The last seven or so years have been tough for Europe's small to medium-sized businesses(SMEs). In the midst of one of the worst financial crises in living memory, many European SMEs were forced to close, reduce staff numbers and drastically cut costs just to survive.
SMEs are crucial to the European economy. At the beginning of 2014, 99.9 percent of the U.K's 5.2 million private businesses were SMEs, according to the country's Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
In the European Union, "some 21.6 million SMEs in the non-financial business sector employed 88.8 million people and generated €3.6 trillion in value added," according to the European Commission's Annual Report on European SMEs for 2013/14.
So when SMEs suffer, so does the European economy.
For Tom Thackray, Head of Enterprise at the U.K. business lobby the Confederation of British Industry, it is because SMEs are so important that their growth needs to be strongly encouraged.
"If you look at the scale of SMEs, then they're obviously going to be critical to the growth of any economy, whether that's the national [U.K.] economy or the European one – the majority of businesses are small businesses," he told CNBC.com in a phone interview. Thackray went on to say that, "The capacity of them to grow and deliver jobs is absolutely critical."
For Thackray, start-ups have been crucial to the U.K. over the last few years. "If you look at the… business make up since the financial crisis… one of the reasons we've managed to keep employment at a pretty good level is that there's been a massive rise in start-up businesses."