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SMEs and Innovation

The follow-up to the Green Paper on Innovation and its interest for SMEs was the subject of a speech delivered by Mr. Vicente Parajon Collada, Deputy Director General of DG XIII, at the "First SME Technology Days", held in Brussels, on 30-31 October 1996. Directorate-General ...

The follow-up to the Green Paper on Innovation and its interest for SMEs was the subject of a speech delivered by Mr. Vicente Parajon Collada, Deputy Director General of DG XIII, at the "First SME Technology Days", held in Brussels, on 30-31 October 1996. Directorate-General XIII of the European Commission (Telecommunications, information market and exploitation of research) coordinated the discussions on the Commission's Green Paper on Innovation and will be responsible for implementing the "Action Plan on Innovation", due to be launched at the Dublin European Council in December 1996. In his speech, Mr. Parajon Collada stressed the importance of innovation for the competitiveness of European SMEs which, he underlined, face the choice of "Innovate or disappear". The Commission's Green Paper, launched in December 1995, analysed the barriers to innovation in Europe and presented some 130 proposals for action. Over 40,000 copies were distributed throughout the EU, plus Norway and Iceland. In addition, conferences were organized in all 17 countries, with the aim of widening the discussions. A concluding conference was held in Rome on 29 May, following which the Commission has been formulating the "Action Plan on Innovation", due to be adopted in mid-November. The debate on innovation has highlighted three major priority areas in which measures need to be taken. The needs of innovative SMEs are central to these measures which include: - 1. The creation of an environment favourable to innovation, in the financial, regulatory and legal arenas, by: . 1.a. Improving access of SMEs to funds: . By encouraging investment of own resources and risk capital; . By supporting the development of European capital markets for technological enterprises; . By strengthening links between the technological and financial sectors; . 1.b. Improving the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and reducing the costs of protection; . 1.c. Reducing the burden of administrative procedures, which are of high cost to innovative SMEs, in three areas: . In starting up businesses; . In regulations affecting innovation, for instance, some of the Single Market legislation; . Innovation support services, by establishing "one-stop shops" for SMEs; - 2. Improving cooperation and links between research and industry, although in this area measures should be predominantly national, with accompanying measures at Community level, aimed at: . Increasing funding for research; . Improving collaboration between institutions in different countries, in order to reduce the dispersion of research efforts; . Improving circulation of knowledge, methods and technologies across Europe, to reduce the under-utilization of existing technologies; . Encouraging the creation of enterprises with a strong technological base; - 3. The promotion of a real innovation culture in Europe, by implementing measures, at national and European levels, in the following areas: . Education and training; . Increasing the mobility of students, researchers and engineers within the EU; . Increasing awareness amongst Europeans of the benefits of innovation; . Encouraging the management of innovation and change within enterprises. The Commission will also increase the orientation of RTD programmes towards exploitation and dissemination of the results achieved. Mr. Parajon Collada ended by reminding his audience of the various support services for SMEs already being offered by the INNOVATION programme: - The network of Innovation Relay Centres across Europe which provides specialized regional services, including partner searching, for enterprises; - The INNOVATION "Technology Transfer and Technology Validation" projects which are designed specifically for SMEs wanting to innovate; - CORDIS, the Community R&D Information Service, which provides a comprehensive information resource on Community research activities; - The provision of patent and intellectual property services, including the QUICK SCAN search tool; - The support of "Risk Capital Forums" for SMEs.

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