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Research, technological development and demonstration programme which aims to promote innovation and encourage the participation of small and medium sized enterprises, 1998-2002

The European Parliament, in its opinion of 18th December 1987, and the Council, in its joint position adopted on 23rd March 1998, validated the general principles of the Commission's proposal concerning the fifth framework programme for Community research. These principles give priority to the concentration of research activities which will meet the European Union's main economic and social needs by implementing multidisciplinary actions grouped into thematic and horizontal programmes.

This document covers the Commission's proposals concerning the programme which aim to promote innovation and encourage the participation of SMEs, implementing the third action of the fifth framework programme. The third action concerns the dissemination and optimisation of research, technological development and dissemination activities.

Although the framework programme itself has not yet been adopted, the Commission has adopted these proposals so as to initiate thorough discussions of the specific programmes as soon as possible so that the framework programme can be implemented from the beginning of 1999.

The objective of the programme will be pursued by drawing up a consistent innovation policy which will contribute to the execution of the "First action plan for innovation" and will pay special attention to SMEs and their participation in the fifth framework programme. The actions carried out under the present programme will be complementary to those of the Member States. Their objective will be to support and direct the actions carried out by other specific programmes or, if necessary, within the framework of other Community actions.

Improving the economic and social impact of research and development activities, particularly those which come under the scope of the framework programme, by improving the dissemination and the exploitation of their results as well as the transfer and distribution of technologies from different sources, taking into account the needs of the consumers and the users.
The specific programme consists of the following activities:

-co-ordination activities as regards innovation and the participation of SMEs
. activities in the field of innovation which will ensure the synergy of innovation cells set up for other programmes by defining the methods and mechanisms contributing to increasing the level of exploitation of the results of research projects and by ensuring the effectiveness of the dissemination of information relating to R&TD projects and results
. activities to encourage the participation of SMEs which will involve the co-ordination of supporting activities for the participation of SMEs, R&TD activities and demonstration activities. This will be based particularly on co-operative research activities and programmes such as grants for the preparatory stage which are intended to support SMEs and encourage them to participate in the projects.

-activities specific to the horizontal programme
. improved use of Community research results with the aim of increasing the level of use of the research results by identifying and promoting the implementation of mechanisms which will facilitate the life cycle of projects, the protection of knowledge acquired, the exploitation or the transfer of results obtained and access to means of private finance
. new approaches to the transfer of technology, developing, validating and implementing methodologies using pilot and demonstration actions
. studies and good practices, by benchmarking results and innovation policies within a common reference framework and by encouraging exchanges and the implementation of good practices. These activities will, in particular, give rise to the regular publication of innovation indicators.

- encourage the participation of SMEs
. create a one-stop shop, facilitate the participation of SMEs in Community programmes by offering them an additional access channel, an additional single point of entry common to all programmes which involves existing support networks in the Member States
. common support and assistance instruments aimed at simplifying and harmonising the participation conditions for SMEs, in order to complete and reinforce the impact of the one-stop shop, preferably by the extensive use of the most appropriate electronic methods (information dossiers and submission of computerised proposals, "help line", etc.).
. economic intelligence with more relevant information for SMEs

- common innovation/SME activities
. European network for the promotion of research and innovation using existing networks (CRI and CRAFT networks) with the aim of increasing the receptiveness of enterprises to technologies which are likely to help improve their capacity for innovation by encouraging cross-border technology transfers whatever their origin, promoting the dissemination and exploitation of Community research results, informing and assisting potential participants in these research activities.
. electronic information services and other dissemination methods using CORDIS and the expansion of ERGO. This activity will focus on the dissemination, within the framework of a common information service, of all data which will ensure an improved awareness of the activities relating to research and innovation, their methods of implementation and their results, and will aim to inform a broad public about the socio-economic impact of innovation policies
. intellectual property, establishing an information system for patents and intellectual property documents. The setting up of a "help-desk" for the participants in Community programmes and protection and optimisation of research results belonging to the Community (JRC results)

- access to private financing of innovation with the aim of providing SMEs with information and advice on the means of access to private financing instruments for innovation and promoting co-operation between financial circles, research workers and industrialists
. mechanisms to facilitate the creation and the development of innovative enterprises and investments in these enterprises in co-operation with the EIF, the EIB and other financial players.
The programme will be implemented between 1998 and 2002.

