The second call for proposals for the Community's specific RTD programme in the field of biotechnology (BIOTECH II) programme, published in September 1995 (OJ No C 240 of 15.9.1995 p. 9), invited proposals for shared-cost preparatory awards aimed at encouraging the participation of SMEs in RTD projects. Proposals submitted within this framework were evaluated in batches, with regular evaluation deadlines. The number of proposals submitted for the January 1997 evaluation deadline (31.12.1996) showed a marked increase in comparison to previous batches, possibly as a result of various awareness-building actions such as the "Biopartnering" event, BIOPARTNERING'96, which took place in Brussels, Belgium, on 25 October 1996. A total of 49 proposals for SME preparatory awards were submitted by this deadline. Of these 31 have been selected, leading to an increase in SME involvement in the BIOTECH programme, with 62 SMEs from 14 different countries participating for the first time as a result of this scheme. These preparatory awards should lead to full proposals under the fourth BIOTECH II call for proposals, due to be launched in mid-June 1997.