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Project To Increase Research & Development Among SMEs

A new project aims to boost the number of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) accessing R&D funding from the EU's 19 billion Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). DETECT-IT is being funded from the Research and Innovation priority in FP6, and the project has assembled a network of 62 organisations to help SMEs across Europe access this money.

With half the new jobs in the EU currently being created by SMEs, DETECT-IT will target over a thousand SMEs across Europe in three main sectors - information society technology, food quality and safety, and sustainable environment and energy. "With nearly two million industrial SMEs in Europe, almost half of which are market innovators, they are the backbone of the European economy," says Linda Slack, Acting Chief Executive with Pronovus Ltd, one of the UK partners. "They employ nearly two-thirds of the EU's private sector workforce and are responsible for the creation of one in every two new jobs. DETECT-IT aims to help them tap into the 2.2 billion that has been earmarked for SME participation in research under FP6. This project will help develop established channels between SMEs and appropriate research opportunities to help turn SMEs ideas into commercial realities." The overall objective of the DETECT-it project is to tackle the main problems faced by SMEs in participating in EU R&D projects:,· They do not have the necessary in-house knowledge and skills to manage the RTD process; ,· They predominantly have short term objectives; ,· There is a lack of awareness-raising activities about the benefits and opportunities for SMEs in RTD and innovation;,· There is a general lack of human resources allocated to RTD activities in SMEs;,· Those SMEs who do participate in EU RTD projects are ill prepared for the administrative and financial burden relating to participation in EU programmes. It will do this by creating a network of 42 project partners and 20 associate partners, including 30 EU Business Innovation Centres (BICs) acting as incubators to identify and encourage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in FP6 Framework Programme research. The SMEs will be provided with information, support and guidance to enable them to access a network of resources and information. This includes invitations to regional and national events where they can meet other players in their industry sector. Web-conference calls will take place where research project leaders will present opportunities for SMEs to participate in their project. SMEs can also present their ideas for project development to other participants using web-conferencing and also use the projects database to search for new partners or existing opportunities. The BIC is the only EU-accredited model for supporting business creation and they also have a mandate to provide innovation services to existing SMEs. DETECT-IT involves partners from 16 countries and more than 1,000 SMEs from across Europe. It is also supported by leading international firms, including Procter & Gamble, who recognise the innovative capabilities of SMEs. Jayne Sutcliffe, FP6UK National Contact Point for Research & Innovation says: "Small and medium-sized enterprises are central to Europes innovation and technological breakthroughs. By helping smaller enterprises tap into EU research funding and take part in European research networks, DETECT-IT will, in turn, help SMEs maximise their innovation potential." "In addition to the 2.2 billion in funding available to SMEs in all priority areas of research, FP6 has activities specifically targeted at these smaller businesses. The Horizontal research activities involving SMEs are intended to help these enterprises, in traditional or new sectors, boost their technological capacities and develop their ability to operate on both the European and international level." The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the 19bn of funding available to support internationally collaborative R&D should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080.The EU's Framework Programmes are the world's largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Union's main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of 19 billion. ,Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas: ,? Life sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health; ,? Information Society Technologies; ,? Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledgebased Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices; ,? Aeronautics and Space; ,? Food Quality and Safety; ,? Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and ,? Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas. The services of FP6UK are funded by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). More information can be found on http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk , ,Research & Innovation The Research and Innovation Programme of the 6th Framework Programme is designed to address key structural weaknesses that prevent the maximum economic and social benefits being drawn from European research effort. It aims to encourage a more innovation-friendly environment throughout the EU and to stimulate technological innovation and the setting-up of innovative technology businesses. A particular objective is to set up the basis of a European innovation system by networking players, promoting co-operation, breaking down barriers and encouraging transnational learning.

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