Enhancing surface transport in the new Europe Mechanisms to support aspiring EU nations and young EU nations in upgrading their transport sector have borne fruit and given way to new partnerships. Climate Change and Environment © Shutterstock Before Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, there was a need to encourage competitiveness and raise the standard of living by providing or improving essential services. One important consideration in these countries and other Candidate States that have not yet joined the EU has been to ensure efficient surface transport. The EU-funded project 'Supporting surface transport SMEs in candidate countries preparing RTD projects for FP7 and CPI programmes' (Surface Net) sought to encourage Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey to improve their surface transport infrastructure. The project looked at novel approaches to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in these countries to embark on relevant projects in the field. The project analysed SME research and development capabilities through sophisticated questionnaires, provided them with results from EU projects on transport and supported them in different ways. It contacted SMEs and identified which ones dealt in rail, road and waterborne transport, focusing as well on infrastructures, vehicles, mobility of goods and people. Surface Net also organised in each participating country workshops that coincided with calls for projects under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), enabling relevant companies to join EU projects. Its objectives and findings were disseminated through press conferences, publications and business meetings as well as online. The project was considered successful in informing SMEs about opportunities and mechanisms to further their aims in the transport sector. It provided them with tools to facilitate submission of proposals under EU Framework Programmes and helped them find partners. These efforts have the potential to help SMEs convert their transport ideas and business aspirations into proposals and reap the rewards.