SMEs are a key driver of the European economy, generating over two thirds of European Union GDP. Deeply rooted in their regions, European SMEs actively embrace international competition, accounting for a substantial share of EU exports. To maintain their competitive edge on global markets, high tech SMEs as well as companies from more traditional sectors are getting involved in research and cross border partnerships. The key role of EU research programmes in maximising regional dynamics and building competitive advantage for SMEs is the subject of a special press briefing held today in Slovenia, which has one of the highest levels of research intensity relative to GDP.
Addressing this meeting, European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik said “Creating strong regional poles of research and innovation is crucial for EU SMEs operating on global markets. Europe cannot, and will not, rely on cheap labour nor an unsustainable use of our natural resources. Our winning card is knowledge for growth. That means knowledge creation through research, knowledge diffusion through education and training, and knowledge exploitation through innovation – three pillars of the new “Partnership for Growth and Jobs” initiative launched by the European Commission”.
Research is a key asset for a wide spectrum of SMEs. In addition to a core of high tech, research intensive SMEs at the leading edge of innovation and job creation, SMEs from traditional manufacturing sectors equally rely on research to restructure, develop new products and conquer new markets. With a total budget of EUR 2,3 billion for research by and for SMEs in its Sixth Framework Programme, EU research directly contributes to making European SMEs more competitive through actions specifically adapted to the needs of these companies.
The projects presented at today’s press briefing illustrate how successful SMEs can turn participation in EU research into commercial success, for example by developing cleaner and more efficient production processes or radical new products. They show the value SMEs can derive from taking part in collaborative research projects with other public and private partners, as well as the benefits of actions specifically designed to help SMEs access the external research capacities they need. Similarly, the development of specific services for SMEs, such as matching SMEs with potential partners, and helping companies share information, training and best practices, allows SMEs from all sectors to boost performance and sharpen their competitive edge in the knowledge economy.
For more details on the projects presented at the briefing, see MEMO/05/101.