Globalisation and the creation of the knowledge society are the challenges facing SMEs in Europe, but the conditions are favourable, said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin at the opening of the third SME (small and medium sized enterprises) Technology days event in Oporto, Portugal, on Thursday 29 June. Both globalisation and the knowledge society are realities that have to be accommodated, said Busquin. Neither too much faith nor excessive fear should be attributed to them. Adaptation to the new rules of competition is the most important thing, where most successful products are recent ones, where economies are integrated but also where competition activities are matched by collaboration opportunities. This is where ERA, the European Research Area, would benefit the continent. Europe's challenge therefore is to produce knowledge, have sufficient access to other knowledge and know how to exploit this knowledge, according to Busquin. The Commissioner's comments came after he and the media had seen a presentation of the results of the EU-funded 'cork' research project, which should see millions of euro saved through reduced waste. A consortium of small and medium sized enterprises from across Europe have patented a technique of making corks that do not chemically react with the contents of the bottle, which could save the estimated 500 million euro of 'corked' wine ruined annually. The production technique succeeds where traditional treatments have failed by using microwaves to penetrate the cork. The companies concerned received funding from the European Commission's CRAFT programme set up to give funding to SMEs to improve their products through research and development. 'This programme is specifically designed to help small companies who do not have sufficient research capacity of their own to access latest technology through collaboration with research institutes,' said Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. 'I am particularly interested in this activity since I believe that technology transfer is an important way of bringing European researchers together and to create employment.'