Irish small- and medium-sized industries have a better opportunity to win research funding from the EU, according to EU research commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
The EU’s research fund will be the biggest ever — more than €70bn — over the next six years and the portion set aside for SMEs has been increased, too, with new rules to encourage greater participation.
Under the current research programme, Irish SMEs have drawn down €116m for work in areas, including ICT, health, agriculture and food, transport, energy and the environment.
But, under the new programme, known as Horizon 2020, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said there are increased opportunities with a bigger budget, simpler qualifying rules with less paperwork and incentives for first time applicants.
An initiative, Eurostars, will co-operate with the member states and encourage research-intensive SMEs and there will be a special fund for innovative smaller companies.
A range of debt and equity arrangements will also be available for SMEs that will include the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund and financial intermediaries in member states.
“Ireland and Europe have great scientists and researchers. But we must ensure that our EU-backed programmes in research fully support the innovation process.
“This will ensure that we can develop the goods and services of the future, improve the quality of life for us all and build a better society. This, in turn, will help to both maintain and create high quality jobs within the Irish economy,” said Ms Geoghegan-Quinn.
Examples of Irish SMEs that drew down funding over the past few years include: BioAtlantis in Tralee, developing natural feed additives for pig and poultry producers that could replace antibiotics and Moher Technologies in Limerick, mobilising biomass resources to meet future energy needs.
The commissioner said for Irish SMEs to remain competitive they must intensify their participation in the new research programme.
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