Brussels, 08 May 2003
The European Commission has proposed new regulations allowing Member States to grant aid for research and development (R&D) to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), without having to first apply for clearance from the Commission.
This is the first time that the Commission has envisaged a block exemption of State aid for R&D activities. The move comes in response to the Lisbon objective of increasing research and development spending to three per cent of Member States' gross national product (GDP) by 2010.
Commenting on the proposed regulation, Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin noted that carrying out research in Europe can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle due to the amount of red tape and lack of support and coordination. 'The proposed R&D aid notification exemption for SMEs will eliminate needless administrative burdens and boost the use of research funds by enterprises.
'To become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world we have to remove these stumbling blocks. [...] The three per cent objective can only be achieved if we succeed in creating research-conducive conditions in Europe. State aids play an important role in this [...]. This is a step forward to achieving the Lisbon goal,' he added
According to the terms of the regulation, Member States will be allowed to cover up to 100 per cent of expenses for basic or market orientated research, 60 per cent for industrial and 35 per cent for research that focuses on a pre-market stage. For research that does not fit into the aforementioned categories, projects will be assessed on a case-by-case basis under the new regulation.
Other areas earmarked for exemption are technical feasibility studies, patenting costs and aid schemes.
In an effort to ensure a comprehensive approach to the terms of the regulation, the Commission will launch a consultation with Member States.