Nature Biotechnology Magazine: "Money pot for SMEs"
by Gunjan Sinha
The European Commission (EC) has allocated 654 ($941) million to fund 38 health-related topics, and this time small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are encouraged to apply. The EC's 6th call for health research proposals, funded by the 7th Framework Programme for 2012, was launched in July and contains several changes that should be of clear benefit to SMEs. “I've never seen such a quick turnaround from feedback into action,” comments Nathalie Moll, secretary general at EuropaBio in Belgium. One change, applicable to 14 of those topics, requires participating SMEs to receive anywhere between 15% and 50% of total EC funding for a project. Another change is a two-stage application that allows firms to present a short proposal first to get a sense of its success before expending resources on a detailed proposal that might fail. The EC has also cut the minimum number of obligatory participants from five to three, which will help small companies take the helm in managing projects. “It's potentially a huge pot of money,” says Tom Saylor, CEO of Cambridge, UK–based Arecor. “EC money could help companies carry their research to higher stages of value without depending on private markets.” The turnaround time between application and funding, which can take up to a year, is a cause for concern, and the complexity of the paperwork often puts people off, Moll adds. “It would be nice if there were a help hotline for SMEs.”
-Nature Biotechnology 29, 779 (2011) doi:10.1038/nbt0911-779a