Facts and Figures:
SME targeted measures stepped up as FP7 funding target comes in reach
Current figures show that funding levels for SMEs will soon reach the target figure of 15% of the total EU funding budget. Due to SME strengthening measures, this target will be surpassed in early 2012, and the funding level is expected to be close to 16% by the end of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) in 2013.
In January 2012, a report on the participation of SMEs in the five first years of FP7 (2007-2011) will be published. FP7 is the EU's main instrument for funding research in Europe for the period 2007-2013.
The regular SME progress reports, which are published by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, set out to examine the participation of SMEs in the thematic priorities of the Cooperation programme under FP7. The Cooperation programme supports all types of research activities carried out by different research bodies in trans-national cooperation and aims to gain or consolidate leadership in key scientific and technology areas.
Lieve Van Woensel, policy officer for the SME Unit at the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, is highly encouraged by the progress achieved. She says that the recent increase in the SME funding level is the result of SME targeted measures in the 2011 Work Programmes (WPs): 'The WPs contain a lot of additional SME-friendly measures – for example SME-specific topics and calls, earmarked budgets for SMEs for the thematic priorities – so this is why we are attracting a higher participation.'
She gives her overall impressions of SMEs based on the figures and findings as of 1 December 2011: 'They learn from the best practice scenarios and success stories of other SMEs that have carried out projects in the thematic priorities.'
Ms Van Woensel explains that some of the themes, due to their nature, attract more or fewer SMEs. For instance, she says: 'SEC, which covers security research, attracts young high tech SMEs. Others, like SSH, which comprises research on socio-economic issues, are not relevant for direct financial support to SMEs.'
Furthermore, it is evident that – in the end – more SMEs will benefit from the results of research projects than those being directly funded. For instance, in the KBBE research, which covers the domain of food, agriculture, fisheries and biotechnology, many SMEs already profit from the results of previous projects. And as another example, some ICT projects provide technology access services that are primarily targeted at SMEs, as clients of the services.