The mission of the IRCs is to support innovation and transnational technological co-operation in Europe with a range of specialised business support services. IRC services are primarily targeted at technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but are also available to large companies, research institutes, universities, technology centres and innovation agencies.
The first Innovation Relay Centres were established in 1995 with the support of the European Commission. The aim was to create a pan-European platform to stimulate transnational technology transfer and promote innovation services.
Over the past five years the IRCs - working together in close co-operation - have been of assistance in over 12,500 technology transfer negotiations, and have helped more than 55,000 client companies to meet their technology needs and to exploit their research results.
IRC staff (a total of nearly 1,000) are experienced specialists with backgrounds in business, industry and research. To date, they have facilitated more than 1000 transnational transfers of technology - signed agreements for the sale, licensing, distribution or joint development of new technologies.
Today, 71 regional IRCs span 33 countries - 25 EU Member States, Bulgaria, Romania, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Chile.
Most IRCs are operated by a consortia of qualified regional organisations such as Chambers of Commerce, Regional Development Agencies and university Technology Centres. Altogether, almost 220 partner organisations are involved, ensuring wide geographic coverage.