Some 7 000 Aerospace SME companies, with a significant involvement in the supply chain are represented in Europe. Aerospace SMEs, in the shadow of large industrialists, were willing to have access to European funded research but due to a lack of training mechanisms they faced significant difficulties. Measures within the Growth KA 4 created a break, but not a breakthrough, however, things were improving. The awareness of SMEs considerably increased, expressed needs from SMEs were real, and nevertheless a large amount of work remained to be accomplished at the level of helping SMEs in proposal preparations.
SCRATCH Phase three tried to improve the existing situation and to implement support actions at the level of RTD (Research and Technical Development) proposals preparation, specifically tailored toward SMEs. Nine Partners from France, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, the UK and Germany, all with expertise in European research and SMEs in the field of aerospace brought their knowledge and capabilities to SCRATCH Phase 3. The SCRATCH Phase 3 final goal was to prepare and submit three SME RTD proposals in the field of Aerospace for each SCRATCH Phase 3 Partner, within two years in FP6 (total 24 proposals). SCRATCH Phase 3 was the proposed follow up phase to Scratch I and II projects.
The main project objectives aimed to:
- Inform the highest possible number of European SMEs within the aeronautics supply chain about the research funding mechanisms offered by the EC Framework Programme (FP) and provide these SMEs with new opportunities for technology acquisition through the submission of STREP proposals to FP6 aeronautics calls.
- Audit candidate SMEs, in order to help them structuring their corporate research plan and identifying jointly the technology acquisition themes able to be acquired through a collaborative RTD project (STREP) within the FP6 Aerospace Programme.
- Set up a list of short-term, product oriented, research needs expressed by Aerospace SMEs and identify possible STREP proposals to be submitted to forthcoming FP6 Aeronautics calls.
- Service at least 15 aeronautics SME led STREP proposals, helping the initial consortium in the definition, preparation and submission of its proposal.
- Enrich the European Aerospace SMEs data base, in cooperation with ASD and the AeroSME project.
- Undertake investigations dealing with aerospace SMEs needs and capabilities in view of the Framework Programme 7 preparation.
The SCRATCH approach focused on four main activities:
- Awareness Campaign: Through a wide information action, a large number of Aerospace SMEs within 20 European countries (Member States or Associated Countries) were informed about:
- the opportunities offered by the 6th FP to fund collaborative research activities and
- the service offered by SCRATCH to help SMEs to express their technology acquisition needs and prepare a STREP proposal when appropriate.
- Audit of European Aerospace SMEs: Companies having expressed their interest during the awareness campaign were audited and invited to express their technology acquisition needs.
- SMEs expressed RTD needs: Technology acquisition needs expressed by European Aerospace SMEs were collected and analysed (taking into account the coordination capabilities of the initiating SME), in order to identify possible aeronautics STREP proposals led by SMEs to be submitted to FP6 Aeronautics calls.
- Project Proposal Servicing: SCRATCH partners supported candidate STREP proposals through all the preparation stages from project definition to proposal submission, including partner search, advice on management and work plan organisation, guidance on proposal quality improvement, support for administrative and legal issues, etc.
The support offered to SMEs by SCRATCH partners built upon the long experience of the project core team. This experience was summarised in a handbook on 'Implementation of quality guidelines in SME support activities'. It allowed the implementation of best practices and the quality guidelines acquired by the consortium in a structured way at each stage of the SCRATCH support (SMEs; audits, candidate proposals selection, proposals servicing, etc.).
SCRATCH partnership offered free of charge support to SMEs that had not yet coordinated any STREP in FP6. The final target of submitting proposals to the first call for proposal in FP7 dealing with Aeronautical Work-Programme was achieved with the submission of 16 Level 1 RTD proposals corresponding to SME's needs and industrial objectives as indicated below:
- The proposal is led by a SME that had not yet coordinated a proposal in FP6.
- The partnership is constituted with a majority of SMEs and more than 50% of the proposal budget is allocated to SMEs.
- Research centres, universities and large manufacturers are welcome either as developers or end users.
- Research is short-term oriented and applicative.
- The proposal shows great promises in industrialisation.
- The proposal duration is no more than 2 to 3 years.
- The proposal European contribution is not higher than 2 Meuros.
Partners have serviced SMEs and Research and Technological Development proposers free of charge, within the limits of the EU contract and without preference for any EU Member State origin.
The SCRATCH project lasted 12 months, from June 2006 to May 2007, this duration made a large audience aware of SCRATCH support, visits were made to companies to initiate research ideas, researchable SME and associated industrially validated research ideas were signalled, consortia were set up, proposals, parts B and parts A were developed and submitted by SMEs to FP7 Transport, including Aeronautics Programme first call for proposals.