Improving SME participation in EU Framework Programmes

05.08.2011

Representing 99% of all enterprises in Europe, SMEs contribute to more than two thirds of the GDP of Europe and provide 75 million jobs in the private sector. Research-intensive SMEs are the main economic drivers of healthcare, biotechnology and medical technologies.

One way the European Commission acknowledges the importance of SMEs as innovators is by setting a target of 15%  of the funding available under the ‘Cooperation’ part of FP7  to go to SMEs.  This translates into more than €900 million - a significant sum of money indeed.

So far, however, despite making SMEs a priority, the EU has fallen well short of this target. Within health proposals, 10.8% of the budget is currently going to SMEs. For KBBE projects (Knowledge-based Bio-economy, covering food, agriculture, fisheries and biotechnology) the percentage is even lower, at 7.60%.

Thus, whilst the European Framework Programme has been a success for a large majority of the SMEs involved, with most of them defining such projects as networks of excellence, substantial improvements across a range of areas could and should still be made to increase the number of SMEs that participate, which in turn will help preserve and boost the vital contribution of innovative SMEs to the growth and competitiveness of the European economy.

The chance to collaborate with, and transfer knowledge between, different public and private research centres and other SMEs, and the prospects for greater visibility are seen as a real opportunity for participants. Similarly, the idea of being part of a long-term project with an effective reporting system and with attractive financial conditions, is perceived as an added value by most of the companies interviewed in EuropaBio’s survey conducted among biotech SMEs who have previously participated in Framework Programmes. However, many SMEs still perceive the Framework Programmes as ‘very complicated and labour intensive’ way of accessing money. With this paper, EuropaBio’s SME Platform would like to make some concrete suggestions towards changing the Framework Programmes into a more accessible and attractive format for SMEs – both in terms of perception and reality.

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