Brussels, 11 Aug 2003
Partners for Life, a Commission funded network aimed at promoting the participation of small life science enterprises in Community research projects, has directly generated the submission of more than 435 Framework Programme proposals.
The network was established with the primary aim of increasing the number of successful proposals submitted by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) working in the biotechnology, biomedicine and agroindustry sectors. The network's economic and technological intelligence activities, however, have also led to the production of business sector reports in each of these fields, giving SMEs access to valuable business data.
Funded under the Innovation-SME section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), the Partners for Life network initially brought together partners from 18 countries, with a subsequent 10 partners also funding their own participation. All 28 collaborators had previous experience of working with SMEs which, as project coordinator Dr Sabine Herlitschka from the Austrian bureau for international research and technology cooperation explains, was vital to the network's success: 'It came as no surprise to any of the network partners that, when dealing with busy SMEs, you simply have to lead them by the hand.'
Indeed, Dr Herlitschka believes that the success of Partners for Life had much to do with its tailored approach. The network proactively contacted over 90,000 SMEs within Europe, with an emphasis on providing clear and relevant information on Community research programmes in order to stimulate interest.
Dr Herlitschka told CORDIS News: 'Most of the SMEs that we worked with would not have submitted proposals without the intervention of Partners for Life. By making the initial contact, identifying the relevant opportunities within the EU Framework Programmes, and then guiding them through the proposal process, we made the whole process far more manageable.'
Besides increasing the quantity of SME proposals, the network was also keen to achieve a high level of quality. Although no overall data is currently available on the outcome of submissions, early indications for one region show that as many as 35 per cent of proposals may be accepted, compared with a regional average of 19 per cent.
One reason for this, Dr Herlitschka believes, is that, in order to be a member of the Partners for Life consortium, each partner is obliged to build a network of experts within their own country which can then feed into the work of the overall project. Such experts include national contact points, SME organisations, and industrialists and researchers from each of the three life science sectors.
Having finished activities in May, Dr Herlitschka and other members of the Partners for Life network are planning to continue their work into the Sixth Framework Programme and beyond. A two part follow up project is being established along similar lines, with support for SMEs within the food industry included, and an additional focus on targeting 'bio-valleys' and business incubators.
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