Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Framework programme


Previous programme

To encourage and facilitate the participation of SMEs in RTD activities under certain specific programmes of the Fourth Framework Programme.


Based on the successful experience of the CRAFT actions implemented in the BRITE/EURAM II programme under the Third Framework Programme (1990-1994), Technology Stimulation Measures for SMEs have now been included in 12 of the specific programmes under the Fourth Framework Programme (1994-1998).

The aim of the Technology Stimulation Measures is to foster and facilitate participation of SMEs in EC-funded research activities. There are two type of measures:

- Exploratory Awards, accessible to SMEs irrespective of their own R&D means, to help them prepare complete research proposals;

- Cooperative Research (CRAFT) is a project-type designed for SMEs with no or inadequate R&D means in order to:
. Promote the development of technologies adapted to the needs of SMEs;
. Promote transnational networking and cooperation amongst SMEs, and between SMEs, research organizations and large companies;
. Support SMEs in their efforts to strengthen their capability to absorb, and to contribute to the development of the technologies they require.

Exploratory Awards can support the expansion of an outline proposal (definition of a detailed research work programme, partner search, economic impact assessment, novelty verification) and/or a research feasibility study exploring the feasibility of a research topic before entering the research phase.

Proposals can be submitted and evaluated in two stages: an outline proposal submitted at Stage 1 may give rise to an Exploratory Award to help cover the costs of preparing a complete proposal for submission at Stage 2. Stage 1 is optional, i.e. proposers can bypass Stage I and directly submit complete proposals at Stage 2.

The types of project that can be prepared with an Exploratory Award at Stage 2 vary between programmes and may include one or several of the following:

- Cooperative research projects which are designed specifically for SMEs and enable groups of SMEs with similar technical problems but no or inadequate R&D means of their own to engage third parties (called RTD performers) to carry out research on their behalf;

- Other types of projects which are open equally to all types of enterprises, in which case the Award is intended to help SMEs play a leading or major role. The relevant conditions and application forms are provided in the main information packages of the respective programmes.

SME specific measures other than Exploratory Awards and Cooperative Research projects are contained in some of the specific programmes. Details of these are available in the individual information packages of each specific programme.

Under the Fourth Framework Programme, the CRAFT Network, which provides information, advice and assistance to SMEs at national, regional and local levels, is to be extended to cover the SME specific measures under all the relevant programmes. The CRAFT Network comprises Focal Points in each Member State which ensure an adequate geographic and thematic spread.


Details of areas covered under each specific programme:

- Telematics Applications:
Those sectors with an insufficient participation of SMEs following the first call for proposals may be selected for a specific call for Exploratory Awards. The sectors concerned are:
. Telematics for administrations;
. Telematics for transport;
. Telematics for research;
. Telematics for education and training;
. Telematics for libraries;
. Telematics for urban or rural areas;
. Telematics for healthcare;
. Telematics for disabled and elderly people;
. Telematics for the environment;
. Telematics engineering;
. Language engineering;
. Information engineering;
. Support actions;

- Industrial and Materials Technologies:
Cooperative and industrial research projects in the following areas:
. Production technologies;
. Materials and technologies for product innovation;
. Technologies for transport means;

- Standards, Measurements and Testing:
Cooperative and industrial research projects in the following area:
. Restricted to Area 1 - Measurements for quality European products;

- Environment and Climate:
Cooperative and other shared-cost research projects in the following areas:
. Research into the natural environment, environmental quality and global change;
. Environmental technologies;
. Space techniques applied to environmental monitoring and research;
. Human dimensions of environmental change;

- Marine Sciences and Technologies:
Cooperative research projects and other shared-cost research projects, including joint MAST and EUREKA/EUROMAR projects in the following areas:
. Marine science;
. Strategic marine research;
. Marine technology;

- Biotechnologies:
All shared cost projects, concerted actions and horizontal activities in the following areas:
. Cell factories;
. Genome analysis;
. Plant and animal biotechnology;
. Cell communication in neurosciences;
. Immunology and transdisease vaccinology;
. Structural biology;
. Prenormative research, biodiversity and social acceptance;
. Infrastructures;
. Horizontal activities (e.g. studies, demonstration projects);

- Biomedicine and Health:
Cooperative research projects, other shared-cost RTD projects and demonstration projects in the following areas:
. Pharmaceuticals;
. Biomedical technology and engineering;
. Brain;
. Diseases with major socio-economic impacts (cancer; AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases; cardiovascular diseases; chronic diseases, ageing and age-related problems; occupational and environmental health; rare diseases);
. Human genome;
. Public health, including health services;
. Biomedical ethics;
- Agriculture and Fisheries (including agro-industry, food technologies, forestry, aquaculture and rural development):
Cooperative research projects, other shared-cost RTD projects and demonstration projects in the following areas:
. Integrated production and processing chains;
. Scaling-up and processing methodologies;
. Generic science and advanced technologies for nutritious foods;
. Agriculture, forestry and rural development;
. Fisheries and aquaculture;

- Non-Nuclear Energy (R&D Component):
Cooperative research projects and other shared-cost RTD projects in the following areas:
. Rational use of energy;
. Renewable energies;
. Fossil fuels;

- Transport:
Shared-cost RTD projects in the following areas:
. Strategic research;
. Rail transport;
. Integrated transport chains;
. Air transport;
. Urban transport;
. Waterborne transport;
. Road transport.