The proposals relating to actions implemented under the scope of the programme will be submitted to the Commission following the publication of a call for tender. The Commission will be assisted by a programme committee consisting of representatives from the Member States and will be chaired by a representative from the Commission. The Commission will specify the timetable for implementation and the methods of co-ordination as well as the selection and participation criteria and their application to each type of action.

Financial contributions to research and technological development actions carried out under the scope of the programme will be allocated according to different categories of indirect R&TD actions carried out by third parties in accordance with contracts concluded with the European Community. They include the following:

- shared-cost action projects
. research and technological development projects, financed by up to 50% of eligible costs
. demonstration projects, financed by up to 35% of eligible costs
. combined projects, financed by up to 35% for the demonstration component and up to 50% for the R&TD component
. support for access to research infrastructures, associated with hosting teams of research workers from the European Community in order to help them to carry out their research work more effectively, financed by up to 100% of additional eligible costs
. co-operative research projects which enable at least three SMEs from at least two different Member States who are independent from each other to entrust solutions of their common technological problems with third party legal entities who have appropriate research capacities, financed by up to 50% of the eligible costs for the project
. exploration subsidies which enable the execution of the exploratory stage of a R&TD project, for example feasibility studies, the validation of projects or research activities of partners over a maximum period of twelve months, covering up to 75% of eligible costs for the stage

-training grants, covering up to 100% of eligible training costs

-support for networks
. bringing together manufacturers, users, universities, research centres and organisations concerned with the distribution or the transfer of innovation with a view to boosting scientific and technological excellence, financed by up to 100% of additional eligible costs
. creation of research training networks intended for the training of young pre- and post-doctoral research workers, financed by up to 100% of additional eligible costs

-concerted actions which aim to co-ordinate R&TD projects that are already financed in order to exchange experience acquired, expand research activity, circulate the results and inform the users, financed by up to 100% of additional eligible costs

- monitoring measures which contribute to the implementation of the programme or the preparation of future actions (including dissemination, information and communication actions) in order to enable them to achieve or to define their strategic objectives. Furthermore, they aim to prepare or to support other indirect R&TD actions. The following are excluded: measures for the selling of products, processes or services, marketing activities and the promotion of sales. Community financing can cover up to 100% of eligible costs for measures.

-pilot activities carried out in all areas of the programme intended for testing new measures which require specific provisions for implementation. The provisions relating to these pilot actions can differ from those for indirect R&TD actions.

Participation in the programme is open to all legal entities established in a Member State or an associated State. Provisions are also planned for the participation of legal entities from other countries and all international organisations, one of the conditions being that their participation is in the interest of the Community. The CCR (Centre Commun de Recherche ¿ JRC: Joint Research Centre) may participate in indirect actions carried out under the scope of this specific programme.

The Commission will ensure the complementarity between indirect actions by bringing them together under a common objective. The Commission will also guarantee co-ordination between other specific programmes by implementing the fifth framework programme, for example EURATOM, COST and other instruments linked to research such as PHARE, TACIS, MEDA, the EIF (European Investment Fund), structural funds and the EIB (European Investment Bank).

The Commission, assisted by independent experts and following a call for tender, will evaluate all the tenders received based on the specific priorities of the programme and the work schedule.

Likewise, the implementation of the programme will be assessed each year by the Commission with the help of independent experts. In particular, they will examine whether the objectives, priorities and financial resources are still appropriate and, if necessary, submit proposals in order to adapt or complete the programme.