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MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE

Improving noise reduction

The Silentwood project has developed sophisticated noise-reducing wall panels and doors. In addition to spurring growth and jobs in the doors/panels application sector, Silentwood will provide direct economic and health benefits to the EU.
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EuResist - Enhancing HIV treatment with more precise patient modeling

HIV is not curable but it is treatable, states Dr Francesca Incardona, CEO of EuResist Network GEIE and research area manager at Informa Srl, the SME responsible for coordinating the EuResist project.
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SILCO - Doing away with bacteria in water systems

The SILCO project has developed an innovative monitoring device that senses the elimination process of complex bacterial communities known as biofilm and unsafe bacteria from drinking water systems. The prototype successfully killed legionella bacteria at a natural source spa in Slovakia
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FIRELI - New hose equipment to increase safety of firemen

Every year, fires affect large areas of forest in Europe - mostly in the Mediterranean countries, where an average of around 500,000 hectares are destroyed annually. That is the equivalent of 50 times the land area of Paris. The economic cost is estimated at between €600 and €800 million per year.
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Smart irrigation technology set to reduce costs and save water

Due in large part to inefficient water irrigation systems, the agriculture industry wastes 60% of the water it uses each year, or 70% of the world's freshwater. WaterBee has developed a smart irrigation system to reduce this wastage, thereby saving money and increasing both crop quality and yield.
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NANORAY - A portable x-ray machine

X-ray technology has existed for more than 100 years, but in spite of repeated efforts no one has found a way of solving the problems involved in making X-ray machines portable. Now, thanks to an innovative European Union (EU) funded multinational research project, that breakthrough has at last been achieved.
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CleanHatch - New high-tech solution to clean fish hatcheries

Due to increased market pressure to produce high quality and low cost fish, the aquaculture industry has been forced to develop technologies that reduce the level of risk to investors yet maintain reliable production output.
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Let there be sight

Transplanting the human cornea (1) can enable a blind person to see. But it requires the perfect human donor match and there are no guarantees of success. A group of EU-funded SMEs and researchers, however, has developed an artificial cornea that offers failed transplant patients a potentially life-changing alternative.
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What is
Research for SME Associations
(SME-AGs)?

Research for SME Associations aims at developing technical solutions to problems common to a large number of SMEs in specific industrial sectors or segments of the value chain through research that could not be addressed under Research for SMEs. Projects can, for example, aim to develop or conform to European norms and standards, and to meet regulatory requirements in areas such as health, safety and environmental protection. Projects must be driven by the SME associations, which are given the opportunity to subcontract research to RTD performers in order to acquire the necessary technological knowledge for their members.

Projects must render clear exploitation potential and economic benefits for the SMEs members of the associations involved.

Who can apply?

SME associations that are normally best placed to appreciate or identify the common technical problems of their members.

Which activities are supported?

The focus should be on strengthening the competitiveness of SMEs and improving industrial competitiveness across the European Union. Therefore, particular emphasis will be given to the economic impact of the results for participating SMEs. A consortium’s plan for disseminating the project’s results will be central to the evaluation process.

It takes a multifaceted approach to enhance participants’ competitiveness. Within the framework of each project, this scheme will support SME-AGs in:

  • Research and technical development activities form the core of the project with a major contribution from the RTD performers. SME associations, their members and the SMEs directly involved in the project focus on specifications, testing and validation of project results and the preparatory stages for further use.
  • Demonstration activities are designed to prove the viability of new technologies that offer a potential economic advantage but which cannot be commercialised directly (e.g. testing of product-like prototypes). This is the last development stage before products or processes enter production
  • Other activities (OTHER) facilitate the take-up of results by the SME associations and their members, in particular training and dissemination activities. RTD performers will train technical and managerial staff from the participating SMEs from participating SMEs, focusing on best-practice utilization of results and technologies generated by project research. Dissemination to third parties will be accomplished through conferences, publications, workshops, web-based initiatives etc.

Projects include activities to effectively disseminate the results of research to members of the SME-AGs, and if appropriate, more widely. Furthermore, dissemination to policy makers, including standardisation bodies, is encouraged to facilitate the use of policy-relevant results by the appropriate bodies at international, European, national or regional level.

How does it work?

Under FP7, the funding scheme Research for SME Associations (formerly Collective Research) maintains its guiding principles to strengthen the innovation capacities of SMEs to develop new products and markets through the acquisition of new knowledge from those institutions best suited to carry out research.

The SME associations and their members are the direct beneficiaries of the project: they invest in the RTD project and outsource (subcontract) most of the research and demonstration activities to RTD performers and receive in return the technological know-how they need.

The relationship between the SME associations, who act on behalf of their members and the RTD-performers under this programme, is therefore a “customer-seller” relationship. The idea is to allow SME associations to assist their members in further developing their activities by buying knowledge from RTD performers, who sell their expertise and work. Research and development activities undertaken by the SME associations themselves (and their members) with their own resources are essentially focussed on initial specifications and, later, on validation and testing of the acquired knowledge. In this context, the real investment or cost incurred by the SME associations includes the price they pay for the know-how they wish to acquire on behalf or for their members: the intellectual property rights and knowledge developed during the project.

From the perspective of the associations and their members, but also for a positive evaluation of the proposal, it is important that it is well verified and justified how the proposed research investment addresses the needs of large communities of SMEs. Furthermore it is crucial to demonstrate how the activities for dissemination and use will ensure that indeed large communities of SMEs will benefit economically from the project results. The associations and their members have to keep in mind that, even if the level of public funding provided is substantial, it will never cover all the costs, shortfalls will have to be covered by the participating associations themselves.

