SME Newsletter Issue 4- December 2011
While our industry continues to face the challenge of access to finance, considerable progress has been made in shaping policies that can have a positive impact on biotech SME’s in Europe. The most notable achievements have been in raising the profile and situation of biotech SME and ensuring that biotech SME’s are high on the agenda of European policymakers. These efforts have resulted in a range of tangible initiatives at the European level.
The EuropaBio SME Platform began the year by launching a new publication focussing specifically on Biotech SMEs and what is needed to allow them to champion smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Europe. The report outlined six key recommendations that are necessary in order for biotech SMEs to flourish in Europe: to make the EU funding instruments more accessible to biotech SMEs; to develop measures to increase the availability of risk capital to biotech SME’s through venture capital; to ensure that the European State Aid rules do not unduly restrict public finance available to biotech SME’s at member state level; to strengthen the ability to capture the more of the value of research within Europe; and, finally, to to bring down unnecessary administrative and cost barriers that restrict access to European programmes such as the EU Framework Programme for Research to make these more attractive for biotech SMEs.
EuropaBio has been active in shaping the direction of a number of current and new initiatives of the European Commission affecting finance available to biotech SMEs. One of the notable achievements has been the considerable progress on widening the potential for funding for SMEs under the Commissions Consolidated Framework Programme, FP7. This has been reflected in far greater emphasis was placed on the participation of innovative SMEs, particularly through calls for SME lead topics, simplified and accelerated administrative procedures and a total of 50% of funding being ear-marked for SME-targeted research with the aim to double SME participation in 2012. In addition, in response to our efforts, there has been a commitment to simplify the application process in most cases and to reduce the administrative burden involved in these programmes.
At the end of November the European Commission presented its proposal for the next research and innovation programme for the period 2014-2020, which it has named ‘Horizon 2020.’ The proposals are now going through the normal legislative process which means that both the European Parliament and the Council of ministers will have to vote and agree on the proposition. A final approval is expected in 2013. Significantly, the new Framework Programme named biotechnology as one of the six enabling technologies that can boost the European economy and gave even greater emphasis to SME participation, with specific incentives in place to entice SME participation in EU funding programmes. Vice-President Antonio Tajani also announced a new programme to boost competitiveness and innovation in SMEs, with an additional budget of €2.5 billion.
A key object of the SME platform has been to raise the profile and importance of biotech SMEs to the European Economy. One important way to achieve this is to bring important “success stories” to the public attention. The year ended on a high with the EuropaBio Most Innovative Biotech SME Award, which took place in the European Parliament in November. More details of the event, which attracted over 100 participants from the business and regulatory environment alike, can be found later on in this bulletin.
Much of the responsibility for ensuring a strong and supportive climate for entrepreneurship and innovation in biotechnology lies with the member states. In order to take advantage of the wider European experience toward this objective, EuropaBio and it’s National Associations Council with working with the major international firm of Ernst and Young to survey key factors which have shown to be useful in fostering biotech entrepreneurship in selected member states. We are hoping to demonstrate some the measures of “best practice” that can be incorporated into the policy agenda of countries seeking to take greater commercial advantage of their potential in biotechnology.
While much has been achieved in the past year, there is still work to be done. Communicating to SMEs that Framework Programmes in Europe have become more accessible has become a key objective of the SME Platform, while at the same time encouraging the Commission to further simplify the rules. Different funding mechanisms and legislation needs to be in place for innovative and non- innovative SMEs and the EuropaBio SME Platform will continue to strive towards achieving this goal all within the context of achieving the economic potential that is reflected in Europe’s strong managerial and scientific base in biotechnology.
The SME Platform was intended to draw together a wide representation of stakeholders to identity and promote the objective of ensuring a successful and sustainable community of small and medium-sized companies translating Europe strong science base into socially and commercially valuable opportunities. I want to thank all of those individuals and organisations who have been involved , as well as the staff of EuropaBio for their efforts this year. May I wish all of you a very happy holiday season and successful New Year.
- Thomas Reese Saylor, Chairman Europabio’s SME Platform & CEO Arecor.