Brussels, 21 Mar 2005
In a speech on the importance of small businesses for the knowledge economy, Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik made clear on 18 March that industry as a whole stands to gain considerably from the next framework programme for research, FP7.
The structure of FP7 will focus more on themes than on instruments, said the Commissioner. 'Cooperation projects', formerly referred to as 'collaborative research', 'will be more focused on industry needs and therefore growth supportive,' he added.
Basic research will not lose out as it is to be funded through the European Research Council (ERC) and actions on 'frontier research'.
Also included in FP7 will be what Mr Potocnik referred to as a 'people part', which, he said, would strengthen the mobility (Marie Curie) actions, and a 'capacities part', which will support infrastructures, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), regions, research potential, science and society, and international cooperation.
The thematic priorities - the research areas to be funded by the European Commission - will be more industry-oriented than in previous programmes, and will particularly take into account the needs of SMEs, said Mr Potocnik.
Other changes are also planned to make FP7 more amenable to SMEs. Funding schemes will be more flexible with regard to their size and scope so as to facilitate the participation of SMEs, and the two schemes which support the outsourcing of research by SMEs or SME associations 'will be strengthened via a considerable budget increase and other important administrative improvements,' said Mr Potocnik.
In addition, the Commission will work together with the Member States in order to further promote and support coordination and joint SME programmes between Member States, for example under the umbrella of Eureka.
The Commissioner also pledged that SME involvement will be encouraged in other EU research initiatives. He cited Technology platforms, the development of European research infrastructures, Technology Initiatives and human mobility actions as examples.
The Commission also intends to ensure that these measures have the desired effect by consulting SME representatives on what is needed. The first meeting between Mr Potocnik and his SME 'sounding board' took place on 17 March.
SMEs in particular benefit from geographical proximity in the context of research collaboration. The Commissioner therefore urged regional and local actors to further develop new and existing innovation clusters, and for his part pledged to include a proposal to introduce a scaled-up, fully fledged version of the Regions of Knowledge pilot action in FP7. The Commission's proposals on FP7 are due to be published on 6 April
To follow the FP7 debate, please consult the following web address: