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E-learning Platform to prepare and tutor SMEs


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The European Commission will soon launch an E-learning Platform specifically designed for SMEs. The EUR 1 million platform will provide free online training, customised information and a communication forum to help, encourage and prepare SMEs to take part in research under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Participation of SMEs in Framework Programmes is a crucial part of the European Commission's overall goal to improve the EU's competitiveness in global markets. That is why EUR 5 billion has been set aside specifically for SMEs in FP7. And it is why a state-of-the-art E-learning Platform facilitating successful SME participation will soon get off the ground.

'The platform is an interactive learning tool that will help SMEs build a stronger understanding of EU-funded research and, more importantly, acquire the necessary skills to make their research a success,' says Dr Bernd Reichert, head of the SME Unit at the European Commission. 'As a free online platform, the site offers the flexibility and guidance to assist any SME at any time.'

What will it do?

The key role of the E-learning Platform is to provide information and help SMEs learn the skills they need to successfully participate in transnational research. It will cover the entire process, from the formation of an idea and finding partners through to gaining finance and commercialising the end results.

Here is an outline of the E-learning Platform's main features:

Training

It will provide interactive training modules focused on particular subjects that will guide SMEs through specific aspects of research, help build new knowledge and allow SMEs to acquire new skills.

Knowledge management

The platform is a one-stop-shop that aims to tackle issues faced by SMEs such as finding suitable partners and exploiting results. It will therefore feature a knowledge management system for SMEs to find information and guidance specifically tailored to their individual needs.

Communication

The platform aims to create a web-based learning community that interacts with one another. It will facilitate two-way communication with contact points and resources (Enterprise Europe Network, IPR Helpdesk, etc.), other SMEs and platform architects so that users can provide feedback on the content and features of the platform.

'As SMEs learn, the European Commission also wants to learn. We want to hear exactly what questions need to be addressed and endeavour to answer them,' Dr Reichert points out.

Game time

The platform will include a game designed as an engaging educational environment for SMEs to learn by experience. Players will have to negotiate different realistic scenarios that incorporate the entire research process, from finding partners to exploiting results.

Support

It will promote the opportunities that FP7 offers SMEs and highlight the support services currently in place to assist SMEs. It will also help the support networks (Enterprise Europe Network, National Contact Points, etc.) improve the services they offer to SMEs. As a result, these networks are heavily involved in the design, promotion and dissemination of the E-learning Platform.

Breaking news

The platform will include the latest SME-relevant information and news regarding FP7.

'We are totally committed to providing SMEs with the best possible help and training to embark on a successful venture into EU-funded research,' concludes Dr Reichert. 'The E-learning Platform is not some quick fix service; it is being developed for the long term and will constantly be improved and adapted to suit changes to this and future framework programmes.'


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