Introduction. Currently, the small and medium enterprises sector is a factor of sustainable development, with a significant contribution to GDP creation and providing jobs in most economies. Economic strategies and policies in the European Union, USA and Japan lay major emphasis on encouraging entrepreneurship and the development of the small and medium enterprises sector as a balancing factor at micro- and macroeconomic level.
Aim of the study. The paper approaches important issues on the small and medium enterprises sector as a vector of economic development in the contemporary period. It presents the SMEs delimitation criteria in the microeconomic landscape used in the European Union, USA and Japan. It also highlights the preoccupations manifested at European and world level in terms of promoting entrepreneurship activities, materialized in organizing summits and major events dedicated to small and medium enterprises, as well as in the operationalization of funding programs for them. The last part of this paper reflects issues related to the support SMEs receive at institutional level, emphasizing areas of assistance, support programs and services that various institutions and bodies offer to develop the small and medium sector.
Keywords: SMEs, defining criteria, financial support, institutional support, programs, areas of assistance.
JEL Classification: L25, L26, M10, M21, O10.