It is important to note that Research for SMEs associations is a bottom-up scheme: the projects may address any research topic across the entire field of science and technology.

Intellectual Property Rights By default, SMEs retain full ownership of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The consortium may, however, reach a different agreement in their own best interests, as long as the SMEs are provided with all the rights that are required for their intended use and dissemination of the project results.

What does the funding cover?

The European community will provide a financial support to the project which covers only part of the total costs. The SME associations will therefore have to contribute with their own or financial resources to the project. The EC contribution is based on upper funding limits for individual activities:

  • Research and technological development activities: maximum of 50 % of the eligible costs.

    However, SMEs, non-profit public bodies, secondary and higher education establishments, and research organisations may receive up to 75 %.

    SME associations, which fulfil any of the above mentioned conditions, qualify for the higher funding rate.

  • Demonstration activities: maximum of 50%
  • Management and Other activities: maximum of 100%

One important rule for the calculation of the EC contribution applies:

In accordance with the rules for participation and in order to achieve the aim of promoting the outsourcing of research and demonstration activities, the financial support to the project will be limited to 110% of the total amount of the subcontracting to the RTD performers (price to be invoiced by RTD performers to SMEs).
Use this Excel spreadsheet ( 247 KB) to calculate the EC contribution for your proposal.

For a more detailed explanation of the scheme please see a small brochure entitled
"Research for SME Associations at a glance" (PDF icon 683 KB)

How do you form a Research for SMEs Associations consortium?

Projects under Research for SME associations require participants from the following categories:

  • At least three independent SME association/groupings (SME-AGs), established in three different Member States or associated countries, or one European SME association/grouping. SME associations/groupings are legal persons, composed mostly of and representing the interests of SMEs (e.g. industrial associations, national or regional industrial associations and chambers of industry and commerce).
  • RTD performers: At least two RTD performers which must be independent from any other participant and which can come from any country. Examples of RTD performers are universities, research organisations and industrial companies, including research performing SMEs.
  • In addition, other enterprises and end-users (including SMEs) may participate by making a particular contribution to the project. They must also be independent from any other participant.

A limited number of individual SMEs (2-5) must participate to ensure that the results of the project address SME needs and can be used by a large number of SMEs.

Recommendations for resources and duration

The size of the consortium should typically be between 10 and 15 participants.

In addition, the SME end users group should be limited to 2 to 5 members.

The overall budget of the project should typically be between €1.5 million to €4.0 million and the duration of the project should normally be between 2 and 3 years. If a project deviates from these recommendations a justification is required.

Decision-making, coordination of the project and consortium agreement

The management and decision making approach of the project should be tailored to the real needs terms of scale and complexity. The consortium has to ensure that no decision can be taken against the collective interest of the SME associations.

The coordination of the project is a demanding and complex management task which requires a well qualified and experienced coordinator. The SME associations may entrust the coordination to a RTD performer or a partner in the consortium specialised in professional project management. The coordinator carries out the following tasks:

  • Monitor the compliance by the partners with their obligations
  • Verify that all partners access to the grant agreement
  • Receive the Community financial contribution and distribute it in accordance with the consortium and grant agreement
  • Keep the records and financial accounts and inform the Commission of its distribution
  • Intermediary for efficient and correct communication between the participants and reporting regularly to the participants and to the Commission on the progress of the project.

Once a project has been selected and negotiations are finalised the participants have to submit a signed consortium agreement to further detail information already reflected in the Technical Annex to the contract. It addresses issues such as the internal organisation of the consortium, the management of the Community financial contribution, rules on dissemination and use, including intellectual property rights management or the settlement of internal disputes.

Intellectual property rules

Already at the proposal stage the consortium has to provide a clear and adequate description of how the participants will organise IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) ownership and user rights (e.g. licences, royalties) among themselves. The consortium may decide to follow the default regime, which gives full ownership of all project results ("foreground") and IPR to the SME associations.

SME associations have the possibility to find tailor-made solutions to organise the ownership of project results and its dissemination and use in a way that takes into account the needs, interests and capabilities of the SME-AGs and their members, of the other enterprises and end-users involved in the project as well as the RTD performers. The arrangement should address transfer of ownership, licences or any other form of rights for the dissemination and use of results generated by the project. It has to make sure that SME associations are provided with all the rights that are required for the intended use and exploitation of the project results by their members. In practice, this can, for example, mean that the RTD performers keep ownership of the entire foreground (or parts of it) and that the SME associations and their members acquire licences only.

In exchange the RTD performers co-invest with own resources in the project. Therefore the price and payment modalities agreed between RTD performers and SME associations should reflect the value of the intellectual property rights and knowledge acquired, meaning for example that the price of licences should be lower than the price for ownership of all results.

How to participate in Research for SME associations

For a simple overview, please see the Step by Step Guide.

A model proposal (PDF icon 9.1 MB) for Research for SME associations has been produced to help SME associations in the preparation of a proposal. Please note that this is only an example proposal that can be used as a reference document to help associations prepare their own submission. The content is entirely fictional.

Calls are published on CORDIS under the section dealing with the Capacities Programme: Research for the benefit of SMEs.


Helpdesk: http://ec.europa.eu/research/enquiries