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Graphic element Research > Growth > The Growth Programme > Programme rationale > Support for SMEs
Graphic element Programme rationale

Support for SMEs

Supporting the research needs of SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises) and encouraging their participation in research is a priority for the European Commission. SMEs account for 99% of European companies, employ 67% of the EU workforce and are recognised as the motor of Europe's changing economy. They create twice as many innovations per employee as large companies and, as half of SMEs are subcontractors, they play a vital role supporting the competitiveness of large companies. They also create employment and are the main source of new jobs in Europe.

EU-funded research in the Growth Programme is:

  • Encouraging the development of technologies that are adapted to the needs of SMEs, especially in traditional sectors;
  • Increasing the capability of SMEs to absorb and develop technologies; and
  • Fostering European networking between SMEs and others.

SME-specific measures

There is a strong need to increase SME participation in research projects as leading or major partners. The EU proposes two mechanisms to encourage such participation in the Growth research programme:

1. Co-operative Research (CRAFT) awards
CRAFT projects allow SMEs without their own research facilities to co-operate and commission R&D from a third party research body or company, with appropriate expertise, on solutions to a particular technological problem subjects of common interest. This requires a minimum of three SMEs, from at least two different EU member states or one member state and an associated state. The maximum cost of CRAFT research projects is 2 million of which the Commission may fund up to 50%. The maximum duration is 24 months

2. Exploratory Awards
Exploratory awards provide financial support from the Commission to prepare a complete project proposal. The proposal should involve at least two SMEs from different member states or one member state and an associated state. The total cost may not exceed 30,000 of which the Commission will finance up to 75%. The maximum duration is 12 months. These awards are intended to assist the preparation of non-CRAFT projects addressing priorities identified in the Growth work programme

Simplified SME access

SMEs can also benefit from a single entry point at the Commission for their project proposals, a dedicated SME Infodesk (+32 2 295 71 75) and an information pack, which includes application forms for all research areas.
Find out more on the DG Research SME website at :

Projects profiles



The European challenge
Programme approach
Budget breakdown
Support for SMEs
Involving non EU countries
Training in Europe
International agreements
June 200:
SME Technology Days - Conference highlights



Projects profiles list

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