The Commission proposes to support a second phase of the Eurostars joint programme which funds transnational research carried out by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is hoped that the resultant improvements in technology will bring growth for EU firms, who could then create jobs.
The proposal aims to promote transnational research collaboration by “research-performing SMEs”, possibly also working with organisations such as universities or research institutes. This should encourage fast growing, internationally active and competitive SMEs, and compensate for the lack of private funding in particular in current times for SME research. The focus will be on market-oriented transnational research activities leading to new or improved products, processes and services. Bringing in SMEs without experience in transnational research is an additional objective.
|SMEs are defined as independent businesses with fewer than 250 employees and sales of up to €50 million. Most businesses (over 98%) in the EU fall under this definition. “Research-performing SMEs” are a subset, which use at least 10% of their sales revenue or have at least 10% of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) engaged in research and development activities.|
This action is an extension of the previous 2008-13 Eurostars programme, which had an EU budget ceiling of €100 million. An interim evaluation of the original programme was conducted in 2010 and the subsequent Commission communication of April 2012 to the EP and Council made a number of recommendations for improvement. In particular, implementation processes and national funding rules should be streamlined and harmonised, evaluation needed to be improved and the contracting process speeded up. The new programme aims to address these recommendations.
The maximum EU contribution will be €287 million at current prices. This comes from the Horizon 2020 research framework programme budget. The EU contribution to any project, covering operational costs, will be one-third of the total. Other contributions may come from participating countries or from private sources. Up to 2% of the €287 million may cover Eurostar 2’s administration costs.
The Eurostars programme was set up in 2008 under EUREKA, an intergovernmental network with 40 European member countries. Eurostars – and the new programme, Eurostars-2 – provides support to SME businesses, research centres and universities carrying out cross-European projects in this area. Eurostars-2 will involve EU Member States along with Iceland, Israel, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland, with each of these non-EU states also contributing to Horizon 2020.
EP and Council agreement
Plenary is due to vote on a text agreed in trilogue between Parliament and Council, on the basis of the report by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (rapporteur Miloslav Ransdorf, GUE-NGL, Czech Republic). The limit for funding operating costs will be increased from 2% to 6%, so also including Eurostar- 2’s project evaluation costs. The compromise text also introduces some flexibility into the criterion of proportion of FTEs required to qualify as “research-performing”, particularly for smaller firms.