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Policy:

Impact assessment highlights need to shift focus to SMEs

Policy Update

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represented the largest group of participants in the Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes (FP5 and FP6), and 80% had a positive influence on research collaborations, according to the latest impact assessment . However, the assessment also reveals that there is a need to shift focus from increasing the number of SMEs that participate in research programmes to increasing the impact participation has on SMEs.

Funding

Although SME participation increased, the amount of funding received by SMEs decreased from 13.2% in FP5 to 12.4% in FP6. However, individual funding per SME actually increased from an average of EUR 170 000 in FP5 to more than EUR 220 000 in FP6.

SME objectives

The impact assessment reveals that SMEs can be better characterised by their motivation and objectives rather than their research and development (R&D) capabilities. The report highlights two main groups of SME objectives: firstly, technology-focused SMEs that take part in research to further develop a specific technology that is core to their business; and secondly, network focused SMEs that wish to develop partnerships and relationships outside their regional networks.

Shift in focus

This assessment has produced some insightful results that highlight the need for a shift in focus. It increases the need to close the gap between pre-competitive research and exploitation, to help develop more opportunities for SMEs to exploit their results. It shows the need for a systematic monitoring system to better understand participant profiles. And it highlights the need for an SME-specific strategy that places the emphasis on impact while addressing SME objectives.

'SMEs are a crucial aspect of improving Europe's position in the global marketplace,' concludes Dr Reichert. 'So enhancing our efforts and contributions to SMEs is essential. This assessment highlights some real positives in the Framework Programmes but, at the same time, shows us where we might make improvements. The more we can do to improve our systems and strategies, the better.'

The executive summary along with the full version of this report will be available on the SME Techweb publications page at the end of July

A previous impact assessment report on the SME participation in the SME specific measures of FP5 and FP6 was covered in issue 7. This publication is now online at the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/sme-techweb/pdf/sme_impact_assess_2009-short.pdf