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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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Research for SMEs

Research for SMEs supports small groups of innovative SMEs in solving technological problems and acquiring technological know-how. Projects must fit into the overall business and innovation needs of the SMEs, which are given the opportunity to subcontract research to RTD performers in order to acquire the necessary technological knowledge. Projects must render clear exploitation potential and economic benefits for the SMEs involved.

Who can apply?

SMEs that need to ‘acquire’ research by outsourcing, such as low to medium technology SMEs with little or no research capacity; or research intensive SMEs that need to outsource in order to complement their core research capability. Projects are intended to create new knowledge or produce results with clear potential to improve or develop new products, processes or services for the SMEs taking part.

Which activities are supported?

Within the framework of each project, the Research for SMEs scheme will support SMEs in:

  • Research and technical development activities Research undertaken by RTD performers will form the bulk of each funded project. SMEs will focus on the testing and validation of project results, and the preparatory stages for applied use.
  • Demonstration activities These are intended to demonstrate the viability of new technologies produced through the research, offering a potential economic advantage, but which are unable to 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 SMEs, in particular training and dissemination activities. RTD performers will train technical and managerial staff from participating SMEs, focusing on best-practice utilisation of results and technologies generated by project research. Dissemination to third parties will be accomplished through conferences, publications, workshops, web-based initiatives etc.
  • Management activities Over and above the technical management of individual work packages, these activities will provide an appropriate framework for bringing together all components of the project and maintaining regular communication with the Commission.

How does it work?

Under FP7, the funding model used for Research for SMEs (formerly Cooperative Research) maintains its guiding principle 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 participants 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 to develop new or improve existing products, systems, processes or services.
The relationship between the SMEs and the RTD performers under this programme is therefore a “customer-seller” relationship. The idea is to allow SMEs to further develop their activities by buying knowledge from RTD performers, who sell their expertise and work. Research and development activities undertaken by the SMEs themselves 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 SMEs includes the price they pay for the know-how they wish to acquire: the intellectual property rights and knowledge developed during the project.
It is important to note that Research for SMEs is a bottom-up scheme: the projects may address any research topic across the entire field of science and technology

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 participants will therefore have to contribute with own resources, in cash or in-kind, 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, for SMEs, non-profit public bodies, secondary and higher education establishments, and research organisations: a maximum of 75 %
  • 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 of 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 to calculate the EC contribution for your proposal.

For a more detailed explanation of the scheme please see a small brochure entitled
"Research for SMEs at a glance" (PDF icon 129 KB)

How do you form a Research for SMEs consortium?

Projects require participants from the following categories:

  • SME participants: At least three independent SMEs, established in three different Member States or associated countries.
  • 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 may participate by making a particular contribution to the project. They must also be independent from any other participant. 

Recommendations for resources and duration

The size of the consortium should typically be between 5 and 10 participants. The overall budget of the project should typically be between €0.5 million to €1.5 million and the duration of the project should normally be between 1 and 2 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 in terms of scale and complexity. The consortium has to ensure that no decision can be taken against the collective interest of the SME participants.
The coordination of the project is a demanding and complex management task which requires a well qualified and experienced coordinator. The SME participants 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 SMEs.
The consortium may however reach a different agreement in its own best interest, as long as the SMEs are provided with all the rights that are required for their intended use and exploitation of the project results. In practice, this can, for example, mean that the RTD performers keep ownership of the entire foreground (or parts of it) and that the SMEs 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 SMEs 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 SMEs

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

A model proposal (PDF icon 8.4 MB) for Research for SMEs had been produced to help SMEs 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 SMEs 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.