Report reveals that SMEs participating in FP7 perform significantly better than comparable non-participating SMEs
An interim evaluation of the participation of SMEs in the Cooperation Programme and the Research for the benefit of SMEs (RSME) schemes under the Capacities Programme of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research 2007-2013 (FP7) reveals very positive impacts, both on the participating SMEs and on society.
The overall objective of the interim evaluation was to assess the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the two SME initiatives in FP7 (the Cooperation Programme and the RSME) and their impacts on the participating SMEs and on society. This includes impacts on economic performance (employment growth, turnover and exports), Innovation, European Added Value (EAV) and behavioural additionality.
The interim evaluation was performed on the basis of different variables, such as quantitative analysis of participating company results compared with a control group from financial databases, SME and stakeholder interviews and case studies across the EU28 and beyond.
‘The SMEs participating in FP7 show a significantly better performance than comparable non-participating SMEs,’ explains Mr Koos van Elk, a Project Leader at Panteia, the Dutch company which headed the consortium conducting the interim evaluation. He cites the example of employment growth, which for SMEs participating in the FP7 Cooperation Programme increased almost five times faster than for non-participating SMEs in the same period. This trend is captured in the graph below.
Graph 1: Index of employment of SMEs participating in the FP7 Cooperation Programme compared to matched non-participants (control group) (Index 2006 = 100)
The FP7 Cooperation Programme supported all types of research activities carried out by different research bodies in trans-national cooperation during 2007-13. The programme had a budget of EUR 32.4 billion and aimed to gain or consolidate leadership in key scientific and technology areas. At its outset, the EU Council and Parliament set a target of 15% of the funding to go to SMEs, with the remainder going to larger enterprises, universities, research centres and public authorities throughout the EU and beyond. RSME had a budget of EUR 1.3 billion to strengthen the 'innovation capacity' of SMEs and boost their contribution to the development of new technology-based products and markets.
For SMEs participating in the Cooperation Programme, a positive impact on turnover was reported by 54%, for employment the figure is 50% and for exports 38%. On average, those participating SMEs that reported increases estimated plus 22% for turnover, plus 25% for employment and plus 28% for exports. For SMEs participating in RSME, a positive impact on turnover was reported by 32%, for employment this was 30% and for exports 27%. On average, these SMEs reported 16% higher turnover, employment and exports.
The other main findings of the study can be summarised as follows:
The evaluation also contains six main recommendations for some specific issues that may be further improved. These are:
Participation in the future: Horizon 2020
The report lastly gives an idea of how SMEs will be affected by participating in Horizon 2020, the EU's new funding programme for research and innovation. However, because Horizon 2020 has different features to FP7, some differences in impact are anticipated. For example, Horizon 2020 has a significantly larger budget - about EUR 80 billion over seven years in current prices (which means taking into account anticipated inflation). This compared to about EUR 50 billion over seven years for FP7 - and so SMEs will have more opportunities to benefit from funding.
Another difference is Horizon 2020’s greater focus on close-to-market activities and impact, which could lead to greater economic benefits for participating SMEs, compared to FP7. Mr van Elk concurs: ‘In our Interim Evaluation of SME participation it was noticed that in many projects the results have not yet reached the markets. This is often related to the short time elapsed since the closure of the FP7 projects, but also some SMEs are stating that they do not have the funds to actually bring the results of the FP7 project to the market.’