* SME participation
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economic future of the EU, and main drivers of innovation in medicine. Dynamic, flexible and keen to identify promising niches, SMEs are usually among the first to respond to emerging challenges and seize new market opportunities. Many engage in cutting-edge research.
Recognising this crucial contribution to the EU's economy and to the excellence of its health research, the framework programmes have increasingly aimed to involve high-tech, research-intensive SMEs in collaborative research projects. FP7 intends to provide at least 15% of the FP7 Health theme contribution, i.e. EUR 900 million, to their participation, and has also introduced a raft of changes to the legal and financial regulations, aligning them explicitly on the needs of smaller enterprises.
Improved conditions for SMEs
The rules regarding intellectual property rights have been revised to offer more clarity and to account for the particular requirements of SMEs. Furthermore, a special guarantee fund will cover the financial risk of defaulting project participants, thereby reducing the need for financial checks and bank guarantees.
Assistance to SMEs
In addition to the network of National Contact Points (NCPs), the main structure providing information and assistance on all aspects of participation in FP7, the European Commission has also set up the dedicated support scheme Fit-for-Health to facilitate SME participation. Fit for Health is an EU-funded support network of experts and National Contact Points in 22 countries aiming at the successful participation of research centres, universities and innovative high-tech, research-intensive SMEs in EU-funded "HEALTH" research projects.
Fit for Health offers wide-ranging services by ensuring excellent coverage of the entire innovation pipeline: the support network helps innovative SMEs, researchers from universities and research centres during all phases of FP7 projects, from the project idea to the efficient and effective valorisation of project results. Several services are provided: individual assistance and consultation, target-group specific on-site and virtual FP7 covering proposal writing, grant negotiations and project management and support in finding project partners through the well-established, highly visible SME/researcher profiles database. Another support action, SM-BIO-POWER, specifically targets SMEs working in the medical technology and biomedical engineering sectors.
Helping SMEs to make a success of their framework programme participation is a priority of the Health theme. Several initiatives are in place to support SMEs with the valorisation of funded projects results. This includes a practical guide to identify useful sources of information and the support action "Kappa Health" aiming at identifying the principal performance factors that account for successful SME participation in framework programmes.
The increased emphasis on SMEs in FP7 will open up new avenues, enabling them to expand their research activities. In forming collaborative partnerships with other SMEs, larger companies and academia from Europe and beyond, SMEs can drastically reduce their financial exposure, boost their expertise and maximise the outcome of their R&D efforts.
For further information, see: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/health/sme_en.html