EU research funding reaches 15% target for SMEs

Latest figures show that the European Commission is keeping its promises on research funding for Small- and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  SMEs will receive 15.3% (€2.4 billion) of the Cooperation Programme budget of €16.3 billion committed so far under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).  This surpasses the goal set by the European Parliament and European Council for FP7.  €2.4 billion has already been allocated to almost 8.900 SMEs by 1 January 2012.  SME funding under the Cooperation Programme is estimated to remain above 15% for the rest of the period of FP7, thereby meeting the commitment taken by the European Commission.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: “The commitment to the 15% budget target for SMEs is a commitment to growth and jobs.  We have now reached that target and will remain committed to it. Our future research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, will continue to support the competitiveness of SMEs, which are the bedrock of the European economy.”

FP7 provides financial support for transnational research for and by SMEs wishing to innovate and improve their competitiveness in Europe’s knowledge-based economy. Concrete measures to encourage SME participation were taken across the so-called ‘Thematic Priorities’ of the Cooperation Programme under FP7.  A focus on SME-friendly measures in the calls of 2011 to encourage SMEs to participate, such as ring-fenced budgets for SMEs or topics highly relevant for SMEs, had a positive impact on achieving the 15% target. The last months of 2011 therefore saw a significant increase in the budget share allocated to SMEs. The Commission plans to strengthen such measures further in the future.

In addition to the around 17,000 SMEs expected to receive funding in FP7 research projects by the end of the programme, many more SMEs will benefit from the research results. Further findings in the 8th SME Progress Report on SME participation are:

In 73% of research projects funded at least one SME is involved
17.6% of participants in FP7 projects are from SMEs.
SMEs participate on average in 1.6 different research projects.
A research project consortium has on average 11 partners, of which two are SMEs
10% of the projects are coordinated by an SME.
Within the ten Thematic Priorities of FP7, R&D SME’s participate the most (28%), followed by SMEs from the Manufacturing sector (25%), the Service sector (24%) and the ICT sector (18%)
€ 774 million goes directly to SMEs under the Capacities programme
€ 167 million goes to SMEs under the People programme
€ 106.5 million (85.2 from MS and 21.3 from EU), 76% of public funding goes to SMEs under Eurostars /Eureka initiatives.

Regular monitoring by DG Research & Innovation of the 15% across one of the five specific programmes of FP7 (2007-2013) i.e. the Themes of the Cooperation Programme (with a total budget of €32 billion) is in the form of “SME Progress Reports in FP7”. This 15% budget target for SMEs in the Cooperation Programme was specifically requested by the European Council and Parliament. The Cooperation programme is the largest of the five specific programmes under FP7 including Cooperation, Capacities, People, Ideas and Euratom.  It is estimated that by completion of FP7, €7 billion of a total budget of €52 billion will have gone to around 17,000 SMEs.

A recent study by the Commission published 16 January has revealed that 85% of new jobs in the EU between 2002 and 2010 were created by SMEs. Meeting the 15% budget target therefore contributes further to competitiveness and growth, and to the success of the Innovation Union flagship under Horizon 2020.

The increase from 14.4% (according to data as of 1st April 2011) towards today’s 15.3% of the budget share going to SMEs was mainly due to SME-friendly measures found in the following themes:

Health research (an increase from 10.3% to 12.4%)
Research in Food, agriculture, fisheries and biotechnology (an increase from 8.5% to 12.0%)
Information and Communication Technologies research (reaching 15% of the EU contribution in the signed contracts to SMEs).
The Thematic Priorities in which SMEs have the highest budget shares are:

Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and production technologies (23%)
Security research (21.5%)
Energy research (18%)
Transport research, including aeronautics (17%)
Find the report on SME participation in FP7 here:

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