SME Programme


At ITU Telecom World, we understand that SME and start-up success is key to ICT industry growth and socio-economic development throughout the world. That’s why we’re working to help tech SMEs and start-ups scale up their business activities and global impact – as a key part of our international platform of ICT public and private sector leaders.

SME programme

Who's it for?

Our platform provides support, visibility, investment and networking potential to tech SMEs and start-ups from around the world looking to take their solutions or products to the next level.

  • High-growth SMEs and start-ups with solutions in the market and ready to expand
  • ICT-specific products or services; or ICT-dependent business model
  • Solutions or products with real social impact
  • Focus on enablers such as broadband connectivity, IoT, AI, 5G
  • Vertical sectors including smart cities, ehealth, digital finance, connectivity solutions, edtech, sustainability and smart solutions in energy, transport, planning, food management and commerce.

SME Programme activities

SME masterclasses

SME Programme - Masterclasses and workshops
Focus on the business attributes that matter in our expert-led masterclasses providing practical and inspirational guidance on capacity-building, product development, funding and investment.
See our 2021 Masterclasses

ITU Digital World SME Awards

SME Programme - ITU Digital World Awards

Enter the SME Awards  recognizing innovative ICT-based solutions with real social impact – and gain international visibility, UN recognition, partnership, networking and mentorship opportunities.

Find out more

Pitching sessions

SME Programme - Pitching sessions

Pitching sessions showcase the best small companies competing for the ITU Telecom World SME Awards to a global audience. Our expert jury of investors, innovators and analysts select the Awards winners based on:

  • Business model
  • Social impact
  • Innovative use of ICT
  • Scalability

2021 SME online masterclasses

Monday 29 November

14:00-15:30 (CET, Geneva)
Finding the perfect connectivity product to market fit for SMEs 

One of the greatest challenges in launching a new company, or scaling-up an SME, is achieving the perfect product to market fit. This is as true in the connectivity domain as in any other industry sector.  What aspects of new space, IoT, AI/ML, 5G, DLT and the numerous other emerging technologies can be blended to achieve the perfect solutions for demanding market needs? Will the solution be technically and economically scalable? Will the product IP be defensible from the competition which success inevitably attracts? Will investors see the business as a compelling investment opportunity? These and other product-market fit questions will be discussed by the expert members of this SME Masterclass panel.



Neha Satak

Chief Executive Officer,

Charles Miller

Lynk Global Inc

Ahmed Al-Saidi

Director of Manufacturing,
Middle East Propulsion Company

Mansoor Hanif

Executive Director,
Emerging Technologies,
NEOM Technology & Digital Company

Amru Alamoudi

Satellite, Operation & Space Program,
Saudi Space Commission

Ruth Pritchard Kelly

Senior Advisor,
Regulatory & Space Policy,

Thursday 28 October

15:00-16:30 (CEST, Geneva)
Sustainable start-ups and SME-corporate collaboration 

Start-ups and SMEs have much to gain from working with corporate partners, including funding, access to markets and valuable skills transfer. Corporates also stand to win from collaborating with innovative small companies with bright ideas, fresh talent, in-depth local market knowledge and quick turnaround times. How can SMEs leverage partnership and support from larger companies seeking to engage with start-ups? What are the challenges and potential pitfalls? And how can start-ups reconcile a commitment to sustainability with the need to be profitable? This masterclass will feature real life cases and examples, including the story of how eco-friendly data cooling start-up Immersion4 successfully won corporate partners such as HPE, and will be rounded off by an open question and answer session from the online audience. 



Serge Conesa

Founder & CEO,
Immersion4 SA

Stephane Gorjux

Director ,
HPE Suisse Romande

Friday 30 July

15:00-16:30 (CEST, Geneva)
Bidding for government procurement opportunities abroad: the lowdown for SMEs

Government procurement - when government bodies purchase goods and services to meet public service responsibilities - is of considerable economic significance. It accounts for 15 - 20% of GDP on average across most economies, and offers important business opportunities for SMEs in the tech sector. This masterclass will feature international expert guests reviewing opportunities and challenges faced by SMEs in winning foreign government contracts. Discussions will include the legal framework and best practices for policies designed to promote SME participation in government procurement, practical advice and tips.

