Points of View:
Health boost for high-tech SMEs
The successful 'SMEs go Health' initiative is designed to help high-technology small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) obtain European Union (EU) funding for health projects. The project coordinator, Dr Ines Haberl, tells us more.
'SMEs go Health' was launched in 2007 to support the participation of SMEs, universities and research centres in projects funded by the Health Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) – the EU's chief instrument for funding research. The European Commission-funded initiative has improved SME participation in health-related research projects within FP7 by helping them find project partners via an online database, providing easy access to around 1 000 profiles of Europe-wide experts and researchers in the scientific community.
'SMEs go Health' also offers training for SMEs on proposal writing, as well as the participation, financial and legal rules in FP7. 'More specifically, we encourage high-tech SMEs to take over responsibilities as project coordinators or have key roles in research activities as participants, and support them in the submission of high-quality proposals to the Health Theme,' says Dr Haberl.
'SMEs go Health', with a budget of EUR 1.4 million and a three-year duration, will wind up at the end of January 2010. But, building on the success of this project, the Commission Services have published a new topic for the fourth Health Call to promote and facilitate the participation of EU-funded research projects of high-technology SMEs operating in the health sector. The topic requires that support be provided not only during proposal preparation but throughout the whole project cycle. 'The new topic is planned to support a project having a much broader focus than "SMEs go Health" when it comes to training,' says Dr Haberl. 'It won't just be aimed at new applicants, but also project partners who are in the negotiation stage or have projects up and running.'
Understandably, the SME go Health consortium, comprising 29 members from 27 European countries, is currently preparing a new proposal, hoping that, if selected for funding, they will be able to continue to support SMEs in Health Research in the future.
The EU advantage
The EU's FP7 is designed to fund high-leverage, top science projects (?). 'It is, therefore, important to inform SMEs of the opportunities that come with EU projects, such as being able to work with some of Europe's best scientists, gaining access to new networks and markets, and, of course, substantial funding,' says Dr Haberl. 'We were pleasantly surprised to find the number of SME profiles in our database (830) exceeded our expectations by 20%. But we are quite well known now in this community, probably due to the fact that so many members of our consortium are National Contact Points (NCPs) whose daily work involves talking to SMEs.'
Dr Ines Haberl
FFG - Austrian Research Promotion Agency
Division for European and International Programmes
Unit for Life Sciences and Technologies
Tel. +43 577554103