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Supporting SMEs towards a new phase to European Research Area on new processes, adaptive manufacturing systems and the factory of the future

Final Report Summary - MANUNET II (Supporting SMEs towards a new phase to European Research Area on new processes, adaptive manufacturing systems and the factory of the future.)

Executive Summary:
During the last 10 years, the coordination and collaboration between national and regional programmes in the field of advance manufacturing has been supported by the European Commission via the two ERA-NETs named MANUNET (2006-2010) and MANUNET II (2011-2016). MANUNET is a network of regional and national agencies that use their own funding programmes to fund transnational research and development projects performed by companies-preferably SMEs-, research centres and universities in the field of Manufacturing. The network has two main characteristics that since the beginning differenced the initiative from other networks.
1. The focus on regional research policies, understanding that not only they were going to contribute strongly to the European policy on regional development, but also to the European Research Area (ERA) providing an understanding of regional research systems and their industry environment. 13 regional R&I support programmes joined the initiative.
2. The special support to SMEs. Despite the evolution of RTD Framework Programme’s towards the support to SMEs, this framework is still a difficult scenario for them. MANUNET provides a complementary programme halfway between Framework Programme and the national/regional funding programmes to support projects with the following characteristics: close to market, small consortia, a simple submission and evaluation process, with national/regional advisors available, with a consistent timeline and a higher success rate, above 45%.
Despite the economic crisis, MANUNET has succeeded in launching calls every year since 2007. With a support of the EC of 4,2 M€, MANUNET has been able to mobilized more than 211 M€ in R&I expenditure of which more than 121 M€ are national/regional public funding.
During these 10 years, it has successfully coordinated an average of 20 national/regional funding programmes and an average of 19 M€ have been pre-committed per call.
As a result, 963 proposals have been received and more than 2500 SMEs have been actively involved. Moreover, 81% of the beneficiaries were SMEs (550 SMEs) and the number of projects finally funded were more than 214.

Project Context and Objectives:
MANUNET II is an ERA-NET launched on 1st April 2011 with duration of 6 years. It is composed of 18 full partners and 11 associated partners, representing 14 countries and 13 regions.
The main objective of MANUNET II is to support the European manufacturing industry through yearly calls for proposals for collaborative research projects in the field of manufacturing. All the activities carried by the consortium were devoted to make these and future calls as successful as possible:
• To enlarge the consortium including funding organisations from countries and regions strong in the manufacturing sector, or countries and regions with strong interest to foster their manufacturing sector. The objective is to have the wider coverage possible. This would allow our companies, research centres and universities to collaborate with organisations from all over European Union and Associated Countries. Including more funding organisations would also increase the budget of the calls.
• To collaborate with other initiatives in the manufacturing field to join complementary forces or enrich from one another. Some of these collaborations have also been used to contact other funding organisations, e.g. IMS (for in the USA and Mexico), ERRIN and EEN sector groups.
• To set up a sustainable programme in order to be able to continue launching calls for proposals beyond the contract with the Commission.
• To communicate, in the most effective and fruitful way, about the benefits of participating in MANUNET (to funding agencies) as well as the benefits of participating in MANUNET calls for proposals (to potential applicants) through a functional and user-friendly website, informative leaflets and the participation in relevant meetings, workshops and conferences.