Special thanks to Reto Malacrida, Counsellor (Head of the Government Procurement and Competition Policy Group), WTO Secretariat for facilitating the discussion as the moderator.


World Trade Organization

Steven L. Schooner
Professor, George Washington University Law School
Yu Ling Mah
Director (Procurement) Governance Group, Government Technology Agency
Wayne Liko
Managing Partner of Horizant
Carlos Chiatti
Entrepreneur and researcher

Wednesday 14 July

15:00-16:30 (CEST, Geneva)
Quality customer service & innovation

The premier global organization known for excellence in customer service is the Disney Company. Dr Jim Poisant has created and run well-received seminars on the Disney Approach to Quality Service and the Disney Approach to People Management, analysing how the company has achieved this excellence. Drawing on this experience, and on his current role as Secretary General of the World Information Technology & Services Alliance, Dr Poisant explores the key role of innovation and excellent customer service in building success - and presents eight different ways to innovate.

Join us for an informal network session directly after the masterclass at


World Information Technology
and Services Alliance

Dr James H. Poisant
Secretary General, The World Information Technology and Services Alliance

Wednesday 30 June

15:00-16:00 (CEST, Geneva)
Partnering for Good in eHealth


International Trade Centre

Global tech leader HPE outlines its approach to co-innovation and cooperation with promising start-ups and scale-ups around the world, focusing on its Business Innovation Strategy in Switzerland and its Swiss Start-up Program. HPE partners with NGOs, companies and start-ups across the industry spectrum, including financial services, smart cities, Industry 4.0 and smart retail. This session presents HPE’s work in e-health and healthtech through two leading programmes: the Dengue Fever Project and the Solar Aid Project. It will explore how to achieve outcomes and create value based on concrete use cases, the key role of partnership, and how to succeed by being better together. HPE will also highlight how start-ups benefit from applying for the “Partnering for Good” part of the Swiss Start-up Program

Join us for an informal network session directly after the masterclass at

Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Iveta Lohovska
Principal Data Scientist and AI Ambassador, HPE
Anthony Palmieri
Chief Business Innovation Officer, HPE

Thursday 10 June

14:00-15:00 (CEST, Geneva)
How to design for disability inclusion


International Trade Centre

Companies which embrace inclusive designed products and services with diverse users in mind reach a more significant number of the intended audience - and outperform their peers. Globally, more than one billion people, or 15% of the world population, experience some forms of disability, representing a significant portion of untapped resources due to design exclusion. This training session explores why businesses should invest in accessibility and the potential return on having an inclusive design in mind, as well as providing practical advice on how and where to start the journey of inclusive design.


Zero Project

Laurie Henneborn
Research Managing Director, Accenture
Dafydd Henke-Reed
Senior Accessibility and Usability Consultant, AbilityNet

Wednesday 26 May

14:00-15:30 (CEST, Geneva)
Fundraising for tech start-up founders


International Trade Centre

One of the main challenges encountered by tech start-up founders is the lack of funding - whether at the ideation stage to develop a minimum viable product, or at the point when they are ready to scale and grow abroad. This 90-minute training session explores the various sources of funding founders can try to tap into, including grants, loans, business angels, venture capital, crowdfunding and more. Participants will receive practical advice on how to prepare and apply for different sources of funding and the mistakes to avoid, alongside concrete examples of good practice.


International Trade Centre

Adramé Ndione

Founder, Vertis Capital

Martin Labbé
Tech Sector Development Coordinator, ITC

The benefits

  • Valuable international exposure
  • Connect to curated audience of buyers and investors
  • Access leading academics, coaches and business mentors
  • Peer networking in InnovationSpace
  • Structured matchmaking activities
  • Share best practices, solutions and ideas
  • Expert insight and understanding of critical ICT issues
  • Gain recognition by entering the ITU Digital World Awards
  • Visibility through onsite showcases and pitching sessions
  • Invitation for your SME CEO to network in the LeaderSpace Lounge

SME success stories