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ERA-NET on National and Regional Programmes to Promote Innovation Networking and Cooperation between SMEs and Research Organisations – Phase 2

Final Report Summary - ERASME2 (ERA-NET on national and regional programmes to promote innovation networking and cooperation between SMEs and research organisations - phase 2)

After its first phase as a multinational coordination action initiative in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) European Research Area network (ERANET) scheme ERASME has continued in its second phase as ERASME2 with the newly defined main objectives:

- to explore possibilities to establish a long-term sustainable structure for a continuously strengthened and extended collaboration of programmes across EUROPE benefitting transnational small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) / research and technology organisation (RTO) cooperation and serving the needs of research acquiring SMEs;
- to position ERASME2 in the framing conditions of the European funding landscape for SMEs, e.g. other programmes / initiatives, i.e. research for the benefit of SME, EUREKA initiative Eurostars, as well as to position ERASME2 in relation to adjacent initiatives (in particular ERA-NET CORNET II) and to allow for suitable integration and interfacing closely to allow for a high degree of synergetic effects;
- to widen the geographical coverage of participating countries / regions, to enhance the number and significance of participating programmes;
- to strengthen the common and aligned procedures as significant steps in the integration of the scientific, managerial and financial dimensions of joint programme management in continuing joint calls for proposals;
- to jointly strive for continuous improvement in efficiency (time-to-decision / time-to-contract), transparency (evaluation procedures), quality (alignment), as well as quantity (proposals, projects, participating partner);
- to stabilise a reliable offer of transnational funding opportunities for SME / RTO cooperation dedicated to SMEs with limited research capabilities (referred to as 'research acquiring SME') by semi-annual joined calls for proposal.

Project context and objectives:

ERASME2 continued as a second phase the successful work of the initial ERASME project. In its first phase as an initiative in the FP6 ERA-NET scheme ERASME has gathered 22 different programmes on SME / RTO cooperation and innovation represented by 21 programme owners and managers from 19 European countries and regions.

On the foundation of successfully implemented joint calls in ERASME the activities in ERASME2 and their intensity were mainly guided (and limited) by programme life-cycle considerations, individual availability of budgets for common calls derived from national / regional budgets, facilitation of resources originating from the participating national and regional programmes. A significant leverage effect with regard to coordination efforts and funding availability for the target group of beneficiaries has been achieved.

ERASME2 has by now established instruments and procedures for a fully bottom-up scheme, open to all fields of science and technology in a number of Member States. The target group and beneficiaries are SMEs with limited or no research capability, which need to cooperate - inter alia - with research organisations in order to acquire knowledge for the production development processes find appropriate funding opportunities to serve their needs. To enhance exploitation of research and innovation results on a European scale it has been made a prerequisite for funding of projects to cooperate transnational.

From the start of ERASME2 which could be performed without a contractual time gap with regard to its predecessor ERASME major progress was made with regard to the project objectives of scientific, managerial and financial integration.

In the process to establish a long-term institutionalised structure for programme cooperation which sustained this effort for the future, different options were analysed, discussed and partly implemented. The options ventilated took into consideration the complexity and the implications of such a potential structure on the respective national / regional framing condition and the expected transnational / European impact. Since the implication of this analysis affects the overall programme landscape with regard to SME support measures on national / regional and European level at an early stage forces were joined with CORNET II in these efforts. Resulting from intense analysis and considering national / regional possibilities and limitations in a first step a future Article 169 initiative was regarded as a preferred instrumental option for sustained programme cooperation on a European scale.

Based on the experience in the implementation of a legal and instrumental framework for establishing a measure according to Article 169 of the European Union (EU) Treaty and the time-horizon associated with this process rendered this option presently not feasible or viable. Possibilities for a suitable joint transition process for ERASME2 and CORNET II were discussed with COM and the participating programmes / programme owners as well as other Member States representatives with no result.

Further synergy effects from intense cooperation with the ERA-NET CORNET II were exploited to achieve brand recognition in the target audience definition and refining of the target group and its particular industry-driven needs took place.

