Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) play a key role in Europe’s innovation process. Although diverse in nature, start-up companies, university spin-offs and small highly innovative firms act as knowledge spillovers, create new markets and new consumer demands. As a source of creativity, ideas, competencies, products, strategies, innovations and dynamism, they are vital for Europe’s economy.
EU funding in 2009
Around 99 % of all European businesses are SMEs. They account for almost 70 % of total employment. SMEs face the pressures of global competition and need to cope with rapid change. Most have limited financial resources and need to act within short timeframes.
Eurostars is a joint programme currently involving 32 European countries which pool resources to support innovative, multi-partner projects driven by SMEs engaged in R&D activities. This joint programme is one of the so-called ‘Article 169’ initiatives (now Article 185 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU). The operational aspects of the Eurostars programme are managed by the Eureka secretariat in Brussels. Short time-to-market and small, transnational consortia are two distinctive elements of this programme.