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Innovation Relay Centres - Thematic Groups

Some nine Thematic Groups have been formed by the members of the Innovation Relay Centres (IRC) network, supported by the EU's INNOVATION programme. These groups of IRCs aim to carry out joint work on specific themes and to develop transnational technology transfer projects to...
Some nine Thematic Groups have been formed by the members of the Innovation Relay Centres (IRC) network, supported by the EU's INNOVATION programme. These groups of IRCs aim to carry out joint work on specific themes and to develop transnational technology transfer projects to broaden technical horizons.

In addition to being a very effective tool for IRCs to establish better cooperation with the specific programmes of the Fourth Framework Programme, they foster links between academic institutions, large companies and SMEs to engender a more targeted approach in partner search, partner proposal matching and technology transfer.

The thematic groups formed so far cover the following sectors:

- Automotive;
- Agrofood;
- Biotechnology;
- Renewable energy;
- Environment;
- Fish technology;
- Materials;
- Medical;
- Wood.

The first thematic group formed was the Biotechnology group, launched in April 1996, and led by the Scottish IRC. This group aims to build effective bridges between SMEs and universities, encouraging business links, technology transfer and collaboration between the two sectors. Working proactively and using innovative methods, the IRCs in the group aim to involve successful biotechnology companies and encourage them to explore possibilities for collaboration.

Another group to get off the ground early was the Automotive thematic group, led by the IRC North Germany. In this industry, IRCs aim to create opportunities for transnational cooperation among automobile suppliers and to try to ensure individual assistance for the respective companies. Among the objectives of the Automotive thematic group are:

- Providing information in the field of the car industry;
- Assisting in benchmarking;
- Facilitating contacts between European SMEs working for the car industry;
- Opening up access to research and development resources;
- Improving communications;
- Contributing to the exchange of good practice.

Examples of the activities developed by the thematic groups include the organization of various workshops and technology exchange days. Assistance for partner search for projects and programmes is also provided.

Source: European Commission, DG XIII

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