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Points of View:

Improving exploitation

Hartmut Welck

In 2008, an EU-funded project set out to improve the dissemination of SME project results and bridge the gap between research and exploitation in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project found that while two thirds of the SMEs under investigation could not exploit their results there is enough help out there to make improvements.


Use what's out there

A crucial aspect of the exploitation phase is the distribution of IP rights. This denotes who gets what and how much they can profit from it. SMEs can get lost in IPR (intellectual property rights) issues they are not prepared to handle effectively.

But help is at hand; a large amount of information specifically designed to help SMEs is currently available. For example, information on IP is available as a guide on FP7 rules - Guide to Intellectual Property Rules for FP7 Projects - and through the IPR Helpdesk, which has its own guide and online courses dedicated to IPR management within FP projects for SMEs. Using such information is crucial for SMEs to progress and achieve success. Please visit: http://www.ipr-helpdesk.org/courses.html.

CORDIS holds another opportunity for SMEs to better disseminate their results. Project partners should share their project's newfound knowledge and experience on CORDIS in more detail than is currently done. The more information you provide, the more likely potential customers and exploitation partners will be interested and wish to learn more.

Room for improvement

Once the evaluation was complete, ECOINNO2SME produced a range of recommendations to increase successful exploitation. These suggestions focused on the extra support the European Commission can provide through policy measures, such as:

  • creating specific calls and funding that target and accommodate SMEs;
  • launching SME calls close to the market to ensuring a strong end-user target;
  • reducing bureaucratic procedures;
  • providing better information on further sources of finance to help develop research results and cover exploitation costs;
  • implementing specific industry and market know-how to ensure a more strategic role and responsibility for exploitation within the project such as work package leader. Those that did were found to have more influence on a project's implementation and were more successful in producing a commercially viable product or service.
  • investing more in the Research for the Benefit of SMEs/SME Association Programme (FP7, Capacities) that supports SMEs in outsourcing research services to RTD (research and technology development) performers and is designed to accommodate the specific needs of SMEs.

'We are working hard to publicise our findings - both the information and recommendations - as widely as possible. We need to reassure SMEs that help is out there and their work will not be wasted,' concludes Mr Welck.

Related article

  • See the 'Actions' story of this SME Update. It covers the new E-learning Platform that will provide free online training, customised information and a communication forum to help, encourage and prepare SMEs to take part in research under FP7.

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