How to get involved in FP6: A Hands-on Guide for SMEs
By Martina Daly and Denis Dambois, DG Research, European Commission
To survive and grow, SMEs must constantly innovate and accommodate advances in new technology. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) of the European Union helps SMEs to achieve these goals. FP6 includes over € 2.3 billion for SME participation, which makes it one of the world’s largest financial instruments supporting research and innovation for small and medium-sized firms. For the purposes of FP6, an SME is defined as an enterprise employing fewer than 250 people, with an annual turnover under € 40 million or assets of less than € 27 million. From the start of 2005 a new definition will apply (see http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/enterprise_policy/sme_definition/index_en.htm).
SME TechWeb a single entry point for SMEs
The SME TechWeb (http://sme.cordis.lu) is an easy-to-use, one-stop source of advice and information about EU research, specially tailored for SMEs. It offers the best possible starting point for small technology suppliers or users that wish to take part or benefit for the first time in FP6.
The site offers a basic overview of current EU research for SMEs, providing links to the on-line services of FP6’s seven priority thematic areas. But its main focus is on the SME-specific measures, known in FP6 as “Horizontal research activities involving SMEs”.
Its step-by-step approach guides would-be participants from the identification of a research need right through to the exploitation of results. All the forms and guidance notes needed to put together and submit a research proposal are available for download, together with specially developed tools to aid the process. Most importantly it contains a list of dedicated SME National Contact Points in each Member State and it is here that first point of contact can be made to obtain the various options available for funding and guidance on preparation of a proposal. Periodic calls for proposal are made for each of the FP6 instruments and are published on Cordis http://fp6.cordis.lu/fp6/calls.cfm.
FP6: what’s in it for SMEs with different needs and approaches?
To allow SMEs with research capacity to get involved themselves into research activities, their participation in the projects of the seven Priority Thematic Areas is encouraged through Integrated Projects, Networks of Excellence and Specific Targeted Research Projects. 15% of the overall budget of these areas, about € 1.865 billion, is dedicated to SMEs.
For SMEs with a capacity to innovate but with limited research facilities FP6 offers two SME specific measures, Co-operative and Collective Research, with a budget of € 473 million assigned to them.
SMEs and Integrated Projects in the priority thematic areas
Integrated Projects use an open consortium architecture, flexible enough to accommodate a very wide variety of partnership configurations, to which many different types of SME can contribute at various stages, in ways adapted to their capacities, needs and business plans. In particular, the rules for participation allow consortia to modify their membership, allowing additional SME partners to join running projects. Projects may set aside a special budget for the recruitment of new SME partners. Similarly, the Commission itself may allocate additional funding to running projects to organise calls for participation in new SME-specific work packages.
A new publication entitled “Connected & Competitive: SMEs and Integrated Projects in FP6” has been published and includes a two page pull-out guide on how to get involved in an Integrated Project (see SME TechWeb for downloadable version : http://sme.cordis.lu/docs/smes_ips.pdf).
Special SME Integrated Projects (SME-IPs) are led by SMEs, with SMEs making up at least half their consortia, and are designed to support research, demonstration, training and dissemination activities completely devoted to rapid modernisation in traditional, SME-intensive industries. SME-IPs were developed as a special measure by the priority thematic area ‘Nanotechnologies and nano-sciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials and new production processes and devices’, which earmarked € 40 million of its first call for them. They proved so successful that the allocation was doubled to € 80 million for the second call which received 80 eligible proposals, 21 of which have been retained for second-stage evaluation.
In general there has been an overwhelming response to the first calls organised in 2003 under FP6. SME participation in the Priority Thematic Areas has been encouraging with an estimated 2450 SMEs in the process of signing a contract with the Commission for the equivalent of an estimated cumulated amount of funding of almost € 450 million. These figures show that SMEs are capable of taking up the opportunities offered by FP6. Nevertheless, a number of initiatives continue to promote an enhanced SME participation. Major efforts are being made by SME National Contact Points and others to integrate SMEs into FP6 projects.
Economic and Technological Intelligence (ETI) measures aim to promote SME participation, 115 proposals where received in the first call of which 24 have been selected for funding. The next call deadline for ETI is on the 10th of February 2005.
In 2003, about 1700 proposals for Co-operative research were received under the Co-operative research scheme, of which 208 have been retained. The scheme allows innovative SMEs with limited research capacity to participate in European research. The research needs of the SMEs are outsourced to research organisations (“RTD performers”), which relinquish all IPR and commercial rights resulting from the project to the benefit of the SMEs. The next call deadline for Co-operative research is on the 21st of October 2004 and a further call is foreseen for the14th of September 2005.
The Collective Research scheme resembles Co-operative research but is specially adapted to SME associations and groupings (“enterprise groupings”). The SME associations are the exclusive owners of the intellectual property rights. Dissemination of the results to large communities of SMEs and training of staff is a major component of these projects. 125 proposals were received for Collective research for the first call in 2003 of which 24 were retained for funding and early indications for the second call deadline on the 6th of April 2004 shows a doubling of submissions with 275 proposals received. This demonstrates the clear commitment of SME associations and groupings to actively participate in this new type of instrument. The next call deadline for Collective research is planned for the 26th of May 2005.
In conclusion the participation of SMEs in the 6th Framework Programme has been very encouraging to date. All instruments for funding are being addressed by individual SMEs and by small groups of SMEs or SME associations as seen in the Co-operative and Collective research schemes. In order to encourage further SME participation in FP6, Specific Support Actions in the priority thematic areas, SME-IPs and Economic and Technological Intelligence (ETI) calls have and will be launched.
All programmes are open to international co-operation. For further details please see CORDIS (http://www.cordis.lu/fp6/inco.htm).
Intellectual property issues
As mentioned above, SMEs can participate in the (6th) Framework Programme in two different ways : either in classical actions such as Integrated Projects (IPs), Networks of Excellence (NoEs), Specific Targeted Research Projects (STREPs), etc. ; or in SME-specific actions (cooperative or collective research actions).
The first case is very simple, as the same IPR provisions apply to each of the participants involved in any project based on one of these “classical” instruments (IPs, NoEs, STREPs, …). The main provisions applicable in such a case are the following :
• Each participant is the owner of the knowledge it generates under the project ;
• A participant has to grant access rights to its knowledge (or pre-existing know-how) to another participant if (and only if) the latter needs such access rights in order to carry out its own work under the project or to use its own knowledge resulting from the project. (Of course, broader access rights can be freely agreed between the participants.)
The second case is different : in SME-specific actions, as outlined above, the results are jointly owned by the SMEs (in cooperative research actions, or by the industrial grouping(s) in collective research actions). The “RTD performers”, while performing most or all of the R&D tasks, do not own the knowledge they generate (as their costs are reimbursed at 100 %).
Please note that the IPR-Helpdesk is a free-of-charge assistance service which was set up by the Commission in order to provide legal assistance to Framework Programme participants regarding IPR issues. Do not hesitate to have a look at their website and to send them your questions by e-mail. In addition, the “IPR guidelines” published by the Commission are intended to help FP participants in the interpretation and application of the IPR provisions.
Additional information :
SME National Contact Points