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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research themes > Cross-disciplinary themes > Ways and means for SMEs
Graphic element Ways and means for SMEs

Europe's 19 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a vital role in fostering innovation, creating employment and maintaining the economic competitiveness of the region. Their active involvement in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) is assured by earmarking a substantial proportion of the total budget specifically for their use, through a mixture of existing mechanisms and new instruments.

Over the four-year period of FP6, €2,230 million from the overall €17,500 million budget will be allocated to SMEs. This is made up of €1,800 million under ‘focusing and integrating activities’ , representing 15% of the €13,345 million total for this section. A further €430 million will be assigned for SME-specific measures.
As in FP5, the funding will support higher-risk R&D that cannot easily attract venture capital from the public sector. It will also assist smaller companies in establishing the strategic cross-border partnerships necessary to success in a global marketplace.

Range of options

SMEs will be encouraged to join as ‘prized partners’ in the new integrated projects and networks of excellence, where their particular attributes will complement those of the larger enterprises and academic institutes.
In addition, several other modes of participation are available:

  • Continuing from FP5 will be the CRAFT funding mechanism, whereby consortia of SMEs lacking their own research facilities can undertake projects in which the work is contracted to appropriate external institutes. This provides a practical means of sharing resources and know-how that may not otherwise be affordable for an individual business.
  • A new SME measure – already piloted towards the end of FP5 – is ‘collective research’. This will enable associations and similar organisations to lead research projects for the collective benefit of their SME members. It will address the needs of large numbers of small businesses, or even entire industrial sectors, in such areas as standards, global competition or environment regulation.
  • The Economic and Technological Intelligence (ETI) accompanying measure will be carried over to FP6. Here, the aim is to use established sources to identify SME needs, and anticipate market and technological trends. Existing information networks, services and intermediaries will provide SMEs with information and analysis to help them meet those needs and to direct them towards the most suitable Community instruments.
  • Finally, the concept of ‘stairways of excellence’ is seen as a means of supporting research-oriented SMEs in the early stages of FP6, by funding discrete projects with a potential for eventual expansion into larger-scale initiatives that underlie the vision of the European Research Area.

National Contact Points (NCPs), as also established during FP5, will again play an important role by organising and disseminating specific information on FP6, as well as providing advice and training to SMEs.

Range of options

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