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Available in: EN (Other available languages: FR DE SL )

Brussels and Celje (Slovenia), 18 March 2005

EU research maximises regional dynamics, boosts competitiveness for EU SMEs

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 to GDP.

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.


Patrick Vittet-Philippe
Press and Information Officer
DG Research, European Commission
Tel: +32.2.296 9056

Thomas Arnold
Head of Unit, SME and Research
DG Research, European Commission
Tel + 32 2 299 4062

Web and


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 success.
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 the world.

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 the 6FP.

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 Programme
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” research.

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.


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