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EUREKA essential to formation of European Research and Innovation Area, claims report

EUREKA has outlined how its activities can assist the EU in attaining the Lisbon strategy goals in a new document: 'EUREKA - A cornerstone of the European research and innovation area'.

Because of its focus on innovation, EUREKA is well placed to contribute to the much-toute...
EUREKA essential to formation of European Research and Innovation Area, claims report
EUREKA has outlined how its activities can assist the EU in attaining the Lisbon strategy goals in a new document: 'EUREKA - A cornerstone of the European research and innovation area'.

Because of its focus on innovation, EUREKA is well placed to contribute to the much-touted goal of investing three per cent of GDP in research and development by 2010, mentioned in the Lisbon strategy.

EUREKA and the EU's framework programmes seem on the surface to be similar initiatives. The framework programmes have two strategic objectives: strengthening the scientific and technological bases of industry; and promoting research into other EU policy areas.

The EUREKA project's focus is on bringing products to market, and tends to look to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), while the framework programme is there to provide a base for generally larger-scale essential research under the EU umbrella. This leaves some overlap and a great deal of complimentary activity between the two organisations. The EUREKA report stresses 'the importance of Member State support for cooperation between EUREKA and all related R&D and Innovation programmes.'

EUREKA is mentioned explicitly in the latest draft for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and both programmes actively contribute to the formation of the proposed ERA - the European Research Area.

The ERA is there to create a strong internal market, with free movement of knowledge, researchers and technology; to reorganise the European research infrastructure, particularly to improve coordination between national research activities; and to develop European research policies. The activities of both the framework programmes and EUREKA lay down the foundations for the ERA.

The organisations differ in two main regards - organisation and participation rules. EUREKA's structure is 'bottom-up', so that the partner organisations decide the way in which research will be conducted, while the framework programme's 'top-down' structure allocates predetermined funds to research in specific areas. While both organisations require cooperation between partners, the European Commission issues calls in specific thematic areas, while EUREKA is open to any submissions.

As the aims of the two programmes differ, they provide complimentary services throughout the EU and associated countries.

Further similarities come from the large thematic programmes that both services offer. The Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) to be introduced under FP7 will bring together industry actors to define specific areas for research. JTIs will require very high levels of investment only really possible under combined research funding. The EUREKA programme's clusters and umbrellas work in a similar way - longer-term investment in specific themed areas, in turn supporting specific projects. The EUREKA document proposes closer cooperation between the framework programme's JTIs and EUREKA's clusters and umbrellas, which will in turn drive the formation of the ERA.

The report finds that EUREKA and the framework programmes are complimentary in funding SMEs. EUREKA invests heavily (40 per cent of funds) in SMEs, and specifically in new technologies, while the framework programmes invest 15 per cent or less in SMEs, focusing on those operating in established technologies.

The report also outlines how EUREKA can be a significant boost to SMEs throughout Europe, and even give a boost to the venture capital structure, which in turn links in with calls in the recent Aho group report, which called for such a boost. EUREKA is also able to react more quickly to specific research needs, as it reviews its funding year-on-year, rather than every four to five years, as has been the case for the framework programmes.

'EUREKA's market-driven approach has direct effects on economic growth in Europe. The positive correlation between the initiative and national GDP makes EUREKA a relevant solution within the European Research Area as it allows for a good leverage effect bringing Europe closer to the investment of three per cent of GDP in R&D,' reads the report.

The report calls for the European Commission to give funding to EUREKA's Eurostars programme, which invests in innovative SMEs, and to highlight EUREKA's work to individual governments.

Importantly, EUREKA can provide the EU with a working blueprint of how to extend the framework programmes to non-EU countries, already incorporating, as it does, several non-EU countries. 'EUREKA will bring to the EU its ability, proven since its creation, to start cooperation with non-EU countries. EUREKA can become more and more an instrument for Europe to spread beyond its borders European scientific and industrial culture.'

EUREKA was created in 1985 to 'raise, through closer cooperation among enterprises and research institutes in the field of advanced technologies, the productivity and competitiveness of Europe's industries and national economies on the world market'. EUREKA is funded by 35 European countries and the European Commission.

Source: Based on the EUREKA report 'EUREKA - A cornerstone of the European research and innovation area'

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