Responsibility for the implementation of the Technology Stimulation Measures (calls for proposals, selection of proposals, funding, etc.) rests with each of the specific programmes concerned.

In order to streamline eligibility and selection criteria, a single information package "Technology Stimulation Measures for SMEs" was prepared. It is common to the following ten programmes: Telematics Applications; Industrial and Materials Technologies; Standards, Measurements and Testing; Environment and Climate; Marine Sciences and Technologies; Biotechnologies; Biomedicine and Health; Agriculture and Fisheries; Non-Nuclear Energy (R&D component, JOULE); and Transport. The common information package is divided into three parts: Part I covers Exploratory Awards and Part II Cooperative Research projects. Part III contains specific information for each participating programme (research areas covered, type of projects accessible at Stage 2, indicative timetables for submitting proposals, etc.) and lists the contact points for obtaining information and assistance in each Member State.

The common information package does not cover the specific programmes on Advanced Communications Technologies and Services, Information Technologies or the demonstration component of the Non-Nuclear Energy programme (THERMIE). Details of the SME specific measures implemented under these programmes are contained in their respective information packages.

For the purposes of the ten programmes covered by the common information package, an SME is defined as an enterprise which generally satisfies the following criteria:

- A maximum of 500 employees;
- No more than one third owned by an organization larger than an SME (based on turnover and number of employees), unless it is a financial investor such as a bank or venture capitalist;
- An annual turnover of no more than ECU 38 million.

It is important to note that for some programmes, an SME must satisfy additional criteria in order to be considered "eligible". For instance, under the Environment and Climate and the Standards, Measurements and Testing programmes, SMEs whose main activity is consultancy are not eligible.

The first part of the common information package should be used to prepare proposals for Exploratory Awards for the ten programmes mentioned above. The type of research projects and the research fields which are eligible for Exploratory Awards are contained in the "Subdivisions" section of this record. Further details for the submission of project types other than CRAFT can be obtained in the respective information packages of the programmes concerned.

In general, Exploratory Awards are granted to at least two non-affiliated eligible SMEs from different Member States or from at least one Member State and an associated state. The partners must not have received an Expansion, Feasibility or Exploratory Award under the Third or Fourth Framework Programmes. The duration of the Exploratory Awards may not exceed 12 months, with an EC financial contribution of up to 75% of the total cost. The amount granted to any one award may not exceed ECU 45,000.

The second part of the common information package details the rules and procedures to be followed for the preparation of proposals for Cooperative Research projects for seven of the abovementioned specific programmes; the Telematics Applications, Biotechnologies and Transport programmes do not anticipate the implementation of these types of projects.

Proposals must generally comprise at least four non-affiliated eligible SMEs (some programmes only require two) with no or inadequate RTD means, from at least two different Member States, or from at least one Member State and an associated state. The projects are also open to the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The principal proposer must be an SME. At least half of the work under a project must be carried out by the RTD performer(s), which must have adequate R&D means to carry out the required research on behalf of the SME proposers. These may be universities, research centres, industrial companies, etc. which are not affiliated to any of the project proposers.

Projects, which last between one to two years, are funded by the Community on a shared-cost basis with the EC contribution normally ranging from between ECU 0.3 million and ECU 1 million. The RTD performers are normally fully paid for the work performed. Eligible SMEs are required to meet at least one third of the total project costs. Other proposers (other SMEs, large companies, industrial associations...) can participate by providing services and/or cash contributions of up to a maximum of one sixth of the total project costs.

Participation in the Cooperative Research projects without financial support from the European Community is allowed on a project-by-project basis for legal entities established in a European third country or in a country which has concluded an S&T Agreement with the Community in the areas covered by the programme under which the proposal is submitted, and for international organizations. Such participation must, however, be deemed to be of benefit to the Community.

Exploratory Awards and Cooperative Research projects are generally subject to a continuously open call for proposals, the responses to which are regularly (two to three times a year) evaluated in batches. Indicative timetables with deadlines for the submission of proposals are given in Part III of the information package on Technology Stimulation Measures for SMEs.

The total indicative amount planned for SME specific measures in various relevant programmes of the Fourth Framework Programme is of the order of ECU 700 million. The amounts planned under each of the 12 programmes are as follows:

- Telematics Applications: up to ECU 42 million;
- Advanced Communications Technologies and Services: ECU 63 million;
- Information Technologies: ECU 229 million;
- Industrial and Materials Technologies: up to ECU 225 million;
- Standards, Measurements and Testing: up to ECU 15 million;
- Environment and Climate: up to ECU 15.5 million;
- Marine Sciences and Technologies: up to ECU 8 million;
- Biotechnologies: up to ECU 22.9 million;
- Biomedicine and Health: to be defined in response to volume of proposals;
- Agriculture and Fisheries (including agro-industry, food technologies, forestry, aquaculture and rural development): up to ECU 60 million;
- Non-nuclear Energy - R&D and Demonstration components): up to ECU 22 million;
- Transport: ECU 12 million.
Record Number: 513 / Last updated on: 2014-03-05
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