Points of View:
The vital ingredient
A Netherlands-based programme promoting participation in food industry innovation research is helping to attract SMEs to the Food, Agriculture & Fisheries and Biotechnology theme of FP7’s Cooperation Programme.
Attracting SMEs to KBBE
SME participation in the Dutch Food and Nutrition Programme currently stands at about 70%. Of the 718 companies, universities and research institutes taking part, 511 are SMEs. 'When you consider that the number of SME participants in the Food, Agriculture & Fisheries and Biotechnology theme of FP7’s Cooperation Programme is around 11%, then 70% is excellent,' says Mr Zulim de Swarte. 'It should be at least 15% SME participants and 15% share of financing should reach SMEs, which is one of the reasons why the programme started this ad hoc SME working group within FP7 to open it up more to SMEs in the food and biotechnology industries.'
The working group is a subcommittee of the Programme Committee for the Food, Agriculture & Fisheries and Biotechnology theme and its members are experts from 11 different EU countries. The critical job for KBBE is to make the theme more attractive to SMEs, which is why the working group has come up with a list of seven recommendations for the EU. Some of these recommendations are as follows: tailoring specific projects to suit SMEs’ needs; when possible making the projects smaller in terms of cost, scope and scale; and giving SMEs more control when it comes to choosing and driving research projects.
'We advised that the rules of participation in FP7 be simplified to reduce the administrative burden for SMEs as we’ve discovered this is one of the major inhibitors to SME participation,' says Mr Zulim de Swarte. 'We also recommended that the larger non-SME projects pay more attention to technology transfer, how the network around a project is being built and sharing knowledge with SMEs.' The working group advised that all of these recommendations be clearly implemented in the next calls. 'The EU has been very receptive to these ideas,' says Mr Zulim de Swarte. 'You can feel a new wind blowing through the Food, Agriculture & Fisheries and Biotechnology theme.'
Casper Zulim de Swarte
Tel. +31 886025593