SMEs are major actors in technology development and innovation, but are too fragmented. Very few of them can reasonably claim to address directly R&D challenges which are becoming increasingly complex and often require an interdisciplinarity critical mass.
The EURO-TRANS_Days was to encourage, facilitate and enhance cooperation between SMEs of Surface Transport (road, rail, waterborne and intermodality), and major European RD players and Industrial Stakeholders of the European Research Area.
EURO-TRA NS_Days was a follow-up of EURO-TRANS project and it aimed at:
- increasing the integration of SMEs in European R&D projects of the 7th Framework Programme;
- initiating new European partnerships;
- increasing technology transfer and synergies between SMEs (cooperation agreements such as sharing and combining knowledge and know-how);
- increase links with the Transport Technology Platforms ERRAC, ERTRAC, WATERBORNE.
The Project objectives were achieved through the realisation of:
- Two international workshops in MADRID (SP) and WARSAW (PL). Each of them included presentations of Technology Platforms ERRAC, ERTRAC, WATERBORNE (strategic research agenda, themes of future FP7 projects), sessions (thematic/sectoral workshops; horizontal workshops on consortium agreement, IPR), one to one confidential meetings, coaching appointments. 200-300 participants per event were expected from all 25 EU members, candidates countries, associate countries and third countries.
- Coaching services for SMEs to assist them in finding partners, identifying opportunities to participate in new projects, initiating projects from their own ideas, identification of SME expertise, preparation of proposal.
The project was developed in 4 Work Packages:
- WP1: preparation of the two events;
- WP2: realisation of the event in Warsaw;
- WP3: realisation of the event in Madrid;
- WP4: coaching and post-event actions.
Both events provided plenary and parallel sessions (Polish and Spanish VIPs, strategic agendas of European technology platforms, successful SMEs, topics of the 2nd call) and workshops (open floor for presentations of ideas of project, SME competencies, ...) with more than 80 presentations in total for the two events. During the Warsaw event 100 one-to-one meetings were organised.
The two events gave opportunities to SMEs and other participants to obtain coaching services from the ETD partners. The coaching services have concerned more participants in Warsaw event, than in Madrid because the number of participants and the number project presentations/discussions were more important in the Polish event. This was carried out in different ways by each partner:
- Informal contacts and participation in 'one to one meeting' during the events;
- Open discussions and project ideas presentations during the events;
- Pre- and post-event contacts
After each event, the debriefing meetings pointed out that the participation of SMEs was indeed quite low (about 15%), and also the participation of Poland in Warsaw and Spain in Madrid was more than 50%. However the contacts with SMEs were very fruitful for developing ideas of proposals and providing advices to SMEs about FP7 opportunities.
ETD partners agreed that it was difficult to convince the SMEs to travel abroad for European Business events as proposed by ETD project. It was then agreed that for future actions, another way should be found. For instance, the organisation of awareness meetings at national level through the network of professional associations and local business centres seems to be a more appropriate to approach efficiently the SMEs, then the important work of ETD partners would be to provide relay and networking at European level: creating a 'market place' of project opportunities, project ideas, SME competencies, .... In that way, the ETD partners should then have a well established knowledge of the projects in preparation and contacts with key stakeholders leading European projects. Therefore, the active participation of key R&D leaders is recommended, as well as industry leaders (major industries of surface transport, subcontractors that rank #1) who will attract the interest of SMEs to attend local awareness meetings.