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The European Commission has announced that it is targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in its distribution of €2.2bn of EU research funding.

Philippe Busquin, European research commissioner, launched the EU-funded DETECT-it project at a presentation in Brussels. The programme aimed to help SMEs to overcome the difficulties in setting up and financing research activities. It aims to identify the most innovative SMEs, and encourage them to make the most of the EU 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6) funding.

SMEs account for 66 per cent of private sector employment and 50 per cent of new jobs in the EU. According to the European Commission, nearly half of Europe's 2 million industrial SMEs have also introduced innovation into their markets.

"Small and medium-sized enterprises are central to Europe's innovation and technological breakthroughs," said Busquin. "Through targeted assistance the Commission is helping to turn SMEs' ideas into commercial realities."

Busquin said that the DETECT-it programme would give Europe's SMEs access to research expertise and corporate partnerships. It is also designed to give innovators access to the appropriate EU research funding programmes.

DETECT-it will also help SMEs to fully participate in the creation of a European Research Area (ERA), which is developing a single market for science, knowledge and innovation. Although EUR1.7 million of the SME funding will be spent within nation - states, the remaining EUR0.5 billion has been earmarked for cross-border joint ventures, innovations and technology transfers.

The project involves 42 partners from 15 countries and it will target more than 1,000 SMEs across Europe.

The EU wants to raise European R&D funding levels to 3 per cent of EU GDP by 2010. The EU has committed to increase R&D funding to 3 per cent of GDP by 2010, to bring it in line with the EU's main trading partners, the US and Japan.

© ENN

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