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Eurostars Programme shines at European Business Summit 2007

The importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in European business was one of the topics up for discussion at this year’s European Business Summit (EBS).

The importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in European business was one of the topics up for discussion at this year’s European Business Summit (EBS). In a workshop entitled ‘7th Framework programme: what’s in it for (SME) business?’, EUREKA’s Eurostars Programme Manager Luuk Borg was met with enthusiasm as he took to the floor to present the latest news on this Article 169 initiative focusing on funding for R&D-performing SMEs. He continued to stress the vital role this niche-market of businesses play in developing future European competitiveness and productivity. ‘SMEs want speed and simplicity and this is the challenge we have to meet. There is a need for predictable procedures, short lead times and guaranteed funding,’ insisted Borg. The programme is specifically aimed at R&D-performing SMEs, 26 countries have committed so far with an estimated budget of 400 million euro. ‘Our target is 600 projects for the next 6 years with the first call for project proposals in late 2007,’ he added. Many small or medium businesses invest a considerable amount of time and money in R&D activities. However, public support is often low limiting potential market impact. The Eurostars Programme offers combined national research funding to make it easier for SMEs to lead international collaborative R&D projects. The projects must involve a partner from another Eurostars participating country. It should last no longer than three years and two years after project completion, the product of the research should be ready for release onto the market. On the Commission side of the discussion, Dr. Zoran Stan?i?, Deputy Director General for DG Research, discussing the workings of the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), agreed on the importance of making FP7 more attractive to SMEs and that the priorities of the programme reflected the needs of industry. ‘We need to support SMEs to develop common standards and solve technological problems and enlarge the range of support elements,” he added.