Grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) under the EUROSTARS programme must be transparent and non-bureaucratic, MEPs have said, the European Parliament’s Industry Committee was
voting on amendments to the European Commission’s proposed EUROSTARS programme on 28 February.
The EUROSTARS programme is being set up to fund research and development (R&D) activities driven by SMEs. The EU is supporting the initiative with a ?100 million grant from the Seventh
Framework Programme (FP7), while an additional ?300 million will come from the 27 countries which have signed up to the initiative.
‘In regards implementation, the EUROSTARS joint programme should work in a transparent and non bureaucratic way to facilitate SME participation,’ wrote Austrian MEP Paul Rübig in his draft
report on the subject. ‘Therefore, the Community contribution to projects should be made by lump sum payments and in case a lump sum payment is not compatible with the national programmes,
there should be a flat rate payment.’
Another amendment states that the monitoring of the implementation of the programme ‘should be cost-efficient and should not impose unnecessary burdens on SMEs participating in the programme’.
The report also highlights the importance of prompt payment to SMEs, stating: ‘Since SMEs are particularly hard hit by late payments the Community has to avoid late payments by finding an
efficient monitoring scheme.’
The MEPs also broach the issue of what proportion of the costs of the projects should be met by the SMEs. In its proposal, the Commission suggests making it obligatory for SMEs to contribute at
least 50% of the costs related to R&D within a project. However, MEPs are concerned that with this fixed limit many R&D-performing SMEs would be excluded from the programme.
Instead, they propose that within each project, the R&D performing SMEs should collectively execute at least 50% of the overall R&D activities. The MEPs hope that this measure will
enable more market-based SMEs to participate in projects.
The MEPs are keen to ensure that the EU’s contribution to the initiative be clearly visible. The relevant amendment calls for ‘appropriate measures to give recognition to the Community
contribution to the EUROSTARS Joint Programme both in the programme generally and in individual projects’. This could be achieved by placing the Community logo on published materials, they
Finally, the MEPs call for the establishment of a database containing the results of the projects and making the information available for at least two years. ‘It is important to set up a
European research and innovation database,’ reads the justification for this amendment.
According to Mr Rübig, as the programme is already at an advanced stage of preparation, there is widespread agreement that the report be handled as quickly as possible. With this in mind,
he hopes to see the report adopted by the full European Parliament in April.
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