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Innovation and SMEs Programme - Commission publishes pre-information on call for projects

The European Commission has, under its Innovation and SMEs Programme, published advanced information on a call for proposals in 1999. The Commission is looking for a pilot action to facilitate the setting-up and development of Innovative Companies.

Under the horizontal programme "Promotion of Innovation and Encouragement of SMES" of the Fifth RTD Framework Programme (FP5), the European Commission aims to support pilot activities to facilitate the setting-up and development of innovative firms. With the objective of identifying, analysing and validating excellent schemes, a first call for proposals will be published in mid-1999, inviting proposals for three types of actions:

- Labelling and networking areas of excellence;
- Cross-border projects to facilitate the creation and development of innovative firms;
- Accompanying measures.

In the first action "Labelling and networking areas of excellence", a European label would be granted to economic areas/regions in the EU and Associated States which inter alia fulfil the following conditions:

- Excellent scientific, technical and economic potential and infrastructures;
- Capability to facilitate the creation and development of innovative companies.

Proposals for this first action may be submitted by the main actors of the innovation system and they must be supported by regional or local authorities. Awarded economic areas will be networked taking into account thematic priorities or existing links.

After selection of candidates, the established network will facilitate the coordination of activities, the identification of existing resources and competence, the transfer of knowledge and the exchange and dissemination of good practices.

Support would be granted towards a maximum of 100 percent of additional eligible costs for coordinating and implementing the network.

The objective of the second action "Cross-border projects to facilitate the creation and development of innovative firms", is to validate, through transnational pilot projects, original instruments or approaches in the European Union and Associated States. These projects will be carried out to support the creation and development of innovative firms and to encourage private investment in these, as well as to test their transferability in another context. The following priorities are specifically targeted:

- Interlinking and exchange of local financing mechanisms (such as regional funds or business angel networks) and/or mentoring schemes for innovative start-ups;
- Integrated actions on training and support to innovative start-ups and on good practices in the preparation of business plans (e.g. business plans competitions);
- New services for innovative start-ups in technology parks, incubators and science parks;
- Mechanisms to stimulate the transfer of knowledge and the creation of innovative start-ups (spin-out) by higher education (universities, etc) and research institutes, in interaction with industry and investors;
- Initiatives supporting the development of and access to international markets for innovative firms (e.g. investment fora, brokerage or partnering event).

Project proposals for this second action must involve at least two mutually independent legal entities established in different EU Member or Associated States.

The Community will fund up to 50 per cent of the total eligible costs for the pilot projects.

Finally, the third action "Accompanying measures" is designed to prepare for, or to support, other actions like the network or the pilot projects and contribute to the achievement of strategic objectives, such as the definition of EU innovation policy.

Two types of accompanying measures will be included in the call:

- Support measures to facilitate networks interaction (e.g. workshops, website, etc) and management, including exchange of information, transfer of best practices and organisation of promotional events (e.g. an annual European forum of innovative companies);
- An "Innovation policy interface" in coordination with other relevant EU policies, to extract lessons from the activities of thematic networks and projects, by establishing an interface with expert panels, visiting schemes, workshops, benchmarking exercises, etc.

The Community will fund up to 100 percent of the eligible costs.

A budget of 12 million euro is envisaged for this first call for proposals.

The advance notice of this call can be accessed via the Innovation/SMEs home page at:


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