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ESC opinion on research funding for SMEs

The Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities has adopted an own-initiative opinion on "The impact on SMEs of the steady and widespread reduction of funds allocated to RTD in the EU (at Community and national level)".

The Committee's opinion, adopted in plenar...
The Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities has adopted an own-initiative opinion on "The impact on SMEs of the steady and widespread reduction of funds allocated to RTD in the EU (at Community and national level)".

The Committee's opinion, adopted in plenary on 1 October 1997, is a response to its concern that total spending, both public and private, on research and development in Europe is almost one-third lower than in Japan (at 1.9% of GDP compared to 3.1% in 1995). Public funding for R&D has consistently decreased since 1991, and today there are four times more researchers employed by companies in Japan than in Europe.

In the view of the Committee, this situation will lead to a lack of innovative capacity and an inability to launch new products and services on the market, as well as lessening Europe's capacity to create jobs. In view of the forthcoming European employment summit, the Committee aims to draw the attention of Europe's governments and companies to the need to reorganize the potential for research and development.

The Committee recommends that the EU should concentrate its efforts on the group of SMEs, known as "precursors", which have the potential to carry out research and innovate but lack the means to do so on their own. This group accounts for only around 10% of the estimated 15 million SMEs in Europe. The Committee suggests that by coordinating public sector efforts, both national and Community, and by encouraging the investment of private capital, several million jobs could be created in those companies.

Other measures proposed by the Committee include the development of the CRAFT cooperative research initiative and the EUREKA initiative, to focus the Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR) programme on engineers and researchers from companies with high innovative potential, and to establish a financial instrument to support joint ventures between European SMEs.

Source: Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities

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