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EUREKA provides springboard for innovating SMEs

EUREKA's bottom-up approach is particularly attractive to SMEs.

“Lack of bureaucracy and a bottom-up approach makes EUREKA the perfect tool for young, innovating businesses,” stressed Rémy Rénaudin, French EUREKA National Project Coordinator during a round table session on enterprise and innovation, organised by the intergovernmental initiative at Innovact in Reims, France on 4 October. “Sharing is the key word for small businesses that collaborate in EUREKA projects: they share expertise, cost, risks, intellectual property rights – and, of course, all the benefits.” EUREKA has changed considerably since it was set up 20 years ago, but its values remain the same. To make European industry competitive, it believes support for innovation must be a political priority, particularly for small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), the engines of economic growth. “EUREKA is a springboard for innovation and for financing SME growth,” emphasised Pierre Collowald, valorisation manager at the EUREKA Secretariat in Brussels. “The EUREKA label is recognised as a proof of the quality of management and of the technology content in innovative sectors.” As a result, 30 to 40 SMEs obtain venture capital investment in the results of their EUREKA projects each year. Industry-oriented research “The EUREKA bottom-up approach enables participants to define the project’s shape and objectives themselves," added Michel Guilbaud, incoming EUREKA High-Level Representative for France. “This approach is particularly attractive to small businesses to which EU research programmes are often out of reach, due to the complexity and cost of the application procedure.” SMEs now represent over 40% of EUREKA project participants. “Involvement in EUREKA means a small business gets to build critical mass by working with partners in other European countries,” said Eric Jacquet-Lagrèze, Chief Executive Officer of Eurodécision, highlighting the advantages the company had obtained through participation in the Franco-Belgian E! 2631 OPTIFLUX project. “Pooling expertise is not all, you also get faster and easier access to new markets through this collaboration.” EUREKA also influences European and global standards. For example, a series of EUREKA projects led to the development of three standards essential for digital radio and digital television, according to Pierre Vasseur of Thales Broadcast & Multimedia: the DAB standard for digital radio (E!147: DAB), MPEG2 video compression and DVB digital video broadcasting (E!625: VADIS); and DRM for digital AM radio (E!1559: NADIB). Greater synergies with the EU “The Commission and EUREKA have long focused on developing greater synergies, notably with the EU Framework Programme,” said Franco Cozzani of the European Commission Research DG. But, while the EU is a full member of EUREKA, EUREKA is not an EU initiative. “There are potentially major benefits from increasing co-operation between the two. And a new and ambitious joint initiative is now being considered that particularly favours SMEs.” This joint initiative is ‘EUROSTARS – tomorrow’s champions’. So far half the EUREKA member countries have committed to supplying €40 million a year in public funding. “EUROSTARS would combine the advantages of EUREKA, with its flexible and bottom-up procedures, and the ability of the EU to provide secure funding,” added Cozzani. “Project evaluation would be by both a team of independent experts and EUREKA national offices.” The outlook is positive, but a firm decision on European Commission support will depend on future debates on the EU Seventh Framework Programme.The EUREKA Initiative aims to strengthen European competitiveness by promoting cross-border, market-oriented, collaborative R&D. It enables industry and research institutes from 35 member countries and the EU to collaborate in a bottom-up approach to developing and exploiting innovative technologies. EUREKA is marking 20 years of pan-European innovation in 2005. Since 1985, substantial public and private funding has been deployed through this intergovernmental network to support leading edge R&D. More information about EUREKA may be found at: http://www.eureka.be while additional information about 20 years of EUREKA can be found at: http://www.eureka-20years.net.

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Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France