Small and Medium
sized Enterprises (SMEs) have often been regarded as Europe’s
cornerstone for competitiveness and job creation. For the duration
of the Cell Factory (Quality
of Life Programme, FP5), specific activities for SMEs consisted
of 34 exploratory awards and 8 co-operative research contracts
being granted for a total budget of €6.3 million.
As a direct consequence of the adoption
in 1996 by the Commission of a recommendation on the definition
of an SME to be used in all Commission programmes, an SME in
FP5 is an enterprise which fulfils the following 3 criteria:
- has fewer than 250 employees,
- has either,
- an annual turnover not exceeding €40
- an annual balance-sheet total not exceeding €27 million,
- is independent, i.e. is not owned by
25% or more by one or more organisations which are not an SME
(except public investment corporations, venture capital companies,
funds and institutional investors).
In order to participate in the SME Specific
Measures, an SME:
- must be registered and operating in
one of the Member States or in a State associated to FP5.
- can not be a research centre, research
institute, contract research organisation or consultancy.
The participation in FP5 has helped SMEs
develop new technologies, either in-house or by gaining access
to them and expand their market potential and business opportunities.
One of the objectives of FP5 was to spend
at least 10% of the budget on SMEs. This has been reached,
largely due to SME specific measures that the EU has set up
and which consist of:
- Exploratory awards, which provide SMEs
with a financial support from the EC of up to €22,500
for the preparation of project proposals (this includes partner
market and innovation surveys and feasibility studies)
- Co-operative research projects (CRAFT)
with EC contribution of up to €2 million, where groups
of low and medium-tech SMEs facing similar problems, but
or no research capacity of their own can outsource the required
RTD work to a third party (universities or research organizations).
The approach developed by the Cell Factory
to attract proposals from SMEs has consisted in an open call
for proposals divided into 9 cut-off dates covering the whole
duration of FP5, a single entry point at the Commission exclusively
dedicated to SME project proposals, a single information package
and harmonized evaluation procedures.
The Key Action received a total of 74
Exploratory Awards and 31 CRAFT applications, of these, respectively
42 and 12 were successful in the evaluation and proposed for
funding, representing an overall success rate close to the
39% of the programme.
The following tables list the individual
CRAFT and Preparatory Awards projects.
Characteristics of CRAFT contracts
SMEs lead the project:
- SME project co-ordinator
- Co-ordination costs eligible for funding
- Research performers in subcontract to
- IPR owned by the SMEs
Conditions for participation:
- 3 SMEs from 2 countries (minimum)
- RTD performers account for at least
40% of the project costs
- Duration of the contract: 12 to 24 months
- Budget ranges from 0.3 to €2 million
- bottom-up approach, in line with objectives
of at least one Thematic Programme
In this way, SMEs have acquired unique
technologies that are adapted to their specific needs, increased
their capabilities of using new tools and increased their networking
activities. This has contributed greatly to the participation
of SMEs in further research projects as leading or major partners.
(See figure 1 on page xiii.)
The sectors of activity to which the funded
consortia of SMEs and RTD performers have contributed through
the exploratory awards and CRAFT projects are presented in
the following two tables (abstracts and contact details can
be viewed from the following website: http://cordis.europa.eu/).
With the exception of the CRAFT and exploratory
awards contracts, SME participation in the overall RTD activities
of the Cell Factory represents 9% of the total number of teams.
The CRAFT scheme accounts for 4% of the overall SME participation
in the Cell Factory. Since the CRAFT budget for the Cell Factory
represents 9.6% of the total but the average over the QoL programme
is 7.8%, we can conclude that there are promising perspectives
for a further increase of SMEs participation in this sector.
and Applied Genomics
EC Directorate General for Research