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Empowering European Aeronautical SMEs to Participate in EU Research

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Support for aeronautics SMEs to capitalise on research funding

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are often overlooked in larger European projects. An EU-funded initiative addressed the need to boost the participation of smaller outfits in innovative collaborations within the aerospace industry.

Industrial Technologies

The EU-funded SME-AERO-POWER (Empowering European aeronautical SMEs to participate in EU research) project set out to overcome this shortfall by refining proven methods of improvement in related areas of action. Project objectives followed a strategic three-level approach in order to improve on and broaden the participation of SMEs in innovative collaborations with big industry outfits as well as in framework bids. This involved mobilisation of SMEs, coaching and self-realisation for SMEs and relevant intermediaries as well as developing competences. To create strong links with potential collaborating SMEs, about 400 innovative and research-intensive aeronautics SMEs were targeted and then mobilised, mainly through 19 regional awareness workshops. Eight specific interest groups (SIGs) were set up based on hot topics in the aerospace industry defined during the proposal stage and further developed throughout. The SIGs helped boost the participation of SMEs in Aerospace Theme-related activities in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and Horizon 2020 (H2020). A PEER-AERO-NET network comprised of 36 members was established that exchanged best practices, provided more than 30 peer-to-peer mentoring sessions and carried out 5 training workshops. A central database was set up containing mainly SME contacts from 38 countries mostly in Europe. Lastly, a best practice guide was delivered that provides information and assistance to aeronautics SMEs. This comprehensive tool supports them in identifying suitable FP7 and H2020 funding opportunities and submitting proposals and tackling potential barriers in the process. SME-AERO-POWER got more SMEs and small businesses involved in the aeronautic industry by strengthening stakeholder participation and training. A major success was the Open Innovation Ecosystem built for Eurocopter. Nineteen SMEs (most without experience of the aviation sector) merged their ideas and expertise to design 4 innovative new products which improve the environmental impact of helicopter operations. After 2 years of R&D and with marketing support from Eurocopter, the 4 consortia launched the products on the global market in 2015.

Keywords

Aeronautical SMEs, EU research, Innovation Ecosystem, aerospace industry, research-intensive aeronautics SMEs

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