The official launch of the EUREKA Eurostars Programme by Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research, in Brussels today opens a new era for high-tech small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe. Eurostars is offering a public/private funding package of 800 million euro over six years to support high-risk research and development (R&D) projects and transform new ideas into successful businesses. The first cut-off date for applications to the Programme will be 8 February 2008. “Eurostars brings a new level of cooperation and integration between Community and national research programmes,” said Commissioner Potocnik. “It will boost R&D-performing SMEs and provides a powerful illustration of the European Research Area in action.” Key role for entrepreneurial SMEs SMEs provide 75 million jobs and account for 99% of all businesses in Europe. They therefore have a crucial role in the bid to meet the targets of the renewed Lisbon partnership for growth and jobs. However, while R&D-performing SMEs are the entrepreneurial stars of Europe, they frequently find it difficult to obtain the necessary financial support for their high-risk projects. Responding to their specific needs, the European Commission and EUREKA members have established Eurostars, a joint programme with 27 EUREKA countries. This is the first support and funding programme specifically dedicated to research- and innovation-performing SMEs. The Eurostars Programme will offer funding to SMEs with less than 250 employees that invest at least 10% of their annual turnover in R&D. These activities will have to involve multi-partner, multinational projects led by SMEs, but open to other types of participants such as universities, research organisations and large companies. They must also target market-oriented R&D, aimed at short- to medium-term commercial results. Accelerated one-point access to funding Creating strong links between public and private funding, Eurostars offers ambitious and innovative SMEs a single access point at national level to both national and European research funding. Key benefits are a fast-track application procedure, harmonised evaluation and synchronised funding timetables, leading to fast results that can be brought to market rapidly. In addition to the Commission contribution of 100 million euro, 22 EU Member states and five countries associated with the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will jointly contribute another 300 million euro, giving a total investment of 400 million euro over six years. This will, in turn, mobilise up to 400 million euro in additional private funding, resulting in an estimated 800 million euro package to support European R&D-performing SMEs. By pooling national programmes and research funding in favour of SMEs, Eurostars is intended to result in better, more efficient use of funds from participating countries. Eurostars will be managed by the EUREKA Secretariat in Brussels, under the authority of the Eurostars High Level Group of representatives of the participating countries. The Secretariat will issue calls, receive project proposals, organise evaluation by independent experts, manage the financial contributions to the programme, and monitor project progress. More information about the Eurostars Programme can be found at http://www.eurostars-eureka.eu or by contacting EUREKA national project coordinators.