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Health funding targets SMEs

Ms Ludovica Serafini

The economic crisis, the rising cost of clinical trials and a worrying increase in the number of bankruptcies means companies in the European health sector are in serious need of funds. The European Commission’s Health programme provides grants for those looking to undertake health-related research. One of its main aims is to provide 15% of its funding contribution to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – an ambitious target. Ludovica Serafini, the Scientific Officer responsible for SMEs in the Health programme, explains the plan.

Support Success

To further ensure SMEs take part and to make a success of their project, the Health programme has put in place a comprehensive range of activities. 'This is where a lot of time and effort is spent', explains Ms Serafini. 'We try to help wherever we can during the preparation of proposals and lifetime of the project.'

The support comes in various forms and uses a number of different methods, as shown below.

  • Case studies are used to help SMEs understand successful proposal preparation.
  • Training is provided over the phone, in person and via e-mail, to help guide SMEs and facilitate participation in proposals.
  • A proposal matching system is used to give SMEs access to specialist technologies that complement their own abilities. Collaborating in this way combines competencies with a winning outcome.
  • Workshops are used to provide information and knowledge to coach SMEs in all aspects of the research process, including identifying future sources of finance.
  • Different networks have been created by the Commission to offer their specialised support, from National Contact Points (NCPs) who help prepare proposals, to the Europe Enterprise Network who help SMEs enter the market and support their business activities.

All of these tools are specifically designed to help SMEs receive the funds they require and to achieve success.

As previously stated, the Health Theme’s target is to provide 15% of its funding contribution to SMEs. That equates to EUR 900 million. In the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) it reached 9% and is currently on 11% in FP7 (2007–2013).

'We are doing all we can to help SMEs receive the support they need to produce effective and successful results based on research. But we need more to come forward and will continue to promote our work throughout the EU to achieve our goals,' concludes Ms Serafini.

Enhancing participation