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How to help SMEs succeed with their R&D

The latest Eurostars call for projects has closed with 372 project applications. More than 1,100 organisations were mobilised to form international project consortia, proving that Eurostars remains the number one choice for many research-intensive businesses looking to public support for their innovative endeavours. As always with Eurostars, small and medium enterprises are in the driving seat for each project, accounting for more than 70% of participants.

In 2008, Eurostars launched as a small niche European programme, co-financed by national budgets and the European Commission. Since then, it has developed into a success story for Eureka but, more importantly, also for the many businesses that have succeeded in their bid for funding to bring their exceptional innovative ideas to market.

Peter Chisnall leads the Eurostars team at the Eureka offices in Brussels and has been with the programme since the very beginning: “Long-term follow-up and impact studies (using internal and external data) give us the ability to see and track the development of companies after the initial grant they received from us; we see that some of these Eurostars companies are doing really well. One of them seems very close to breaking the 1 billion EUR value mark. This is just one company of course, but the fact that our portfolio now has massive potential value and that there is a clear link back to Eurostars is a very good sign.

And it’s not just about financial growth. Eurostars has created tens of thousands of jobs and given its participating companies a certain kudos that enables them to go on to other things, be they follow-up grants at national or EU level, or even, as I saw recently, getting the backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation!

Can we say that success is ours? Take the athlete Usain Bolt as an example. He won 8 Olympic gold medals; he is obviously amazing. But somebody trained him. The trainer did not win the gold medal though; he can’t claim that success. But without him, it would never have happened. That’s the kind of relationship we have with our companies.”

Member of the European Parliament Dr. Paul Rübig was rapporteur for the Eurostars co-decision process in the European Parliament in 2008 and had this to say about the programme in 2018:

"Research and innovation are the foundations of prosperity in Europe. Research-performing small- and medium-sized enterprises play a particularly large part in this. At the European Parliament, we are particularly devoted to this issue and have launched Horizon 2020, the world's largest multi-annual framework programme for research and development; Eurostars, which supports research-based SMEs, is also part of this programme. In 2008, I negotiated the Eurostars budget. At that time, we were able to reach €400 million, with the programme being financed by 25 member states, 7 associated countries and the European Commission. Under the current Horizon 2020, €1.4 billion have been mobilised to support R&D-performing SMEs in their efforts to establish Europe as a world-class location for innovation.

I would like to congratulate those responsible at EUREKA on this 10th anniversary. In politics there is often talk of European lighthouse projects - Eurostars is certainly one of them".