EU targets SME's with €2.2bn innovation and research funding
The European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin is targeting innovative Small and Medium Enterprises to take up EUR 2.2 billion worth of European research funding. Philippe Busquin has launched the EU funded DETECT-it project, that will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to overcome the difficulties in setting up and financing research activities and innovation. The project aims to identify the most innovative SMEs, and encourage them to make the most of the EU 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006) funding.
Within FP6, which runs from 2003 to 2006, a total of at least €2.2 billion will go to SMEs. Through the project the Commission's Business Innovation Centre incubators (EC-BICs) will cluster more than 1000 SMEs into target industry sectors. These sectors include:
- information society technology (IST)
- food quality and safety
- environment and energy.
FP6 experts, including technology brokers, Commission experts and National Contact Points (NCPs) from each industry sector will direct the SMEs to the appropriate European research and innovation funding programmes. Corporate mentors, leading industry players and early stage financial support organisations will also support the SMEs. DETECT-it is co-ordinated by the European Business Network (EBN), the reference network for incubators and EC BICs in Europe.
"Small and medium-sized enterprises are central to Europe's innovation and technological breakthroughs,'' says European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. ''To build on this, it is vital Europe's SMEs have ready access to funding, knowledge and corporate partnerships. DETECT-it will help improve business innovators' access to all these and channel SMEs towards the appropriate EU innovation and research funding programmes. Over the long term, the project will help develop established channels between SMEs and appropriate innovation and research opportunities. Through targeted assistance the Commission is helping to turn SMEs' ideas into commercial realities.''
SMEs key to European growth
Small and Medium Enterprises are the building blocks of Europe's economy, accounting for 66% of private sector employment and 50% of new jobs. Nearly half of Europe's two million industrial SMEs have also introduced innovation into their markets. Better access to research and development (R&D;), and to corporate partners and field experts, can help many of these businesses to grow faster and encourage new opportunities for start-ups.
Turning innovation into a market success
DETECT-it will help SMEs to fully participate in the creation of a European Research Area (ERA), which is developing a single market for science, knowledge and innovation. Better co-operation between large enterprises, innovation and research institutions and SMEs will also help the EU to meet the March 2002 Barcelona Council's objective to raise research investment to 3% of EU average Gross Domestic Product by 2010.
Innovation and Research funding at hand
DETECT-it primarily aims to tackle some of the problems SMEs have in accessing EU R&D; projects. The project involves 42 partners from 15 countries and it will target more than 1000 SMEs across Europe. It will mobilise a network of 30 European Commission Business Innovation Centre (EC-BICs) incubators to identify and encourage SMEs to make the most of FP6 research.
These BICs will audit more than 1000 SMEs starting from the BICs' client base and cluster them into the three target industry sectors - IST, food safety & quality and environment & energy - based on similar technology profiles and innovation needs. The BICs support business creation and provide innovation services to existing SMEs.
DETECT-it is supported within the framework of the ''Stepping up Economic and Technological Intelligence'' (ETI) actions of the EU Sixth Research Framework Programme and aims to stimulate co-operation between SMEs and the research community. The ETI scheme has been set up by the Commission to promote and enable the participation of SMEs in the 6th Framework programme so that SMEs can fully tap available funding.
SMEs in the EU 6th Research Framework Programme
FP6 devotes at least €2.2 billion to the participation of SMEs in research. In particular, €1.7 billion will go to sector-specific research carried out by SMEs, while the rest will address cross-sector SME research activities. FP6 fosters trans-national and cross-border SME joint ventures and innovation and technology transfers. It promotes innovation - turning bright ideas into profitable businesses.
FP6 also aims to boost SME participation in FP6 new funding instruments, namely large-scale Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects. SMEs will be encouraged to jump on board through special training actions, customised evaluation criteria, SME-targeted calls for proposals and other assistance.
Co-operative and Collective Research
SMEs are encouraged to make even better use of the Co-operative research (CRAFT) scheme, which focuses on SMEs in all sectors, including traditional ones, willing to innovate but with limited in-house research capacities. Co-operative research allows at least three independent SMEs from different Member (or Associated) States, facing common problems, to outsource their research to specialised organisations while keeping the ownership of the results and the intellectual property rights. At the same time, a new scheme for "Collective research" is open for SME associations or SME groupings with the aim to expand their scientific knowledge base and their overall competitiveness standard. Co-operative and Collective research accounts for €430 million of the total FP6 budget.
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