Project Results:
The main objective of MANUNET II is to support the European manufacturing industry through yearly calls for proposals for collaborative research projects in the field of manufacturing. All the activities carried by the consortium were devoted to make these and future calls as successful as possible.
An important aspect to have successful calls is the inclusion of new countries and regions, increasing the funding budget for RTD in Manufacturing and extending the possibility to participate to the large majority of the European Manufacturing industry. Many funding agencies (in Europe and outside Europe) have been invited to participate in the Consortium and in the calls for proposals.
In order to reach as many funding agencies as possible, MANUNET II contacted several networks such as EEN sector groups, ERRIN advanced manufacturing working group, Vanguard Initiative, IMS, etc. and participated in their meetings, conferences and workshops.
The time and effort invested to enlarge the consortium was not as fruitful as expected. However, several countries and regions joined MANUNET II: Finland, Iceland, Nord-Pas de Calais, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Russia etc.
In order to have the feedback of industry, since the very beginning MANUNET has cooperated with Manufuture ETP and during the last years, the cooperation has not only continued but it has been intensified. This cooperation guarantees full awareness of needs of European industry and RTD community as well as the priorities of national and regional funding organisations.
MANUNET II has also invested a lot of effort to communicate and disseminate its results the best way possible, not only among the members of the consortium but also with the potential applicants and potential new partners. MANUNET II website has been updated and reorganised as a central tool for the external communication. New functionalities have been incorporated to make it more user-friendly, functional and intuitive.
Leaflets, posters and a promotional video have also been produced to distribute and show in conferences, fairs, etc. MANUNET II has always considered important to be present as speakers and with a stand in international events and during these years its presence has been rather wide.
During MANUNET II, 6 calls for proposals have been organized. Due to the economical situation of some European countries and regions, some funding agencies have not been able to participate in some calls.
2011 CALL 2012 CALL 2013 CALL 2014 CALL 2015 CALL 2016 CALL
Nº of funding agencies participating 20 20 15 15 10 16
Nº of proposals 138 110 50 48 24 89
Total budget mobilized (M€) 128 96 42.5 41.6 14.5 69.7
Total requested funding (M€) 71.5 56 26 28 12 42
Nº of SMEs participating 356 397 138 117 56 222
Nº of projects recommended for funding 25 21 13 14 7 Pending final results

MANUNET wants to continue organising calls for proposals beyond the end of MANUNET II. Therefore, in 2016 MANUNET will continue its activities through the scheme of an ERA-NET COFUND where 25 countries /regions have committed to continue collaborating for 5 more years.

Potential Impact:
In 2015 MANUNET designed a survey to measure the impact of the network and its calls. The web survey was addressed to 1952 MANUNET applicants (464 applicants responded) and 30 funding agencies, with the objective of collecting results at two different levels: beneficiary level and funding agency level.
Although the whole evaluation of MANUNET activities can be found in the MANUNET impact assessment 1 report published on February 2016, some results are highlighted below:
In general applicants described the MANUNET impact at national/regional level as an increase of the international cooperation, an increase of their R&I activities and as a tool that allows the exchange of knowledge.
Focusing on the impact of the applicant’s activities (especially SMEs), the survey showed that in relation with:
a. The development of new products, process and methods:
• 75% of applicants had innovative results (especially in products, process and methods)
• 61% of respondents confirmed that the results had been commercialized
• 47% of the project results commercialized had reached the market in a period of 2 years
• 83% of project results led to in-house application or generated a follow-up project
b. The companies R&I activities:
• 65% of beneficiaries increased their R&I expenses
• 66% of beneficiaries increased their R&I personnel
• 46% of the cases allowed the non-permanent personnel recruited during the project to get a permanent position
c. The economic benefits:
• 41% of the respondents experimented an increase in turnover
• 73% of the cases resulted in business opportunities
d. The cooperation:
• 87% of the respondents continue cooperating in different ways
The impact assessment report also seeks the views of funding agencies regarding their experience on MANUNET network. According to their answers, MANUNET is clearly complementary not only to national, regional or bilateral instruments but also to other ERA-NETs, framework programme, EUREKA or EUROSTARS. Agencies consider that the cooperation of MANUNET with the European industry and the RTD community work well and that MANUNET demonstrates an added value for call applicants considering the need for international network and the focus that this network has on SMEs. The most important positive results for funding organisations are:
a. It fosters international R&I cooperation
b. It allows to share knowledge & good practices from other agencies
c. Agencies gain notoriety as being part of a European relevant network
d. Increases SMEs participation
e. It offers new markets and business opportunities for applicants
f. New entities apply to national/regional programmes
g. It is a solid framework for future cooperation
h. It allows international contacts
i. Participants have gained notoriety in the European RTD community

List of Websites:
Contact person: Cristina Ugarte
Telephone number: +34 94 420 94 88