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Policy Update:

Training and support for SMEs

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DG Research's small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) unit recently organised a conference which shared the lessons learned by participants and coordinators of previous Economic and Technological Intelligence (ETI) projects, to identify how SMEs could benefit from a best practice view of European research.

How should SMEs approach European research so they can get the most of what it has to offer? Inspired by presentations from the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) and two SMEs - Amaxa AG from Germany and Critical Software SA from Portugal - a main message from the conference participants was that SMEs need a variety of training and support measures.

These should be tailored to the needs of the SMEs yet take into account their research strategy, their experience with transnational research, and their market and competitive situation. Clearly, expertise and knowledge of the SME community should be a key quality of any SME service provider. However, that service should focus on improving an SME's negotiating skills throughout the entire life cycle of a project.

Regional and national research projects play a very important role in the innovation process. Those SMEs that had participated in such projects were better motivated and suited for transnational research projects. Working on national/regional support projects raised an SME's transnational profile.

A large number of SMEs were most interested in those phases of a project which brought them closest to the market. Research projects which contained a strong demonstration element were of higher interest than the more basic research project which concentrated on theory.

The SME unit plans to publish the full findings from the conference and the ETI scheme soon.