Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 90% of all businesses in the EU. The definition of an SME is important for access to finance and EU support programmes targeted specifically at these companies.

What is an SME?

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined in the EU recommendation 2003/361.

The main factors determining whether a company is an SME are:

  • Number of Employees and
  • either Turnover or Balance Sheet Total.


Company category




Balance sheet total


< 250

≤ € 50 m

≤ € 43 m


< 50

≤ € 10 m

≤ € 10 m


< 10

≤ € 2 m

≤ € 2 m


These ceilings apply to the figures for individual firms only. A firm that is part of larger group may need to include employee/turnover/balance sheet data from that group too.


What help can SMEs get?

There are 2 broad types of potential benefit for a company if it meets the criteria:

  • Eligibility for support under many EU business-support programmes targeted specifically at SMEs: research funding, competitiveness and innovation funding and similar national support programmes that could otherwise be banned as unfair government support ("state aid" see block exemption regulation).
  • Fewer requirements or Reduced fees for EU administrative compliance.


Monitoring of the implementation of the SME definition

The Commission regularly monitors the implementation of the SME definition. An independent study carried out in 2012 concluded that there is no need for a major revision of the SME Definition.The study recommended to clarify the application of certain rules within the existing Recommendation by providing guidance or by updating the current SME Definition User Guide.

The evaluation of the user guide was carried out in 2013-2014. The user guide will be revised on the basis of the final report of the evaluation and is currently available in English. All other EU languages will follow towards October 2015.



The Project offers to micro-SMEs

  • Current situation in the field of family management and business practices.
  • A curriculum and training material that follows a case study approach through which, successors can learn via handy examples, concepts and business practices.
  • A portable self-assessment service through Android based mobile application which facilitates successful business transfer and exchange of best practices between micro-SMEs. 
  • Testing phase and results with 150 micro-SMEs in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey.