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Best practices to bring research and innovation in European SME through the "peer review" method

Final Report Summary - EUROPEER SME (Best practices to bring research and innovation in European SME through the peer review method)

The Lisbon Strategy, decided by the EU heads of states and governments in March 2000, sets out to make the EU 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge driven economy by 2010'. The 'Open method of coordination' (OMC) was introduced at the same time to help Member States progress jointly on their reforms. Subsequently, the EU head of states and governments decided in 2003 that EU investments in research and development (R&D) should approach 3 % by 2010 (the Barcelona target), and that the OMC should be applied to reach this target. The Community's Committee for Scientific and Technical Research (CREST) was given the task to oversee the OMC process.

The EUROPEER SME project brought together 14 partner organisations from ten different European countries between December 2006 and November 2008. The diversity in terms of nationalities was equalled by the diversity in terms of the institutional set up of partners. Policy makers and implementing organisations joined hands and brought together their experiences in innovation promotion. This was the basis for a most fruitful exchange of experiences and ideas which lead to the improvement of existing instruments, their transfer to other regions and the creation of new ideas and initiatives for further joint projects.

The overall objective of EUROPEER SME was to make research and technological development (RTD) policies directed to SMEs of EU Member States and acceding countries alike more effective. Through the promotion of innovation in Europe higher growth rates of Europe's future-oriented sectors of the economy are fostered. EUROPEER SME fostered mutual learning, harnessed best practices and improved the impact of national and regional instruments of RTD promotion to SMEs.

Bringing those together who are engaged in promoting RTD instruments directed to SMEs has helped joining forces to provide common answers to common problems. EUROPEER SME comprised 14 partners from ten old and new EU Member States as well as Candidate Countries. The project consortium analysed ten best practice instruments for innovation promotion of SME regarding their impact and their transferability to regions other than their region of origin. The continuous and dynamic process of mutual learning all along the project's implementation provided for a comprehensive understanding of the different instruments' strengths and their specific operational requirements.

EUROPEER SME optimised the exchange of best practices in identifying conditions for transferability and in developing transfer schemes. Impact and functioning of innovation promotion instruments for SME are contingent on the respective institutional and political environment in a specific region or country. Identifying the legal and regulatory factors favouring transferability at regional level, analysing specific RTD policies to which a given instrument would have to contribute and clarifying the financial implications up- and downstream of its implementation were thus key issues of the transfer schemes being elaborated in the course of EUROPEER SME's project activities. Moreover, the peer review methodology applied during the project's implementation provided a wide range of valuable hints and recommendations on how to adjust the 10 selected best practice instruments to further strengthen them both in impact and efficiency.

EUROPEER SME diminished overlap and strengthened the coordination of RTD policies directed to SMEs. In a relatively short period of two years of implementation, EUROPEER SME succeeded to make a tangible contribution to strengthen the regional research and innovation promotion capacities for SME in the project's 10 partner countries. The EUROPEER SME website (please see http://www.europeer-sme-rp6.org online) will back up the consortium in its ambition to render the network of partners sustainable beyond the project's duration. Due to its openness to welcome new partners worldwide and constantly striving for a broad dissemination of EUROPEER SME's outcome, the network will continue to provide a vibrant platform for knowledge exchange on innovation promotion and RTD approaches at regional level.

The EUROPEER SME project has produced a series of peer reviewed good practice instruments for innovation promotion. Additionally, the transfer scheme that has been developed proved to be a useful tool to make a first assessment of transferability. It can be concluded that the peer review methodology is a result driven approach and a well structured way to deal with a lot of information in a very limited period of time. The peer review also helps to organise a self reflection in the region which is offering a good practice. Each region has acquired additional and usable project ideas as well as a broadened horizon and a better understanding of existing problems EU-wide.

Overall, the project has been very successful in initiating a network of peers and in transferring good practices of innovation promotion. The process has been well initiated and needs, however, to be continued in order to deepen the network relationships and to successfully implement the instruments. A full implementation of the transferred instruments was not realistic during a period of only two years. The project has brought up a number of good ideas for further networking which deserve to be followed up in order to build upon this momentum.