The European Council of Ministers today agreed to provide 100 million euro from the EU Seventh Framework Programme to top up the at least 300 million already provided from national budgets by the 31 countries participating in the joint EUREKA-EU Eurostars Programme for R&D-performing small and medium enterprises.
The resulting 400 million euro will help support these SMEs in their transnational market-oriented research ventures — and, it is hoped, will leverage private funding in excess of the public contribution.
At a working lunch at the European Parliament to toast the success of Eurostars, EUREKA Chairman Aleš Miheliè, Director-General at the Slovenian Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology said: 'Eurostars was always a calculated risk for us. It is the confidence and enthusiasm of the European Commison and the 31 EUREKA countries participating in Eurostars — and the 300 million euro of national funds they were willing to commit to this new Programme, that willed us to launch the first call before the co-decision process [European Parliament and Council] had happened.'
'This decision led to accusations of arrogance from some, but we have proved them wrong: this all-new concept in joint programming has generated an immense level of interest from the SME community and has already resulted in over 200 applications,' Miheliè added. ‘We are equally optimistic for the number of applications that will be received by the next cut-off date of 21 November 2008.’
Janez Potoènik, EU Research Commissioner added: ‘The Eurostars Programme is an excellent example of how European countries and the EU can contribute to economic growth by reinforcing cooperation between their respective research programmes. Making it possible for SMEs to collaborate with the best European research teams, Eurostars will help them turn new ideas into successful businesses, and reinforce their competitive edge in knowledge and innovation — the cornerstones of prosperity.’
Eurostars is the first funding programme of its kind, flexible and efficient and dedicated to research-performing SMEs who take the driving seat in short-time-to-market R&D projects that result in a tangible project, process or service. A Eurostars project involves partners from at least two Eurostars-participating countries, but not just SMEs, as Eurostars projects also welcome large company, research institute and university involvement. Eurostars is open to applications in all areas of technology. While assessment and evaluation is conducted centrally in Brussels, by an independent panel of technical and business experts, Eurostars project applicants benefit from the local business advice and expertise of EUREKA's network of national project coordinators, based in each member country.
The first cut-off date for applications to the Eurostars Programme was 8 February 2008 and resulted in 215 applications, of which 189 were eligible for assessment. After assessment and evaluation, 133 applications exceeded the quality threshold, each with an average cost of 1.54 million euro. An average application involved 3.3 participants from 2.4 countries with a duration of 29 months.
The next cut-off date for Eurostars applications is Friday 21 November 2008 at 17.00 CET. For more information about the Eurostars Programme, visit: www.eurostars-eureka.eu or contact your EUREKA national project coordinator (http://www.eurostars-eureka.eu/where.do)
Shar McKenzie | alfa
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