New large-scale European programme for SMEs
The Eurostars programme is designed to meet the needs of businesses for R&D funding and transnational collaboration, while at the same time promoting increased employment. The new programme is the second in the Eurostars series.
The programme is administered under the EUREKA intergovernmental network for market-oriented R&D and innovation projects, where Norway currently holds the chairmanship.
Major budget increase
Eurostars 2 is supported by 33 countries, within and outside the EU. The programme is being launched in parallel with the EU Horizon 2020 framework programme and will have the same duration. The new budget of EUR 1 150 million marks a substantial increase over the EUR 400 million budgeted for the previous programme period. The EU will contribute up to EUR 297 million of the new budget, and the rest will be provided by the participant countries themselves.
"Eurostars 1 has been a great success. It is no coincidence that Eurostars 2 is the first initiative we decided to roll out in connection with Horizon 2020," stated Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General of the Directorate General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, during the recent kick-off in Brussels. He emphasised that even with reductions to the EU's overall budget in upcoming years, funding for research and innovation will grow, with particular focus on the innovative capacity of the SME sector.
Active Norwegian participation
Norway is a full participant in the Eurostars 2 programme, as it was in the previous programme. Since the beginning of the Eurostars programme period in 2008, 79 Eurostars research projects involving Norwegian participation have been initiated. In other words, one in ten research projects funded under the Eurostars programme has included a Norwegian SME. Norwegian project participants have been allocated a total of NOK 287 million (round about 34,5 million Euro), of which NOK 63 million (round about 7,5 million Euro) comes from funding under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the rest from grants from the Research Council of Norway. The Norwegian participants have provided NOK 305 million (round about 36,7 million Euro) in funding themselves.
"Eurostars 2 is a key instrument for Norwegian businesses that develop products and services for the international market," asserts Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Division for Innovation of the Research Council. "By participating in this programme, companies can enhance their competitiveness and boost value creation. The programme also helps to maintain interesting jobs in a competence-intensive industrial sector."
Manageable administrative requirements
Kristin Danielsen, International Director at the Research Council and Chair of the EUREKA network for 2013-2014 highlights several important aspects of the programme: "The funding criteria and project requirements under the Eurostars programme accommodate the needs companies have for both R&D funding and internationalisation. Eurostars funding also gives SMEs a leading role in focused R&D projects with a manageable level of administrative coordination and reporting. This is what distinguishes Eurostars research projects from typical framework programme projects, where SMEs are often consigned to a subordinate role and must deal with relatively complicated contracts and comprehensive reporting requirements."