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Joint FEICRO-EACRO position paper - SMEs in the Fifth Framework Programme

The Federation of European Industrial Cooperative Research Organizations (FEICRO), in cooperation with the European Association of Contract Research Organizations (EACRO), has published its views and recommendations in a position paper on "SMEs in the Fifth Framework Programme...

The Federation of European Industrial Cooperative Research Organizations (FEICRO), in cooperation with the European Association of Contract Research Organizations (EACRO), has published its views and recommendations in a position paper on "SMEs in the Fifth Framework Programme". The paper offers suggestions for further improvement to CRAFT-type schemes in the Fifth Framework Programme, with the aim of increasing SME access to European RTD activities. FEICRO and EACRO feel that the Fifth Framework Programme should consistently follow and build on the positive experiences of the Fourth Framework Programme. They point out, however, that several SME-specific problems still need to be addressed. In particular, the majority of SMEs do not have the management capacity to deal with the procedures required of them to manage European RTD consortia. In addition, the innovation criterion requiring that RTD results lead beyond the current technological state of the art does not correspond to the real needs of most SMEs. There is also the problem of the long application and project lead times which are at odds with SMEs' needs to accelerate and improve their competitiveness. FEICRO and EACRO would therefore welcome a dual approach, incorporating both the current approach of breakthrough innovation as well as SME-driven, step-by-step RTD focusing on the adaptation of state-of-the-art technology to the specific needs of SMEs. In particular, FEICRO and EACRO would like to see the following six core measures implemented: - Improve coordination among the individual EU RTD programmes to improve SMEs' understanding of and access to those programmes which best serve their needs; - Strengthen the decentralization of step-one application and evaluation procedures in order to reduce lead times; - Permit intermediaries with a proven industrial background, such as industrial research and technology organizations (IRTOs), to identify and formulate SME-specific research needs on behalf of their clients; - Allow IRTOs and other SME-driven research organizations to propose and manage SME-specific RTD projects; - Introduce a "collective research" scheme enabling SME-driven research organizations to conduct joint cross-national research focusing on common SME-specific RTD needs; - Ensure adequate financial resources for SME-specific programmes and projects, taking into account the limited resources available to most SMEs. The FEICRO and EACRO position paper is now being circulated for discussion and comment among the members of the two associations.

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