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Community initiative (EEC) concerning regional capacities for research, technology and innovation (STRIDE), 1990-1993

For the period 1989-1993, resources amounting to more than ECU 60 billion are available, via the three European Funds (ERDF, ESF, EAGGF-Guidance section), for the structural actions of the Community. The major part of these resources is allocated to the Community Support Frameworks (CSF), multi-annual agreements signed between Member States and the Commission of the European Communities, on the basis of which operational programmes can be implemented. In addition, ECU 5.5 billion have been reserved for Community Initiatives, and ECU 300 million for Pilot Projects.

STRIDE is one of the Community Initiatives, adopted by the Commission on 25 July 1990 within the meaning of Article 11 of Regulation (EEC) No 4253/88 and Article 3(2) of Regulation (EEC) No 4254/88 concerning the restructuration of the Structural Funds. It is complementary to other Community actions in favour of R&D, especially those within the Community Support Frameworks, the Community's RTD Framework programme, the SPRINT programme for innovation and technology transfer, and the COMETT programme in education and training for technology.

STRIDE concerns improvement of regional capacities for research, technology and innovation, It is designed to increase the contribution that the Community's RTD policies can make to achieving greater economic and social cohesion within the European Community. It seeks to encourage a wider regional distribution of research capabilities, by helping public administrations in less developed regions assess technology requirements as part of their development planning, and by helping them to audit local capabilities and potential and to invest in the development of a long term capability in selected areas of research, technology and innovation. It seeks to improve the participation of research centres and firms in Objective 1 regions in research programmes supported by the European Community as well as other international programmes, by improved awareness, supporting preparatory work, and by strengthening networks of cooperation within the European Community.
To strengthen the research, technological and innovative capacity of the regions whose development is lagging behind so that they are better placed to attract or retain technologically advanced activities in the productive sectors of the region and highly qualified personnel, and also to assist regions affected by industrial decline by stimulating innovation in ways which encourage the diversification of the local economy.
Three categories of measures:

- Strengthening research facilities in regions whose development is lagging behind (Objective 1 regions):
To support the creation or development of a capability in a small number of fields of research, and for a small number of research centres including universities, to be jointly agreed between the Member State and the European Community. Priority is given to fields of pre- competitive research identified as being capable of enhancing the economic potential of the region. Research directly related to the natural resources potential and environmental conditions specific to the region or to regions geographically adjacent to it may also be envisaged. Thus, STRIDE may finance:
. Evaluations to identify the RTD contribution which it is possible to make to the specific development requirements of less favoured regions, to determine the RTD potential of research bodies in order to assess technological target areas, and to establish the capability and performance of designated centres;
. Equipment, including intangible investment such as the purchase of patents and, where it cannot be financed under CSFs, basic infrastructure relating to science and technology parks (RTD facilities only), the creation and development or renovation of RTD centres and other institutes, the creation and improvement of research laboratories in technical education and scientific establishments or in SMEs;
. Extra operating expenditure incurred as a result of transferring RTD activities and research staff from prosperous regions or of nationals abroad returning to an Objective 1 region;

- Promoting, in Objective 1 regions, participation and greater interconnection in Community and other international research programmes and networks by financing:
. Actions to disseminate information among research centres, including universities and firms, about Community-assisted and other research programmes and networks. Priority should be given to using existing structures, such as the Euro Info Centres, the UETPs of the COMETT programme, and the CORDIS information service of the VALUE programme;
. Support to preparatory work for taking part in international cooperation for research;
. Demonstration and pilot activities concerning technological applications made possible by Community-assisted and other research programmes;
. Development of twinning arrangements with research institutes located outside Objective 1 regions, taking account of assistance granted under the SCIENCE programme;

- Promoting, in Objective 1 regions and, to a more limited extent, in regions seriously affected by industrial decline (Objective 2) linkages between research centres and industry by financing :
. The setting up and operation of consortia and other bodies which foster cooperative links among education and research bodies and between them and enterprises (in some instances, the role of COMETT regional university-business training associations might be expanded to include these activities);
. Aid schemes (Objective 1 regions only) to assist firms involved in joint research projects to purchase equipment and know-how, to carry out approved research projects undertaken by SMEs and to conduct expert studies for the technical and financial evaluation of plans in research, or the promotion of innovation, in addition to measures supported by the VALUE programme;
. The creation (Objective 1 regions only) and development (Objective 1 and 2 regions) of technology transfer and innovation services and facilities intended to serve regional development, in partnership with the productive sector, including equipment for research, operating costs of teams responsible for assisting technology transfer to enterprises, and promotion of work aimed at regional and local economic operators, including information campaigns;
. Facilities that cannot be funded under other Community programmes, for the extension of inter-regional cooperation networks set up by the Community, in particular for innovation (SPRINT);
. Vocational training requested by the productive sector for appropriate personnel such as technicians, engineers, researchers and experts, for the application of innovations, for the management of RTD and for technology transfer agents;
. Short-term detachment for training purposes of research personnel from organizations in the eligible regions to organizations providing services related to technology transfer in other regions of the Community or in third countries (taking account of assistance granted under programmes such as COMETT).
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the programme.

Community assistance in the forms of loans and grants is made available for measures and in areas which respect the guidelines for operational programmes which Member States are invited to establish in the framework of the programme. To this end, Member States were invited to present detailed proposals for operational programmes, or amendments to an existing or proposed operational programme in application of Community Support Frameworks, within six months of the publication of the aforementioned guidelines (Official Journal No C 196 of 4 August 1990).

STRIDE is the subject of joint financing by the Member State and the Community. In eligible areas the total contribution by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) during the 1990-1993 period is estimated at ECU 400 million. Loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the ECSC resources may also be made available.

The amount of the Community's budget contribution to individual operational programmes takes into account regional differences in the distribution of RTD activities, and the quality of the operational programme. The rates of assistance are decided in conformity with the provisions of the Regulations governing the Structural Funds and take account of the financing capacity of the national and regional authorities concerned.

Only proposals submitted before the end of January 1991 were taken into consideration. However, after adoption of an operational programme, individual projects that may be incorporated into it can still be submitted by the responsible authorities (preferably to regional and local authorities).

An evaluation of the results of STRIDE is to be carried out during the third year of implementation, highlighting its contribution to greater economic and social cohesion.