Best practices and lessons learned from the involvement of aeronautical SMEs into EC funded projects
ECARE+ was a Specific Support Action funded under the Aeronautics & Space priority of FP6. It followed up on the ECARE project (2003-2005) and its goal was to capitalise on the first project and deliver better service to European aeronautical SMEs. ECARE+ was the only bottom-up Specific Support Action in the aeronautics field, with a twofold ambition: - better involve research-intensive aeronautical SMEs into EC funded research during the Seventh Framework Programme. - further establish the ECARE group of local clusters as the voice of the European aeronautical SMEs. ECARE+ aimed at structuring SME technological offer at European level. ECARE+ was based on a dynamic pan-European network of local Aeronautics clusters working together following a common methodology to establish a high quality database and provide project co-ordinators with a shortlist of research-intensive SMEs. ECARE+ also supported specific measures for SMEs: mapping of European aeronautical SMEs, development of dialogue between ECARE+ and the European aeronautical Regions and incitation to trans-regional partnerships between aeronautical clusters of different countries. The methodology of the ECARE+ project was based on five main steps: 1. expansion of the ECARE group from 19 to 30 clusters; 2. training of Regional Contact Points on FP7 opportunities; 3. regional Sessions for SMEs on FP7 opportunities; 4. technological capability assessment of 350 SMEs; 5. pre-matching with large collaborative project proposals. Figures made available by the EC for FP6 show that between call 1 (ECARE not yet involved) and call 2&3 (ECARE involved), the SME share of funding in RIPs grew from 5% to 9%.