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Investing in help

Policy Update

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.

'We are constantly working to improve the systems and support we offer to bring more SMEs to the world of research and to help those already involved achieve their goals,' says Dr Bernd Reichert, Head of the SME Unit at the European Commission. 'By looking back at past efforts, we can understand what areas need work and what areas must be developed further.'

CSAs have three main aims:

  • to support the implementation of the Seventh Framwork Programme (FP7);
  • to help prepare future framework programmes;
  • to stimulate, encourage and facilitate the participation of SMEs.

Here is a look at some recently concluded CSAs and some that are still underway.

EcoInno2SME - concluded

The European Commission is aware of the fact that many SMEs complete their research successfully but find it difficult to get their results to market. The EcoInno2SME project set out to close the gap between conducting research and exploiting results.

Over the course of 2 years, the project partners investigated 117 SME projects from the Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes (FP5 and FP6) and found that two thirds of those SMEs under investigation could not exploit their results but that enough help is available to make improvements.

The CSA project produced a range of recommendations to improve the situation and help SMEs find the assistance they need to further their results.

For more information: please see the Points of View article of this SME Update, which covers EcoInno2SME in more detail.

USEandDIFFUSE - concluded

USEandDIFFUSE aimed to develop a best practice manual covering the exploitation and dissemination of research results involving SMEs.

The project, which ended recently, carried out an in-depth review and analysis of SME-related research and technological development (RTD) projects to identify those projects that were most successful in disseminating and exploiting results. This review highlights best practices and provides a solid foundation upon which future projects can build and develop successful exploitation strategies.

'This has been a very timely and worthwhile project as Europe understands the very significant role that research and development (R&D) can play in raising the competitiveness and added value of our SME sector,' says Ms Anna Stachowicz, coordinator of the USEandDIFFUSE project, based at Cracow University of Technology in Poland.

For more information, please visit:

PRESTO - concluded

Collaborations between European Technology Platforms (ETPs) and SME associations (SMEAs) are crucial for raising awareness about the activities and objectives of both groups. PRESTO set out to build a better understanding and coordination of efforts between SMEAs and ETPs. It also aimed to engage SMEs and SMEAs in the European RTD policymaking process.

Now complete, the project produced a simple conclusion: although dialogue between ETPs and SMEAs took place, in the absence of external incentives (specific cooperation instruments and financial support) and a formal framework (regular meetings between key bodies), it is unlikely that a fruitful and sustainable cooperation between ETPs and SMEAs can happen.

'SMEAs are the ideal platform to bring ETPs and SMEs together,' says Eduardo Herrmann, the project's manager. 'They are a valuable source of information on what affects the way SMEs behave and what SMEs expect from an ETP. By creating a dialogue between both groups, we can aid the European Commission's policymaking process to facilitate stronger cooperation between ETPs and SMEs.'

For more information, please visit:

For the three project studying R&D&I at regional and national level click here.