EU funding scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are extremely important in economic terms, representing a critical part of any healthy and growing society. In contrast to big businesses, they have a strong reputation for innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking. SMEs represent about 99% of all enterprises and provide around 65 million jobs in the EU. However, they face particular difficulties in attracting capital, because of limited assets for collateral and shorter credit histories. A poor business environment hits SMEs the hardest and flat-rate fees are disproportionately burdensome to the smallest firms. They have limited abilities to attract attention and their networks of contacts are often small. In addition, the removal of international trade barriers and the emergence of global markets means large international corporations can now compete directly with local SMEs which do not have the infrastructure and resources to fight back.
EU-funded Collective Research is undertaken by communities of SMEs on behalf of larger industrial associations and groupings, in order to expand the SME knowledge base and to improve their general standard of competitiveness. Collective Research projects are usually larger and run for longer than Co-operative Research projects, typically lasting between two and three years and costing €2 to €5 million. An SME core group contributes to a given project from the definition phase to the dissemination of final results. Intellectual property rights belong exclusively to the industrial associations and groupings, while the SME core group benefits from the exploitation of the results. Examples of funded projects include Space2Tex, using know-how from the European Space Agency to deal with wastewater in textile finishing, and Fastool, revolutionising machining techniques for modern tool production.
Full title: Collective Research
European Commission contact person: Martina DALY
Science in society significance
Collective Research is a bottom-up scheme covering any scientific or technical topic. Like all EU-funded research initiatives, such projects aim to provide real solutions to real problems facing European society and citizens. Work is based on well-defined and clearly focused research objectives that will lead to concrete results and applicable knowledge. Importantly, Collective Research actions also include training activities, particularly the training of SME managers and technical staff on the effective exploitation of the knowledge created by projects. One of the basic aims of Collective Research remains to support and stimulate the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe, raising the level of prosperity while answering policy needs and societal concerns.
As Europe-wide initiatives, Collective Research projects aim to:
- Support the formation and advancement of European SMEs and the full exploitation of their expertise for the economy and society;
- Reinforce the technology bases of various industrial sectors;
- Find solutions to common challenges, including improved environmental and safety performance, facing health-related issues, and meeting new regulatory requirements;
- Help define common European norms and standards.