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The overall project's objective is to enhance the competitiveness of rural SMEs through the promotion of the uptake and integration of modern ICT tools in daily business routines. Throughout Europe, a digital gap exists between urban agglomerations and the periphery as broadband access is only slowly becoming available in the latter. This has resulted in a significant backlog in the digital activities of small companies active in rural areas, jeopardizing their competitiveness and therefore crucially needed work places in areas often affected by demographic change. Today’s programmes to promote small businesses’ ICT uptake are often unable to overcome this digital gap as they are designed on regional or national levels, not matching the specific needs of rural areas’ SMEs. SKILLS+ therefore aims to optimize these policy instruments by either giving more priority to the specific needs in rural areas or by proposing complimentary measures to increase the share of available funding spent to the benefit of rural areas.

Elaboration of territorial action plans are the main outputs of SKILLS+. The plans will be prepared on the basis of an interregional learning process comprising capacity building seminars and peer reviews of all addressed territories in order to identify good practices and efficient policy approaches that will lead to the increase of the competitiveness of SMEs in rural areas.

The policy instrument addressed by the project in Bulgaria is the policy implemented through Operational programme "Innovations and Competitiveness" Priority Axis 2: Entrepreneurship and Capacity for growth of SMEs. BCCI and the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency as responsible body organisation will work in partnership for the elaboration of the action plan that will lead to improvement of the measures laid down in the target policy instrument.