Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a crucial role in European competitiveness and job creation, not only because they represent the overwhelming majority of enterprises in Europe, but also because they are the source of dynamism and change in new markets, particularly those at the leading edge of technology. Although a heterogeneous community, they are all confronted by increased competition resulting from the European internal market and the need to innovate constantly and accommodate advances in technology. Besides this, an increasing number of SMEs both need and want to internationalise in search of new markets and business opportunities.
The Sixth Framework Programme for Research (FP6) attaches great importance to the participation of SMEs. The main route for SMEs to participate in FP6 will be through Networks of Excellence (NoE), Integrated Projects (IP) and Specific Targeted Research Projects, in the seven Priority Thematic Areas of the "Integrating and Strengthening" Specific Programme. At least 15% of the budget (approximately €1 700 million) relating to the Priority Thematic Areas of the FP6 is to be dedicated to SMEs. Considering that IP and NoE are new instruments and that they will be the priority instruments for the implementation of the Priority Thematic Areas, a special effort will be made to facilitate SME participation in these new instruments.
Specific Targeted Research Projects will also aim at improving European competitiveness and will be sharply focused. They will be similar to the Fifth Framework Programme RTD and demonstration projects, where SME involvement was already very significant.
In addition, FP6 contains two specific schemes for SMEs: Co-operative Research ("CRAFT") and Collective Research. These will address primarily the large community of SMEs with a capacity to innovate but with inadequate research capabilities. Any research topic or field in the whole area of science and technology in which the SMEs concerned have specific identifiable needs can be addressed by these schemes. A total budget of €430 million has been allocated to these specific schemes.
Read more about SME participation in the Sixth Framework Programme on SME Techweb where you can also download the latest version of the working document describing support for SME participation.