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E-consulting technical assistance service on FP6 project development for SMEs from associated candidate countries

Final Report Summary - E-CONSULTING SERVICE (E-consulting Technical Assistance Service on FP6 Project Development for SMEs from Associated Candidate Countries)

The E-CONSULTING SERVICE project's general objective was to directly support small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) participation in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) by means of new, innovative and highly cost-efficient supporting tools. The project targeted SMEs from all new Member States (NMSs) and associate candidate countries (ACCs) focusing on all sectors, although information technology (IT), biotechnology, energy and environmental sectors were preferentially treated together with SMEs led by women managers. In order to promote their participation in FP6 innovative e-consultancy service was established that directly assists SMEs in FP6 project development, proposal writing and project management.

The overall objective of the project can be defined as the development of a new approach for SME counselling services by taking full advantage of recent Internet technologies and e-training methods. The project had the following specific objectives:
- providing practical information on the FP6 programme, related policies, actual FP6 calls and deadlines by means of categorising available information and the listing of existing links to pages dealing with related issues. Direct assistance to SMEs in identifying the thematic areas and instruments that are most relevant to their particular fields of activity;
- providing hands-on technical assistance to proposal preparation. Special emphasis was given to SMEs willing to coordinate projects - particularly small or medium-scale focused research projects (STREPs) and Specific Support Actions (SSAs) - and to SMEs willing to take an active role in the development of Integrated Projects (IPs) and Networks of Excellence (NoEs) (as contractor);
- assisting SMEs in finding the most appropriate partners for their projects through taking full advantage of existing Commission services;
- pre-checking and pre-evaluating potential projects proposals from SMEs in order to find their weaknesses;
- assisting SMEs in contract negotiation procedures and various project management issues and activities such as structuring, reporting or auditing.

In order to achieve the above objectives, an interactive e-consulting service was developed for SMEs, addressing all fields of the FP6 programme that provides technical assistance to proposal preparation. The main goal was achieved by means of providing continuous hands-on support to the selected eligible SMEs during the preparation of FP6 proposals, rather than to prepare the proposals instead of them.

The E-CONSULTING SERVICE project was highly complementary to the ongoing efforts of the European Commission (EC) and the relevant supporting networks and centres. The e-consultancy service on actual proposal development and management acted as a catalyst, converting the available FP6 information into practice (i.e. quality project proposals), which in-turn helped to maximise the impacts of the existing services.

SMEs from NMS and ACCs taking advantage of the services of the project:
- learnt how to prepare successful FP6 proposals and receive European Union (EU) funds for the implementation of innovations and development efforts;
- realised and managed their own projects, cooperating with international partners;
- got closer to the streamlines of European development, to European policies and strategies;
- got familiar with IT facilities, on-line solutions and the use of the internet in everyday activities;
- became more active and initiative in launching new projects.

It resulted in:
- increased participation of SMEs of NMSs and ACCs in FP6 proposals and projects;
- increased cooperation between SMEs and the other pole of the research-innovation interface;
- improved international cooperation between the target countries and old Member States;
- increased use of IT technologies, Internet and e-methods by SMEs.

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