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The Government yesterday kicked off a programme to help UK firms get their hands on a share of €17.5 billion earmarked by the European Union has for research and development projects.

Dubbed somewhat cryptically FP6UK - Framework Programme 6 UK - the scheme is designed to help UK companies get a share of the EU's currently running Sixth Framework Programme (FP 6) collaborative research and innovation fund.

Framework Programme 6 has an overall budget of €17.5 billion and will run until the end of 2006. The fund has been created to "strengthen European research and technological capability and encourage Europe's international competitiveness".

Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority areas including "information society technologies", life sciences, genetics and biotechnology for health, nanotechnologies and nanosciences. It is open to all types of organisations in the EU, as well as a number of non-EU countries.

FP6UK forms part of Whitehall's network of National Contact Points (NCPs), designed to advise British businesses. Whitehall said its launch will make it easier for UK businesses to apply for the EU funding as, for the first time, it enables them to access NCP's experts through a centralised service.

FP6UK can be contacted online here or through a central telephone support number, 0870 600 6080, which can answer all general enquiries about FP6 as well as point callers directly to the relevant NCPs covering their specific area of interests. ®

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