Horizon 2020 has set up a dedicated instrument for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Innovation in SMEs. It provides direct financial support as well as an indirect contribution through a series of actions intended to increase the innovation capacity of these types of companies. The instrument is aimed at “creating a favourable ecosystem for SME innovation and growth” and is particularly welcomed by companies in the forest and woodworking sectors.
Updated on a biannual basis, the work programme ‘Innovation in SMEs’ details the scope of research topics that are taken as a priority in the specific time frame and lists several Calls for Proposals. Following a competitive process, funding is granted to high-quality research projects submitted by pan-European research consortia formed by research organizations and universities in cooperation with SMEs and the public sector.
A place for forest-based sector SMEs in the EU innovation landscape
More than 365,000 SMEs in the European forest-based sector employ over 2.5 million people and cover a wide range of traditional and innovative industrial activities: contractor timber harvesting; stand management and transport; sawmilling and pressure treatment; veneer, panel and board production; joinery and carpentry; the manufacture of construction products, pallets, packaging and furniture; printing, wood-related biotechnology and specialist communication and information services.
Often located in rural areas, these companies make an important contribution to the local economy, labour markets and the demographic structure, helping to reduce migration to cities. SMEs in the forest and woodworking industries are key drivers of innovation thanks to their ability to quickly and efficiently transform new ideas into successful businesses. This strength should help overcome the European dilemma of huge research funding budgets resulting in relatively little private-sector exploitation and commercialization.