lithuania and Europe

The "Restart BSR" project correlates with Lithuanian, and the European Union need to develop Early Warning programmes and apply it in the member states.

A non-profit agency "Enterprise Lithuania", on behalf of the Ministry of Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania, in 2020 has presented alternatives for the implementation of the Early Warning System in Lithuania.

The implementation of the Early Warning System in Lithuania is also necessary due to the forthcoming implementation of Directive (EU) 2019/1023. One of the essential elements of this directive is the establishment of Early Warning systems within the EU countries by July 17, 2021.

Several European countries, including Germany ("Team U"), Denmark ("Early Warning Denmark"), Sweden ("Företagsjouren") and Poland ("Early Warning Poland"), have already launched crisis management programmes. Evidence shows that these programmes are not only helping society avoid the many negative consequences of bankruptcies, but they are also a cost-effective exercise in terms of lost taxes and saved unemployment payments.

V. Puriene also highlights the importance of BSR innovation performance. "Restart BSR" project aims to improve the innovation performance of the Baltic Sea Region countries. The use of innovation will provide better growth and job prospects in the region and increase the region's global competitiveness."


The "Restart BSR" project is part of the European Regional Development Fund program "Interreg Baltic Sea Region". Project coordinator – Lower Silesian Intermediate Body, Poland. Project partners – Design School Kolding, Denmark; Harju County Entrepreneurship and Development Consultancy, Estonia; Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Lithuania; Latvian Technological Center Foundation, Latvia and Ministry of Economics of Republic of Latvia.

Supporting partners

  • Restart Svendborg
  • Ministry of Agriculture Lithuania
  • Bundesministerium fur Wirtschaft und Energie
  • Dolny Śląsk
  • Fundacja Firmy Rodzinne
  • Nacionalines Pletros Institutas
  • Team Restart