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  An SME's view of involvement in EU-funded aeronautics research projects Back


SME participation in aeronautics research programmes is traditionally low in terms of budget share, and there have been few SME-led projects in past European framework programmes. The New Perspectives in Aeronautics key action has a target to allocate considerable funds to SME-led projects before the end of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5).

To encourage participation, officials from the Directorate in charge of implementing the Growth Programme announced at the SME Technology Days event in Porto in June that it is considering allocating 10 million of the € 130 million set aside for the December 2000 call for 'Critical Technologies' proposals for SME-led projects.

The idea of having a call for proposals dedicated to SME-led proposals was welcomed by Alfredo Gameiro Pais, director of Portugese SME Skysoft. Speaking at the Porto event, Mr Pais gave an insight into the experience of SMEs participating in EU research projects. The aeronautics sector, he said, offers good margins for companies involved and, with some big projects running, there are good opportunities available. But it is a sector which requires significant investment in research and development and so any assistance in funding this activity is welcome.

Participation in EU-funded projects has helped raise the profile of Skysoft, which is now a recognised player in aeronautics, according to Mr Pais. However, he stressed that SMEs can be put off submitting proposals because of the time (six months) and money involved in the preparation when there is no certainty of success. A proposal stands at best a 50% chance of being accepted if an SME collaborates with an industry association, while proposals submitted by a consortium of SMEs have only a 10% chance of success according to Mr Pais.

He also warned that SMEs may lack the necessary skills to put together polished proposals and can be at a disadvantage when competing with large companies which submit many proposals and can afford to have a proportion rejected. The Commission should instruct evaluators to give special consideration to SME proposals, he added.

In Growth Programme's second call for proposals (which closed on 31 March 2000), under the key action 'New Perspectives for Aeronautics', more SMEs participated (11,3%) than for the 1st call. This was partly a result of SME stimulation activities (such as Aero SME and SCRATCH, among others). As aeronautical SMEs typically have research capabilities and because they are involved in the supply chain, they do not in general opt for CRAFT proposals but instead prefer to participate in industrial research proposals.

 Focus on SMEs at porto conference
  SMEs involvement with the Growth Programme
  An SME's view of involvement in EU-funded aeronautics research projects


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