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Horizontal research activities involving SMEs: Specific activities covering wider field of research under the Focusing and Integrating Community Research programme 2002-2006.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a crucial role in
European competitiveness and job creation, not only because they
represent the overwhelming majority of enterprises in Europe, but
also because they are the source of dynamism and change in new
markets, particularly those at the leading edge of technology.
Although a heterogeneous community, they are all confronted by
increased competition resulting from the completion of the European
internal market and the need to innovate constantly and
accommodate advances in technology. Besides this, an increasing
number of SMEs both need and want to internationalise in search
of new markets and business opportunities.
SMEs will participate,
for the most part, in the activities implemented under the
priority thematic areas of research within networks of excellence,
integrated projects and specific targeted research projects. In
addition, specific schemes for SMEs in the form of actions on
collective and cooperative research will be set up. These will be
addressing primarily the large community of SMEs with a capacity
to innovate but with limited research capability. However, the
cooperative research scheme will also allow innovative SMEs to
cooperate with universities and research centres. Overall, in
addition to the horizontal activities for SMEs, at least 15 % of
the budget relating to the seven thematic priorities under this
programme will be allocated to SMEs.
To help SMEs to internationalise in search of new markets and business opportunities and to deal with increased competition resulting from the completion of the European internal market and the need to innovate constantly and accommodate advances in technology.
_ Collective Research
Collective research is a form of research undertaken by RTD performers on behalf of industrial associations or industry groupings in order to expand the knowledge base of large communities of SMEs and thus improve their general standard of competitiveness. Conducted on a European basis, through substantial projects of several years duration, this is an efficient way of addressing technological needs of significant sections of the industrial community. Based on schemes existing in many member states, this measure aims at allowing industrial groupings to identify and express research needs that are common to large numbers of SMEs at European level. It should allow to improve the overall European technological basis of whole industrial sectors. By inter-linking industrial groupings in different countries and in financing larger projects with an increased responsibility for project co-ordinators, it will contribute to structuring the landscape of collective research in line with the objectives of the European Research Area.

Collective research projects could cover, for example: - Research aimed at addressing common problems/challenges (e.g. to meet regulatory requirements, environmental performance;)
- Pre-normative research (research to provide a scientific base for European norms and standards);
- Research aimed at reinforcing the technological basis of particular sector(s);
- Development of "technological tools" (e.g. diagnosis, safety equipment).

_Co-operative research
Co-operative research is a scheme whereby a limited number of SMEs from different countries having specific problems or needs, outsource the required research to an RTD performer, while retaining ownership of the results. Projects are relatively short term and may address any research topic or field, being based on the specific needs and problems of the SMEs concerned. Other (non-SME) enterprises and end-users will be able to participate in co- operative research projects, under conditions ensuring they do not assume a dominant role, and have restricted access to the results. These activities may also be carried out by innovative and high-tech SMEs in cooperation with research centres and universities.
_ Collective Research
Projects will be managed, on the basis of well-defined guidelines, by industrial associations or other groupings established at European level, or by at least 2 national industrial associations/groupings established in different European countries. European Economic Interest Groups representing the interests of SMEs are also eligible. A "core group" of SMEs associated to each project will monitor progress from the definition phase of the research to the dissemination of the results obtained. A 2-step approach is envisaged in identifying topics and selecting proposals (call for outline proposals and, after those selected in a first round evaluation have been developed into complete proposal(s), evaluation and selection from amongst these).

The level of funding and contractual arrangements of Collective research projects will depend on their objectives:
- Projects aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of a specific industrial sector would benefit from a maximum Community contribution of 50% of the total eligible costs. In such cases the contracting party (the industrial groupings) would own the results.
- Projects having a strong legislative or "public well-being" content (e.g. environmental protection, enhancement of public health), could obtain a higher funding. In such cases, the main emphasis will be on a Europe-wide dissemination of the research results.
In all cases, dissemination of the results amongst the SMEs would be foreseen through, for example, special training and demonstration ("take-up") actions.

_ Co-operative Research
Co-operative research will be implemented via an open call for proposals. Information and advice about the possibilities of SME involvement will be ensured via entry points set up by the Commission, and by making use of the national contact point scheme. This activity will also be responsible for the co-ordination of a dedicated network of SME National Contact Points in the Member States and Associated States, providing SMEs at regional and national level with information and assistance on their participation in the Framework Programme, including in Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects. Close co-ordination with the Economic and Technological Intelligence Actions and with the innovation support services, implemented under the heading "Research and Innovation", will ensure that SMEs benefit from all the foreseen instruments and activities.