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Pay particular attention to SMEs, say experts

The Key Action "Innovative products, process and organisation" needs to pay particular attention to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to the group of experts appointed to assess it.

However, the content of the work programme for the Key Action ...
The Key Action "Innovative products, process and organisation" needs to pay particular attention to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to the group of experts appointed to assess it.

However, the content of the work programme for the Key Action is consistent with the overall aims set out by the Council, according to the External Advisory Group (EAG). The Key Action comes within the thematic programme "Competitive and Sustainable Growth" of the Fifth Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration (RTD).

The Group met three times during the end of last year to discuss the work programme. It recognised the difficulty of addressing virtually all industrial sectors within this Key Action and the limited time constraints. Therefore, the Group adopted a pragmatic approach and reached agreement on the proposed text of the work programme.

The overall conclusion was positive and the EAG agreed that problems to be addressed had been clearly set out within the work programme and the technological solutions should be kept open, as proposed in the text.

However, the EAG pointed out a few things that the Commission should take into consideration. For example, regarding the selection criteria of proposals, the Group suggested that particular attention should be given to the stimulation of innovation, improvement of competitiveness, employment, and scientific and technical excellence. In developing the evaluation guidelines, the EAG particularly focused on the innovation content and effective participation of SMEs.

To reduce the cost to industry, RTD organisations and academia in the European Community, the Group clearly advised that the number of non-successful proposals should be reduced. This should be done by introducing targeted calls; moreover, pre-proposals checks should be emphasised.

The EAG also looked at what the work programme had to say about generic research. It highlighted the advantages of having coordinated calls for proposals for the Key Action and generic research and recommended coordination of the calls in the case of periodic calls. The EAG encouraged synchronous calls with the Key Action, in particular for short-to-medium-term research linked with the targeted priorities.

For the steel field, the EAG recommended effective coordination with the RTD activities carried out within the Key Action and the materials research. It asked for appropriate visibility to fully comply with the Council's decision and to facilitate the participation of the steel industry and the related RTD centres and academia, in order to promote the substantial phasing-in of the ECSC research.

Additionally, the Group found it very important to attract SMEs to the generic research, even if it acknowledged that interest in medium-to-long-term RTD is often marginal in these enterprises.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

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