On the operational level, semi-annual joint calls for proposals (with synchronised call dates between ERASME2 and CORNET II) were launched and performed based on participation of the majority of programmes - with different composition adhering to the principle of variable geometry and allowing for individual gain of experience in applying the common procedures.

In the calls gradually procedures were further aligned to a higher degree to achieve scientific integration on a higher level. The calls generated increasing project proposals and subsequently higher quantities of funded projects. A central call management facilitated a coordinated approach in the operational issues and - inter alia - a single entry point for electronic submission. Evaluation procedures were harmonised and centralised and moved to an independent level with the aim to ensure transparent, efficient and reliable processes for all parties involved.

The widening of the initiative took place by offering low threshold participation opportunities for additional programmes in order to enhance further potential cooperation possibilities for the target group. For example, the programmes representing the Belgian region of Walloon and the Madrid region in Spain participated as of the 5th ERASME joint call and throughout to the 8th ERASME joint call.

Synergy effects with CORNET II were also used in coordinating and executing the widening activities, e.g. joined identification of contact persons to be addressed, joint presentation of both initiatives in face-to-face-meetings.

In the context of project building for the calls partnering events were jointly organised: a CORNET / ERASME partnering event took place in Maastricht, the Netherlands on 20 January 2010, additional Partnering events took place in Hanover on 21 April 2010 (as part of the Hanover Fair 2010) and Vienna on 20 May 2010.

ERASME and CORNET as part of joint marketing efforts presented the initiatives on various occasions in information meetings of regional scale.

Major objectives for ERASME2 were to:

- explore possibilities and prepare decisions on a future sustainable institutional structure for the ERA-NET with the relevant stakeholders;
- continue the efforts in joined calls with significant steps towards managerial integration, in order to proof continuity and reliable framing conditions to the target group as a major prerequisite to establishment of ERASME as a permanent fixture in the European programme landscape for SMEs;
- intensify cooperation with the ERANET CORNET II in respect to numerous potential synergies between the two initiatives;
- integrating newly acceded / and newly cooperating programmes into established procedures;
- enhance pro-active marketing and dissemination activities dedicated towards identified target groups for the level of the initiative and the calls;
- strengthen the partner search activities by promoting the project building functionality provided on the portal and by executing a number of face-to-face partnering events.

Project results:

ERASME2 as a coordination action did not primarily aim to achieve S&T results - however transnational projects generated by ERASME joint calls aimed for research and development (R&D) results.

Potential impact:

Final results from joint calls executed (call 5 to call 8)

Our intention was that by the end of the 24-month project, ERASME2 will be established as a permanent fixture on the European funding scene as an element of the ERA, will have achieved brand recognition, and will be operating in mutual and agreed complementarity to - and possibly in future integration with - the European Commission (EC)'s own research for the benefit of SMEs scheme.

This ambitious goal was embedded in the context of changing framing conditions on national / regional and European level. Emerging initiatives in the area of joined programming are completing an already heterogeneous landscape.

In the 2nd reporting period, sustainability issues became more prominent and were discussed for the time-frame 2011 - 2013. The road-map on sustainability with derived associated tasks and milestones guided through the discussion process; however, adjusting its execution flexible to any changes in the framing conditions of commitment on national / regional and EC level.

ERASME2 has shown its impact on transnational programme cooperation in the practical implementation of joined calls. It was expected to intensify the programme cooperation on a European scale driven by strong commitments and high importance on the political agenda to serve the demand of the target audience for increased competiveness.

The positive impact on the exploitation of knowledge generated can be seen in the projects funded - additional positive structural side effects, e.g. on employment is apparent. It is expected to substantiate this impact further. In the given lifecycle of the projects funded under the ERASME scheme impact analysis of exemplary individual projects are expected to evidence exploitation results, as well as positive effects. Some project examples originating from ERASME first phase were showcased at the CORNET / ERASME joint council board meetings in Vienna 9 - 10 June 2009 and at the policy round table in Berlin, 29 January 2010.

List of websites:
- http://www.era-sme.net/public/
http://www.innovation-for-sme.eu

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