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Policy Update:

New initiatives support cooperation and trans-national research

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National research programmes are being encouraged to work more closely together; Support Actions help SME Associations; and new studies for 2008 analyse SME participation in European research.

A total of 4 million in funding is being made available to finance the further coordination of two ongoing FP6 ERA-NET projects - ERA-SME and CORNET. Ultimately this will encourage SMEs to network and build relationships with international partners so they can access research centres of excellence, and develop the research and innovation skills they'll need to compete effectively in international markets.

One way that SMEs can respond to strong global competition is by increasing their knowledge base and research efforts in trans-national cooperation: "Networking national SME research programmes under the ERA-NET umbrella will encourage integration. Through the national programmes SMEs and SME Associations are now also able to carry out international research, thus providing them with additional opportunities to participate in trans-national projects," says DG Research's Head of SME research Policy, Barend Verachtert.

Support Actions to help those participating in Research for SME Associations exploit their research further have already attracted 27 proposals for EC funding worth 7.2 million. "With SME Associations still relatively new to the Framework Programme, they don't have a great deal of experience participating in research programmes. Here we're trying to encourage them to come up with good project ideas, and to help them identify the appropriate topics that can be addressed through a research project," says Verachtert.

And following on from earlier studies which reported on the impact of SME-specific measures in FP5 and FP6, two more studies are planned for 2008 that will analyse those measures in much more detail. Says Verachtert: "A systematic study across the various themes hasn't been done before to see how well SMEs are doing, so we'll be looking at SME participation throughout the Framework programme."