Research helps boost economic growth, create more and better jobs and ensure the EU's competitiveness in the global economy. The EU encourages investment in research and technological development (RTD) and actively supports it in selected areas.
The EU has set itself the objective of spending 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research by 2020. Investment has nevertheless stagnated at around 1.84% (since 2005) compared to over 2.5% in the United States and 3% in Japan.
The EU actively encourages investment in research and the promotion of innovation in its 2005 integrated action plan. It fosters businesses by forming clusters and networks to strengthen collaboration and know-how transfers between research bodies and business.
One of the EU's priorities is to create a European Research Area (ERA) – a border-free zone for research, in which scientific resources can be better deployed. Although this project has met national and institutional barriers, it remains a priority for the EU, and so a public consultation was launched in 2007 to reinvigorate the project.
The Commission has launched the "Innovation Union" flagship initiative. This initiative aims to improve conditions and access to finance for research and innovation in Europe, to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.
SME Techweb provides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with information on funding for research and development activities in EU research programmes.
The Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) covers all research-related EU initiatives and has a budget of around €50 billion for 2007-13. Under the cooperation programme at least 15% of the budget is allocated to SMEs. Grants are available for projects with an EU dimension – e.g. involving partners from more than one EU country.
Broadly, the framework programme is concerned with: cooperation, ideas, people, capacities and nuclear research – each with its own programme to promote European poles of scientific excellence.
The Community research and development information service (CORDIS) provides up-to-date information on EU research and on how to take part in FP7.
The Eurostars programme helps small businesses access funding for international research projects.
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