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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 Commissionís 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) Ė an ambitious target. Ludovica Serafini, the Scientific Officer responsible for SMEs in the Health programme, explains the plan.

'The Health programme focuses its efforts in two main areas: enhancing SME participation in health-related research and ensuring SMEs make a success of their projects' outcome,' explains Ms Serafini.

Enhancing participation

To reach the policy objective of giving 15% of Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) contribution to SMEs, the programme tries to mobilise these smaller research-intensive companies and get them involved in projects. There are a number of strategies in place to help do this, set out below.

  1. Promoting opportunities
    Most SMEs are unaware of the opportunities EU-funded research presents for them. It can improve their product portfolio and the services they are able to offer, create beneficial partnerships and provide Europe-wide exposure. 'We promote this message using success stories in our publications or at events. By illustrating the benefits based on fact, we hope to achieve a greater response,' says Ms Serafini.

  2. Wider topics
    The Health programme presents its calls for proposals as a series of topics. 'The topics have to be sufficiently broad to fit an SMEís business objectives; otherwise it will not take part. In the current call, we are using 30 topics specially suited to SMEs. This effort will be enhanced in the future.'

  3. Smooth application process
    Most SMEs have limited resources. Without time to spare, it is crucial that the Commission Services make the application process as simple as possible. 'We have networks and support structures to help SMEs understand our rules and how exactly to apply. The last thing we want is an SME to have wasted their time due to a minor technicality in their application.'

  4. Improved Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
    Another encouragement to SMEs is the much-improved rules surrounding IPR. 'The new rules are very well suited to commercial companies,' explains Ms Serafini. 'Itís now left to participants to decide how to manage intellectual property through their consortium agreement. The Commission has put in place a limited number of basic rules surrounding IPR, which are designed to promote both the implementation of the project and the exploitation of its results. This is an enormous improvement [over] previous programmes.'

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  • Contact:
    Ms Ludovica Serafini
    Scientific Officer, SME specialist
    European Commission Health Programme
    Tel. +32 22956759