SMEs are a key driver of the European economy, generating
over two thirds of European Union GDP. Deeply rooted in their regions,
European SMEs actively embrace international competition, accounting
for a substantial share of EU exports. To maintain their competitive
edge on global markets, high tech SMEs as well as companies from
more traditional sectors are getting involved in research and cross
border partnerships. The key role of EU research programmes in maximising
regional dynamics and building competitive advantage for SMEs is
the subject of a special press briefing held today in Slovenia,
which has one of the highest levels of research intensity relative
Addressing this meeting, European Commissioner for
Science and Research Janez Potočnik said “Creating
strong regional poles of research and innovation is crucial for
EU SMEs operating on global markets. Europe cannot, and will not,
rely on cheap labour nor an unsustainable use of our natural resources.
Our winning card is knowledge for growth. That means knowledge creation
through research, knowledge diffusion through education and training,
and knowledge exploitation through innovation – three pillars
of the new “Partnership for Growth and Jobs” initiative
launched by the European Commission”.
Research is a key asset for a wide spectrum of SMEs.
In addition to a core of high tech, research intensive SMEs at the
leading edge of innovation and job creation, SMEs from traditional
manufacturing sectors equally rely on research to restructure, develop
new products and conquer new markets. With a total budget of EUR
2,3 billion for research by and for SMEs in its Sixth Framework
Programme, EU research directly contributes to making European SMEs
more competitive through actions specifically adapted to the needs
of these companies.
The projects presented at today’s press briefing
illustrate how successful SMEs can turn participation in EU research
into commercial success, for example by developing cleaner and more
efficient production processes or radical new products. They show
the value SMEs can derive from taking part in collaborative research
projects with other public and private partners, as well as the
benefits of actions specifically designed to help SMEs access the
external research capacities they need. Similarly, the development
of specific services for SMEs, such as matching SMEs with potential
partners, and helping companies share information, training and
best practices, allows SMEs from all sectors to boost performance
and sharpen their competitive edge in the knowledge economy.
Turning EU research into successful
business: five case studies
Five projects showcasing
SME involvement in European research programmes are presented today
at a press briefing in Celje, Slovenia. The projects illustrate
the full range of EU research tools at the disposal of SMEs from
a broad variety of industries. They also underscore the strong regional
dynamics in European research for and by SMES, and the compelling
benefits which these companies can derive from EU Research programmes.
Research, a key to commercial
If we compare electronics made ten years ago and today
we quickly notice that new models are a lot smaller. Staying in
business very often comes down to the ability of the components
manufacturers to design and produce miniature devices. The Varsi
company, a surge protector maker from Ljubljana, built on support
from the scientific community to develop their new product. The
company gained access to the research they required through the
VARESTER PROJECT, which brought together industry and scientists
from France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Slovenia. The co-operation
paid off and now its miniature surge protectors are sold all over
Green technology, the future
for electronics manufacturers in Europe.
Electronic devices are an integral part of our daily lives.
As technology advances we quickly replace older models with faster,
smaller and more powerful new ones. However, growing production
of new electronics, accompanied by the disposal of massive quantities
of older models, is potentially a serious threat to the environment.
To address this growing concern, a group of SME electronics manufacturers
formed a partnership with researchers to develop technologies free
of hazardous substances. The objective of the GREENROSE PROJECT,
which gathers 28 partners from 8 countries (Poland, UK, Germany,
Slovenia, Norway, Sweden, Latvia and Italy) is to disseminate their
“green” processes for environmental technologies to
SMEs across Europe.
How to match up 2500 biotech
SMEs with 400 potential research partners.
SMEs often have a strong drive to innovate but lack the partners,
or simply cannot handle the burden of administrative procedures
required in European projects. SMES GO LIFESCIENCE is an initiative
designed to help SMEs overcome these obstacles and take full advantage
of the two new 6 FP funding instruments: Integrated Projects (IP)
and Networks of Excellence (NoE). The project has two major objectives:
to offer SMEs information and training on managing different aspects
of EU funded projects and to create a comprehensive database of
biotech, pharmaceutical, and other life science SMEs across Europe.
Teaming up SMEs with research consortia has already substantially
increased the number and quality of small business involvement in
How to help companies share
information, best practices.
Companies flourish in some regions and struggle in others, but a
good business environment is a function of many factors that are
not always easily defined. The NEKS PROJECT assesses relationships
between knowledge based companies and local authorities in order
to identify and share information and best practices. The first
group of case studies include the multimedia sector in Italy, 3D
imaging in France and marine engineering in the UK.
Finding alternatives to phthalates
in the production of P-PVC products.
The use phthalates as plasticizers in the processing of
P-PVC products has been dramatically reduced because of limitations
imposed based on studies of the potential toxicity and high migration
of such compounds. In order to stay competitive, phthalates represent
more than 90% of the plasticizer consumption in Europe and to minimise
the ingestion of such compounds by children, alternatives to the
use of phthalates needed to be found. A group of 8 SMEs from Italy,
Spain and Slovenia have sought to solve this problem through the
research project ECOPVC. They have developed two substitute plasticizers
with low migration properties for use in rotational moulding, injection
and extrusion processing for P-PVC.
SMEs in the current Framework
A budget of €2.3 billion is allocated in the Sixth Framework
Programme for Research and Development to research activities for
and by SMEs. Effective participation of research performing SMEs
is being encouraged in collaborative research projects across the
various thematic areas. In addition there is support through the
SME specific measures: “cooperative” and “collective”
SME specific measures include:
In “cooperative research”
projects a group of SMEs from different countries assign a significant
part of the required scientific and technological research to RTD
performers. The SMEs retain the ownership of the results.
In “collective research”
projects RTD performers undertake scientific and technological activities
on behalf of Industrial Association Groupings in order to expand
the knowledge base of large communities of SMEs. The Industrial
Association groupings retain the ownership of the results.