In Europe 99% of the enterprises are SMEs and particularly the automotive Industry is characterised by a high number of small and medium sized companies spread over the whole continent as component suppliers for the large internationally owned manufacturers. However, due to structural shifts in the automotive industry, the need for R&D investment for those small and medium sized suppliers has increased markedly.
'AUTO-IN- Boost AUTOmotive SMEs participation IN FP7' was a Specific Support Action (SSA) funded by the European Commission within the 6th Framework Programme.
The automotive industry, in Europe is responsible for about ten million jobs (direct and indirect) and one out of ten European automotive workers lives in the new Member States. Although the automotive production of the new Member States occupies a rather small share in the overall European production, at national level this industry is a major driver of the economy in those new Member States. In Europe 99% of the enterprises are SMEs and in particularly the automotive Industry is characterised by a high number of small and medium sized companies spread by the whole continent as component suppliers for the large internationally owned manufacturers.
However, due to structural shifts in the automotive industry, the need for RTD investment for those small and medium sized suppliers increased markedly. This initiative aimed to increment the Research and Innovation potential in automotive SMEs, mainly from the New Member States and Candidate Countries by providing instruments to assist the SMEs to take advantage of the European Research opportunities to carry on their Research and Innovation projects to non-profit organisations from those countries.
This Specific Support Action was implemented within time frame of 12 months and it covered the period of the final definition of the FP7, the opening of the first calls (November 2006) and also the closing of the first calls (March/April 2007).
This timing was very suitable for the project objective as it provided support to the SMEs at a moment where the awareness raising about new rules, definitions, instruments, priorities, contract models and Technology Platforms was specially needed. The activities undertaken in this initiative resulted in a fruitful co-operation in RTD between New, Old and Future Member States and stimulated the generation of innovative projects in the field of Surface Transport.
AUTO-IN made use of a successful methodology to reach a larger number of SMEs multiplying it impact and help more European SMEs to increase its competitiveness in the global market through its participation in FP7. The AUTO-IN project was a 'pilot' initiative which achieved very successful results thanks to this methodology based in a very close and deep contact with the SMEs.
To successfully achieve the AUTO-IN overall goal, the following support activities have been performed:
- 30 Innovation Audits has been performed to European SMEs, mostly in New Member States and Candidate Country in order to assess its innovation and research needs and provide specific assistance in their potential participation in the FP7.
- AUTO-IN promoted the organisation of five international and technological clusters within the automotive sector and has supported them in preparing proposals to be submitted in the first calls of the 7th Framework Programme.
- The various dissemination activities performed within the project have allowed disseminating information about FP7 and AUTO-IN to more than 6 000 entities.
- During the whole project several public documents have been elaborated and published to assist the companies and the intermediaries in helping SMEs in their participation in FP7
The AUTO-IN activities have stimulated the generation of several innovative projects in the field of Surface Transport and have contributed to the competitiveness of the SMEs of the sector by assisting them in being more innovative.
More than 60 European entities, including 30 SMEs, have been involved in the FP7 projects elaborated within the AUTO-IN project. Most of those SMEs had no information about FP7 or the EU opportunities to fund research and Innovation ideas prior being contacted by the AUTO-IN consortium. The fact that those SMEs have agreed to cooperate at international level to develop their innovation and research projects is one of the main results of the AUTO-IN project.
The impact of the project has been much broader than the one initially expected as the AUTO-IN consortium has been able to involve more than 60 EU entities in the 5 technological clusters organized with around 50% of EU SMEs involved from 12 different European countries. These clusters have been supported by the AUTO-IN project to present 10 FP7 proposals during the first FP7 calls open.
The dissemination of the project have been broad achieved by disseminating information to more than 6 000 European entities and the events organised within the project have counted with the presence of more than 300 people.
The collaboration within the AUTO-IN Clusters will remain even after the AUTO-IN project ends as the first step to join all these organizations have been accomplished. Now these entities, many of those have had never though in cooperating at international level before having been contacted by the AUTO-IN project, are now willing to combine forces with entities from other countries to jointly develop RTD projects.