July 13, 2012
The European Commission has announced the biggest ever invitation to bid for EU research and innovation funding, under its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and a substantial proportion is aimed at SMEs.
In total, €8.1 billion (about £6.5 billion) is on offer as part of a bid to boost Europe's competitiveness, health and sustainability. The UK tends to punch above its weight in bidding for FP7 funding, with UK organisations having so far received more than €3.7 billion (£3 billion) — nearly 15% of the funds distributed since the programme began in 2007.
Special attention is being given to SMEs in a package worth up to €1.2 billion (£1 billion). SMEs are already receiving 15.6% of funding for which they are eligible to bid, outstripping the Commission's target of 15%.
The invitations to bid target both innovation and a range of societal challenges. They are intended to build towards Horizon 2020, the new funding programme for EU research that will replace FP7 and some other smaller initiatives from 2014-2020.
Areas that are being funded focus on sustainability and include the marine and maritime sectors, smart cities and communities, tackling drug-resistant bacteria and managing fresh water resources. Digital research is also a funding target with almost €1.5 billion (£1.25 billion) going to IT and communication technologies.
European research, innovation and science commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: "If Europe wants to continue to compete in the 21st century, we must support the research and innovation that will generate growth and jobs, now and in the future. The high level of competition for EU funding makes sure that taxpayers' money goes to the best projects that tackle issues that concern all of us."
The FP7 framework programme, launched in 2007, has a total budget of €55 billion (£46 billion) for research and innovation. It has so far supported some 19,000 projects involving more than 79,000 participants (universities, research organisations and businesses), 10,000 of them from the UK.