TTC: Networking across borders to boost SME innovation

A cluster project that operates in the border region between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands is helping companies in the high-tech sector to develop, and eventually launch, new products.

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A TTC networking event gets underway. A TTC networking event gets underway.

" The TTC-project, together with the interlinked GCS cross-border cluster stimulation funds, are successful pilots in fostering SME-based innovation across borders: low-threshold, hands-on and closely tied to the needs of companies. The OECD in Paris assessed our activities as a role model for collaboration in “functional” cross-border regions. "

Ralf P. Meyer, Project Manager

The Towards Top Technology Cluster project aims to boost the economy of the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, which extends through the city corridor between Aachen, Hasselt, Maastricht and Liège and also includes Eindhoven, Leuven and the German-speaking part of Belgium.

Small to medium sized companies in the life sciences, information and communication technology, energy and advanced materials sectors have taken advantage of the project, which gives participating firms the opportunity to exchange knowledge, research and best practice in their fields. To this end, some 52 networking and inter.cluster events have been organised so far, which attracted 2 800 participants. The main focus of the project is industrial research and experimental development.

Supporting the development of new technologies

As part of the project, participating companies receive visits from business support managers who help companies achieve their goals by providing advice on topics such as finding the best complementary partner or partners, or on how to access public funding for research and development.

Financial support is offered to participating companies in the form of a EUR 5 000 innovation voucher, which can be used to carry out initial research and development work. At a later stage of product development companies may also choose to apply for non-repayable cross-border innovation funds grants of between EUR 100 000 and EUR 250 000 on condition that matched funding is secured.

A total of 35 innovation vouchers will be awarded to companies over the course of the project. A wide variety of technology companies have joined the project leading to the launch of products such as a new kind of vacuum washer for industrial parts, the development of a new generation of living and growing heart valves created from patients’ own cells and the miniaturisation of a device to monitor respiratory movements. Meanwhile, another two companies used their innovation vouchers for research and development in the field of solar heating and cooling and intelligent communication. Each euro of investment made available to companies had leveraged in two euros of further investment.

During the implementation of the project, 9 jobs have been created. However, project manager Ralf P. Meyer said that it was too early to estimate the total number of new jobs.

Total investment and EU funding

The “Towards Top Technology Cluster (TTC)” project had a total budget EUR 4 994 022, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 2 497 011 from the INTERREG IVA Meuse-Rhine Euroregion Programme for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date

30/09/2014