Interview with Karina Veum – Launch of Online Portal Energy Efficient SME


Karina Veum is senior consultant at TNO and leader of the consortium of the EU-funded project GEAR@SME project. GEAR@SME addresses the challenges of making SMEs more energy efficient. The new Online Portal is one of the important tools developed in this project.


Congratulations – is launched this week. What is it about and who is it for?

Karina Veum: “We regard the online portal as an important means to ensure a large-scale roll-out across Europe of GEAR@SME’s unique approach. The aim of the portal is to ensure a wide uptake of the methods, tools, training and knowledge used and developed during the GEAR@SME project. The portal includes all the material gathered and developed to support collective energy projects for SMEs. It’s mainly aimed at so-called Trusted Partners. In Dutch business parks, the Trusted Partner is often the park manager. In other European countries, the role of Trusted Partner is fulfilled by different parties in different places, these include among others business associations, municipalities and other stakeholders that have vested interests in helping SMEs to become more energy efficient. We also see the portal as being interesting for SMEs themselves as well as for energy service suppliers.

What functions does the portal offer to its users?

“We have designed the portal to include four key components, namely “Explore”, “Get inspired”, “Implement” and “Interact”. Within “Explore” the portal provides the contents of a handbook that describes how to support SMEs in a cluster (a local industrial area, a business park or the SMEs in a municipality) to improve the sustainability of their businesses by taking energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. In “Get Inspired” you can find inspiring case studies on how to engage SMEs in saving energy together. In “Implement” a range of training materials and tools to support energy collective are offered. In “Interact” the opportunity to join an online community of practice for building your network and sharing knowledge is provided.

How does it differ from other portals?

The portal’s uniqueness lies in combining lessons learned through our four country case studies, training material and tools that are geared towards a collective approach combined with addressing multiple benefits. We believe that looking at benefits beyond energy and energy cost savings can help to make collective energy projects for SMEs even more attractive. Examples of multiple benefits include better working environment, better air quality, improved carbon footprint, among others.

How long will the portal be available?

Currently, the GEAR@SME consortium is developing an exploitation plan to ensure that the portal will be embedded and further developed in different countries.

How do the “communities of practice” work?

A community of practice (CoP) is in principle a group of people who share a common interest in a topic who come together to share best practices, and knowledge and engage on this topic. CoPs often focus on sharing best practices and creating new knowledge to advance a domain of professional practice. Interaction on an ongoing basis is an important part of this. Our Energy Efficient SME portal includes communities of practice in five countries – Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania. Soon, a community of practice for Sweden will come soon. In addition, there is a link to the European Commission’s own ‘European Energy Efficiency Platform‘.

What is the GEAR@SME project about?

Firstly we introduce the role of a Trusted Partner as a key player to bridge the gap between the needs of SMEs and solutions offered by energy service suppliers. Secondly, we develop a local collective approach to energy efficiency in SMEs located in close proximity to each other, such as a business or industrial park. Thirdly, we focus on additional benefits of energy efficiency beyond energy and energy cost savings in SMEs. These three ingredients are at the heart of a common methodology we have developed in GEAR@SME that is adaptable to any local situation across Europe. Our approach to support SMEs takes into account local differences, which we have tested out in four different countries – Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania. Within the project, Trusted Partners, SMEs and acceleration organizations (e.g. energy consultants and umbrella organizations) are trained to work with the method to achieve desired energy efficiency together.

Thank you for the interview!