Scots get aid to pursue EU bids

February 21, 2003

Scottish universities and their spin-off companies can tap into a £900,000 scheme to help them bid for funds from the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Iain Gray, Scotland's minister for enterprise, transport and lifelong learning, is putting more than £650,000 into a new Scottish Proposal Assistance Fund, which is also expected to win about £250,000 from the European regional development fund.

Mr Gray said applications for European funding could be complex, echoing the concern of researchers who earlier this month warned the House of Commons science and technology select committee that many institutions were put off by the difficulties of FP6.

"Spaf will give small to medium Scottish enterprises free access to expert consultants to put forward proposals for the FP6 money," Mr Gray said.

"Professional assistance in completing (funding applications) will give Scottish businesses an edge."

FP6 has more than €17.5 million (£11.7 million) on offer for applied research between 2003-05. A Scottish Executive spokesperson said:

"University research and spin-offs will benefit from the new fund, so long as the universities are working with Scottish enterprises on the projects."

The fund would help boost collaboration between universities and industry, in line with the executive's "smart, successful Scotland" strategy to promote a knowledge economy, she said.

The move comes just as Scottish Enterprise has revealed that Scotland's burgeoning biotechnology sector is growing at almost twice the pace of the rest of Europe.

In the four years since the development agency launched its framework for action, the number of Scottish biotech businesses has grown at an average 28 per cent a year compared with 15 per cent in Europe.

Mr Gray said: "Better access to the European funds and our biotechnology framework for action will help enhance Scotland's already impressive reputation in the areas of science and biotechnology."

The latest Scottish Enterprise report says the country's success is seen around the world as a model of how higher education, companies, entrepreneurs and the public sector can collaborate to build a vibrant biotech community.

And it predicts continuing success with the launch later this year of a life sciences intermediary technology institute in Dundee, the first of its kind in the UK. Scottish Enterprise is investing £450 million over the next decade in three flagship technology institutes to translate research innovation into new business.

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