About this Report: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form a central part of the economy. Around 95 percent of all European companies are SMEs. In Austria, this group even accounts for 99 percent of all enterprises according to the criteria defined by the EU. Although the relationship between SMEs and standardization sometimes seems to be ambivalent, standards are of special significance for SMEs and, moreover, SMEs play an important role in standardization.
Standards provide reassurance to SMEs: Those who orientate to standards and comply with standards can be sure that their products or services live up to the state of the art and, thus, are "marketable".
Standards offer reliable know-how for SMEs: Those who apply standards rely on sound and well-accepted expertise, are aware of the requirements to be met by their products and services and can prove their reliability and safety by means of standardized testing methods.
Standards facilitate market access for SMEs: They ensure fair competition through harmonized specifications — for big and small players alike.
Various actions have been taken at the European and Austrian level to make it easier for SMEs to access standards and take part in the development of standards. In its current SME Report 2018, Austrian Standards gives an overview of the status quo and highlights areas in which improvements were achieved.
In recent years, Austrian Standards has developed numerous services that facilitate access to standards and participation in the development of standards especially for SMEs. Up-to-date information on them is available in the section dedicated to small & medium-sized enterprises on Austrian Standards' website at: www.austrian-standards.at/sme
Up-to-date information on ongoing standardization projects is particularly important for SMEs. In addition to a complete overview of all projects - in the "National Work Programme" -, Austrian Standards has separately listed those standardization projects that are especially relevant for small and medium-sized enterprises since 2015. This list also includes ÖNORM and ONR drafts that are currently open for comments.
A little more than half of all the companies and organizations - 50.4% to be exact - which nominate participants for committees and working groups of Austrian Standards are SMEs. They account for 62.6% of the economic stakeholder group. The percentage of SMEs in this group did not change while the total number of participants increased in 2019 in comparison with 2018.
Draft ÖNORM documents have been made accessible - already for several years - at the Draft Standards Portal of Austrian Standards during the public enquiry period for free. There it is also possible to send comments and remarks directly to the competent committee.
Hence, SMEs benefit from a particularly inexpensive possibility to contribute to the development of standards and, at the same time, can get information on forthcoming changes of the standards that are important for them.
The Austrian Standards Webshop also offers information on the contents of standards. In addition to an abstract for each ÖNORM, there is also a free preview of the first pages of ÖNORM standards. SMEs can access the cover, table of contents, foreword and scope to get more details on the contents of standards.
Apart from its Webshop, Austrian Standards provides further opportunities to get information on ÖNORM standards:
The industry solution meinNormenPaket is a special service that Austrian Standards offers for SMEs. In the past few years, professional organizations signed special co-operation agreements with Austrian Standards for their members. These agreements ensure that, in particular, SMEs get easy and especially inexpensive access to all the ÖNORM documents that are relevant for them – including free updates.
Other measures making it easier for SMEs to use standards and to take part in the development of standards: At the end of 2016, Austrian Standards put together a special start-up package. It includes:
In 2017, Austrian Standards also signed co-operation agreements with three leading Austrian start-up network partners, i.e. with:
The "Austrian Dialogue Forum on Construction – working together for clear and simple rules for building" is particularly important for SMEs active in construction. The Forum was set up by Austrian Standards in co-operation with the Federal Construction Trade Organization in 2015.
After the completion of the first phase in May 2017, the Committee for Construction Rules was set up under the Presidential Council of Austrian Standards International in 2018 to take over from the Forum's Steering Committee. Its objectives are to cover the issues faced by the diverse areas of the construction sector, to discuss strategic aspects of topical subjects, to contribute to improvements and thereby ensure long-term success.
Another milestone of 2019 was the second Annual Conference on Construction Law and Building Standards. Around 160 experts from the construction industry, law, architecture, consulting engineers and scientists as well as representatives of federal, regional and local government benefited from this opportunity to discuss the most burning issues of building practice.
More information on the Austrian Dialogue Forum on Construction is available at: www.dialogforumbau.at (in German only)
The Regulation on European standardisation - Regulation (EU) No. 1025/2012 (PDF, 871 kB) - requires in Chapter II, Article 6 (3) that national standardization organizations publish a report on their activities according to paragraphs 1 and 2 as well as all other measures to improve conditions for SMEs to use standards and to participate in the standards development process.
In Article 6 "Access of SMEs to standards", the EU Regulation states:
1. National standardisation bodies shall encourage and facilitate the access of SMEs to standards and standards development processes in order to reach a higher level of participation in the standardisation system, for instance by:
(a) identifying, in their annual work programmes, the standardisation projects, which are of particular interests to SMEs;
(b) giving access to standardisation activities without obliging SMEs to become a member of a national standardisation body;
(c) providing free access or special rates to participate in standardisation activities;
(d) providing free access to draft standards;
(e) making available free of charge on their website abstracts of standards;
(f) applying special rates for the provision of standards or providing bundles of standards at a reduced price.
2. National standardisation bodies shall exchange best practices aiming to enhance the participation of SMEs in standardisation activities and to increase and facilitate the use of standards by SMEs.