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Over 6000 SMEs receive funding from 7th Framework Programme for Research in the first two years

Brussels, 03 June 2009

The European Commission Directorate General for Research will soon publish new figures about the participation of Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the Cooperation Programme of the 7th Framework Programme for Research (FP7). In the first two years of FP7 they have already participated more than 6000 times. SMEs from all over Europe have been selected to receive funding. They have reached a funding rate of 12.3% of all participants and have so far received more than €1 billion a figure which will continue to rise.

The flexibility of SMEs means they can quickly implement research results into new products on the market. Therefore the European Commission aim is to reach at least 15% SME participation in the Cooperation programme, this would represent €6.2 billion in funding during the lifetime of FP7. SME participation in FP7 is higher than in previous programmes in part this is due to the higher funding rate for SMEs but also is a result of the simplification process.

Nanotechnology first field for research performing SMEs

Research performing SMEs come from all technology sectors. To date they are particularly active in the fields of Nanotechnology (86% of projects with SME participation), Transport (84%) and Energy (82%). Most of the SMEs participating are small with 69% having up to 49 employees and 31% with 50-249 employees.

On average, an SME can expect to receive €300k in funding during the lifetime of its participation in a project. They use this funding to collaborate with their international research and business partners.

Funding rate of 75% for SMEs

The participation rules for them are especially beneficial with a 75% funding rate for SMEs compared to 50% for large industry partners. In addition SMEs can also have 100% for project management.  Funding is open to all SMEs whether they are performing research themselves or are going to outsource a research need; FP7 has a programme to suit them.

Small and medium sized companies (defined as employing less than 250 people and an annual turnover below €50 million or an annual balance sheet below €43 million) lie not only at the heart of research and development but of the EU economy as well. They represent 99.8% of all EU enterprises and generate two-thirds of GDP.

The comprehensive summary of the 3rd Progress Report on the participation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in the Cooperation Programme of the 7th Framework Programme for Research (FP7) will be published in July on the SME Techweb web site.

The support of SMEs via the research funding of the European Commission has already produced a lot of success stories. Two examples illustrate their good performance.

SME project is going to improve the quality of European pralines for the export market

In the project Propraline several SMEs from Sweden, Hungary and Belgium are cooperating with food federations, research institutes and suppliers in order to improve the quality of pralines and the extension of shelf life. Their aim is to get a better position in the market and increase their export potential. Chocolate is a complex material, which can be damaged by means of bloom growth or cracking. This is a significant issue for filled products such as pralines or wafers. The partners of this project are studying the phenomena of chocolate bloom and crack propogation in chocolate for filled sweets. Demonstrators are going to be built and training and information will be provided for the industry, including the writing of a technical manual. The project cost is about €3.8 million with funding from the European Union about €2.8 million. More information on Propraline on CORDIS.

Making use of the heat: SMEs developing new systems for energy storage

The European Union is fighting climate change and the dependence on fossil fuels and SMEs are very committed to this goal. Approximately 50% of Europe's energy demand is for heating purposes and anything that can reduce the amount of fossil fuel burned can only be for the good. The project Heat Saver will create a novel and portable form of thermo-chemical storage that will be compatible with existing combined heat and power systems and also with solar energy sources. The Heat Saver system will allow otherwise wasted heat to be stored and used at another time. Seven SMEs from Estonia, Norway, France, Germany and the United Kingdom are delivering the research coordinated by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung in Munich, Germany. The project has a budget of €1.3 million and is funded by the European Union with €971k. More information on Heat Saver on CORDIS

SMEs can get professional assistance while developing their project ideas for FP7 from their national contact points.

More complete and specialised information can be obtained from the SME Techweb web site.