Three projects studying R&D&I at regional/national level
In addition to financing research projects, the European Commission invests in Coordination and Support Action (CSA) projects that aim to improve framework programmes and help SMEs overcome the barriers of participation. These projects evaluate past programmes and support structures, and analyse lessons learnt from completed projects to find new and better ways of assisting SMEs. Here, we take a look at some of the six CSAs currently underway. The last three CSAs focus on the Research and Development and Innovation programmes at national and regional level.
Recently, three CSAs focusing on Research and Development and Innovation (R&D&I) programmes collaborated to share information and insights, and to discuss potential improvements to SME policy. These projects set out to examine regional/national programmes to benchmark the support they offer and create a definitive set of characteristics for an effective SME programme. These projects included:
The Making Progress and Economic enhancement a Reality for SMEs (MaPEeR SME) project is analysing existing SME R&D and, in particular, environmental research programmes as well identifying and overcoming barriers blocking SMEs wishing to innovate. Operating at the EU, national and regional level, the comprehensive 2-year project aims to identify key SME-friendly programme characteristics based on benchmarking some 200 support programmes from 28 countries; this is no small feat.
The project is also launching the European SME Experts' Panel, which develops recommendations to help align research programmes with the needs of SMEs and to identify synergies between different policy measures.
'SMEs make up 99% of all European companies and their involvement in research should be a natural consequence of their importance in European economics,' says Dr Julián Seseña, the project's coordinator. 'The aim of the Experts' Panel is to create recommendations that will advise on future design of regional, national and European level research programmes to generate more active involvement of SMEs.'
The project is now in the final phase of analysis and has already generated some initial findings, including the need to further exploit current R&D platforms, such as technology platforms, and for more flexibility in R&D programmes. The project team will present its findings in detail at an annual event on 16 November 2010.
The Rapport project aims to identify the different needs of SMEs by assessing the effectiveness of current knowledge and technology transfer initiatives (also in the private sector) at fulfilling those needs. Many believe current policies and programmes focus too much on R&D-intensive and high-tech SMEs, thus neglecting the vast majority of SMEs that are lacking technological know-how. After all, a company can innovate without undertaking research.
'We need to tailor innovation policy towards general SMEs which are not specialist technical geniuses but just a normal company of enthusiastic and talented individuals who have a good idea [of what] they wish to explore,' says Dr George Tsekouras, the project's coordinator. 'These SMEs tend to have low absorptive capacities; they do not know how to make connections with research institutes and must acquire new skills in order to create an innovation plan and knowledge transfer.'
The first interim results of the project are expected in early 2011.
Good Practices in Innovation Support Measures for SMEs
The GPrix project is undertaking a study on public support measures for SMEs from traditional sectors - often thought to be inactive in innovation. The project aims to answer the question: which support measures help local communities prosper in the ever-changing global economy?
Launched in December 2009, the project will provide a comprehensive insight into the design and implementation of SME research and innovation support measures, actions, services and networks at national and regional level, and the impact they have on SMEs from traditional sectors, which represent the vast majority of companies in Europe.
'Despite their recent decline, traditional sectors are still a major source of wealth and employment in regional economies,' explains Pedro Soutinho, the project's coordinator.. 'But they are occasionally overlooked by public support programmes in favour of high-growth companies from high-tech sectors. Our project will assess the status of public support for those sectors to understand what really works.'
The project expects its first results in January 2011 and will conclude in December 2011.
For more information on all three of these R&D&I project, please visit:
Research Policy Officer, European Commission
Tel: +32 2 29 69938