SMEs are key drivers of innovation serving as an important vehicle for knowledge spillovers. In the past 20 years, innovative SMEs have created new industries and renovated entire sectors. They can contribute significantly to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union.
EU funding in 2010
€ 165.55 million
Tapping into the full innovation potential of SMEs requires favourable framework conditions (smart regulation, access to finance and markets, patenting, standard setting, etc.), plus efficient support mechanisms. Therefore, a coherent EU approach to R&D funding for SMEs would better match their expectations and business realities and meet their various needs from hatching innovative ideas to bringing them to market.
Eurostars is a joint R&D programme undertaken by 32 countries, which helps R&D-focused SMEs to bring new products and services to the market, and to foster the integration of national R&D programmes. Managed by the EUREKA Secretariat, Eurostars had organised five calls for proposals, up to 2010. Independent experts conducted the Eurostars 2010 mid-term assessment. They identified some areas for improvement, such as further harmonisation and synchronisation of national procedures and reduced time-to-contract, but concluded that it is an effective programme which should be continued.
Two core action lines 'Research for SMEs' and 'Research for SME Associations' seek to boost the innovation capacities of European SMEs. But small and medium-sized companies still experience difficulties in bridging the gap between laboratory results and the market introduction of new products and services. Public support during the intermediate demonstration phase is not widely available. This is why the 2011 work programme, published in 2010, includes a specific call for proposals for demonstration action, for completed FP6 and FP7 SME projects with an indicative budget of €15 million.
A 2010 call for tender entitled 'e-learning platform' was launched to provide free online training and information. This interactive learning tool should enable SMEs to develop the skills necessary to participate in transnational FP7 research projects.