EU innovation funds up for grabs for Irish SMEs

25 May 2010

Innovation and R&D at all business levels, including SMEs, will be the key to Ireland’s economic recovery, Minister of State for Trade & Commerce Billy Kelleher TD has said.

Kelleher made his comments at a seminar organised by Shannon Chamber and the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), in association with Enterprise Ireland, the Enterprise Europe Network in Ireland (EEN) and Bank of Ireland, which urged the Irish business and academic communities to give increased consideration to using EU innovation funding.

Outlining the Government’s commitment to R&D, Kelleher said: “Over the past 10 years, the Government has trebled the level of investment in R&D and is working towards reaching its target of achieving a national R&D investment of 3pc of GDP, public and private combined.

“With 45pc of all enterprises in Ireland now engaged in some level of innovation activities, the total spend on innovation activities by companies in Ireland was almost €5.3bn in 2008,” he added.

Irish SMEs can gain from EU innovation programmes

According to Jerry Moloney, Enterprise Ireland regional director mid-west region, Irish SMEs have a lot to gain from participating in EU innovation programmes: “Enterprise Ireland has introduced thousands of small Irish companies to business and research partners across Europe through our role as the national co-ordinator of both the Enterprise Europe Network in Ireland and the €50bn Seventh EU Framework Programme for R&D.

“I would encourage companies in the west, mid-west and south-west to actively seek out opportunities to collaborate with other companies and research institutions in Europe,” he said.

An ‘Innovation Union’

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Martina Daly, administrator, SME Unit, EU Framework Programme for R&D, added: “As part of the Commission’s strategy for Europe 2020 aiming to move out of the crisis and create a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe, preparation is under way to deliver a new research and innovation strategy which will set out how to achieve an ‘Innovation Union’.  

“The Commission sees this as vital for Europe’s growth and job potential and for its role in the world economy, ensuring that innovative companies, especially SMEs, get access to funding, and that promising new ideas make it to the European and global markets. 

“The Seventh Framework for Research and Technological Development (FP7) offers more opportunities for SMEs than ever before,” Daly added.

“With increasing budgets each year in FP7, now is the time for SMEs to seize these opportunities and apply for funding in upcoming calls which will be published in July. In addition, a new pilot action for ‘demonstration’ projects will be launched this year, specifically for SMEs to take project results to market.”

Commenting on the seminar from Brussels, Ireland’s European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said she fully supports this type of event, in Ireland and elsewhere.

“The more information we can get across on EU research funding and how to get it, the more applicants we will have and the higher will be the quality of the projects we fund. Ultimately, events like this help boost the contribution of EU-funded research to the products and services of the future,” she added.

EU’s Seventh Framework Programme

EU research for the Seventh Framework for Research and Technological Development costs the EU’s 500 million tax-paying citizens just €14 each every year.

The EU targets €5bn (15pc of its total budget) to go to SMEs participating in the FP7’s Co-operation Programme, which averages out at €275,000 for each SME which participates.

Ireland can use two key supports to access EU resources and funding – the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and the National Support for FP7 in Ireland.

In the first two years since its establishment, the EEN in Ireland connected with 10,000 Irish SMEs.

Ireland’s drawdown in FP7 for the first two and a half years of the programme was €152.7m. This drawdown was spread across 144 companies and 12 higher education institutes.

Photo: Minister of State for Trade & Commerce Billy Kelleher TD

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