The aim is to strengthen the 'innovation capacity' of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe and their contribution to the development of new technology based products and markets. The programme will help them outsource research, increase their research efforts, extend their networks, better exploit research results and acquire technological know how, bridging the gap between research and innovation. The EU Member States have earmarked a total of € 1336 million for funding SME research support over the duration of FP7.
To achieve the objectives of 'Research for the benefit of SMEs', the following three groups of indirect actions will be implemented:
1. Supporting SMEs outsourcing research activities- it will be implemented through two distinct schemes:
- Research for SMEs - targeting mainly low to medium technology SMEs with little or no research capability, but also high-tech SMEs who need to outsource research to complement their core research capability. Projects aim at creating new knowledge or producing results with clear potential to improve or develop new products, processes or services for the participating SMEs,
- Research for SME associations - targeting associations which act on behalf of their SME members to identify and address common technical problems and to promote the effective dissemination and take-up of results. Projects in this activity may address topics such as pre-normative research issues, technological problems related to the development and implementation of legislation, and technological problems of whole industrial sectors.
2. Developing and coordinating support to SMEs at national level
- Financial support,
- Financial support to national schemes providing financial means ('exploratory awards') to SMEs or SME associations to prepare proposals,
- ERA-NET projects will aim at the coordination of national or regional programmes targeting SMEs in a similar way as 'Research for SMEs' and 'Research for SME associations',
- A 'Coordination and support action' will be awarded to the network of National Contact Points (NCPs) appointed by EU Member States and Associated Countries for 'Research for the benefit of SMEs'.
3. Support measures
- 'Coordination and support actions' will be awarded to projects favouring and increasing the impact of actions undertaken under 'Research for the benefit of SMEs',
- Studies will be undertaken at various stages of FP7 to analyse and assess the socio-economic impact on and needs of participants in 'Research for the benefit of SMEs'.