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Brussels, December 19, 2000

Partners for Life
European Commission funds European initiative for SMEs

Keywords: small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research, life sciences

“Partners for Life” is a new project which provides economic and technological intelligence to SMEs. The aim is to offer SMEs with targeted information on technological and market trends in the field of life sciences and to support their participation in European research projects in particular in the sectors of biomedicine, biotechnology and agro-industry. “Partners for Life” is a network of expert organisations from 18 contracting countries. The project is co-ordinated by the Austrian Bureau for International Research- and Technology co-operation (BIT) with the Commission’s support. The management structure of the project makes it a perfect example of co-ordinated activities between national and trans-national organisations – precisely one of the objectives of the European Research Area, towards which the European Commission and Member States have started to orient their policies and strategies.

More than € 1 billion is available for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the Fifth EU Framework Programme (1999-2002). Groups of SMEs preparing innovative projects can receive up to € 1 million for research. This mechanism for the submission of joint projects is available until April 2002.

With a total budget of € 4 million, the European network Partners for Life is the biggest of the 52 “Economic and Technological Intelligence” actions launched in 2000. It will provide SMEs in the biomedicine, biotechnology and agro-industry sectors with information on the major economic and technological trends in these sectors. SMEs who will decide to take advantage of perceived opportunities through transnational EU projects will be assisted to get involved successfully in such projects. One of the objectives of the action is to generate about 500 projects involving SMEs, thereby fostering co-operation between SMEs and research organisations and increasing European competitiveness. This service is free of charge for SMEs.

The Partners for Life consortium consists of expert organisations from 18 contracting countries (including five Central and Eastern European states). Additional countries, particularly from Central and Eastern Europe have expressed their interest to join the consortium.

A novel but valuable approach

As successful SME projects co-ordinator Mrs. Reichel, co-owner of Haemosan, an Austrian biotechnology company, describes her experience with projects at European level as follows:

“First we thought that we might be too small a company for playing in the Champions League of European biotechnology. But an information event on funding opportunities surprised us. With the help of BIT we were able to submit our proposal and succeeded to be selected. For me, the big chance of projects at the EU Level is the international collaboration. Without projects of the European Union, we would never have come into contact with partners such as the Finnish Red Cross or others.“

For further information, please contact:

"Partners for Life" web site

Stéphane Hogan, Quality of Life programme, Research DG
Tel : +32.2.296.29.65, E-mail : Research Contact

Michel Claessens, Communication Unit, Research DG
Tel : +32-2-295.99.71; Fax: +32-2-295.82.20, E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

Sean McLaughlin, Innovation and SMEs programme, Research DG
Tel: +32.2.295.9955, E-mail: sean.mclaughlin@ec.europa.eu

Sabine Herlitschka, BIT, Vienna (co-ordinator)
Tel: +43.1.5811616-103, E-mail: herlitschka@bit.ac.at

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PRESS RELEASES | 15.12.2000