In the framework of the Community's VALUE programme for the dissemination and exploitation of results stemming from Community RTD activities, the Commission launched in 1993 the VALUE Relay Centres (VRCs), a dedicated network of advisory centres whose object is to bring Community RTD closer to local industry. The project became operational on 1 January, with the official openings of individual VALUE Relay Centres taking place in the ensuing months. Hence, the VRCs have now completed their first half-year of intense activity. They have been particularly busy with both the start-up process and with dissemination and valorization actions concerning the initiatives and events taking place in the final phase of the Third Framework Programme. The strategic mission of the 27 VRCs throughout the Member States is to enhance European technical innovation at a world level. This is undertaken via the active dissemination and promotion of RTD results (their "valorization") and by targeted support to industries and research institutions to facilitate their participation in Community research programmes. The aim is to achieve wider use of RTD results by all sectors of industry, in particular among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Upstream activities undertaken by the VALUE Relay Centres, relating to the valorization of results, include: - Effective dissemination of both general and targeted information on Community RTD activities through carefully selected channels; - Assistance to local industry in the identification of opportunities for participation in the Community RTD programmes, plus support in the preparation and submission of proposals to the Commission; - Provision of specialized consultancy services tailored to the particular needs of local and regional clients; - Aid to industry and research institutions in locating suitable partners for RTD projects. Downstream activities, representing the main value-added element of the VALUE Relay Service, have focused on specific initiatives relating to this aspect of valorization: - Three VACRO Days (VALUE Crossroad Days) were organized in Milan, Bari and Madrid. VACRO Days are one- or two-day events presenting selected Community RTD results to members of local industry most likely to be interested in their applications. Individual meetings are arranged between the developers and the potential clients, with a view to setting up possible exploitation agreements; - The distribution of VALUE Relay Centre newsletters, containing information on EC RTD results likely to attract the interest of exploiters; - Direct evaluation of RTD results by the VRCs, with the advice of external experts in the pertinent technology area, and subsequent dissemination of disclosable information on such results to local industry interested in their application and exploitation; - Direct, personalized assistance in the production of exploitation plans, plus identification of the opportunities for obtaining financial support for exploitation purposes. Particular efforts have been devoted to the exploitation of CORDIS, the Community Research and Development Information Service. Statistics clearly show that, over the first phase, the VALUE Relay Centres have made considerable use of this specialized database service. CORDIS has proved to be a fundamental tool for the effective implementation of a reliable flow of information on Community RTD results. In this context, the VRC Coordination Unit based in Luxembourg has played an important role in facilitating the information flow between the services of the Commission and the VALUE Relay Centres themselves. The Coordination Unit has made other key contributions to the effectiveness of the VRCs, including the animation of Relay Centre activities and the organization of specific training sessions for VRC staff. During the coming months VRCs will intensify and refine activities in the areas described, building on the valuable experience gained in their initial operational period. A number of events are already planned, directly involving the parties interested in valorization (further dates will be announced shortly): - Seminars and information days; - Workshops presenting BRITE/EURAM results (Stuttgart, November 1993); - Presentation of specific ESPRIT results (VACRO Day, Berlin, 27 September 1993); - Technology Transfer Days to take place in Mondragon, Spain and in Cork, Ireland; - Biotechnology events in Marseilles and in the Netherlands; - VACRO Days in Mulheim, Lisbon, Paris, England and Italy; - Fairs and exhibitions presenting EC RTD results in several Italian regions. Since their inception, the VALUE Relay Centres have reached large audiences with effectively targeted information on the results of Community RTD, and have won a growing consensus from local industry and RTD-related institutions. In particular they have stimulated wide interest among SMEs, their prime target. It is expected that the already well-established coperation, among the Relay Centres themselves and with the services of the Commission, will ensure further valorization success in the future, creating an even more effective tool for the dissemination and utilization of Community RTD results in the 90s.