The EUROPEER SME project in the European context The Lisbon Strategy, decided by the EU Heads of States and Governments in March 2000, sets out to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledgedriven economy by 2010”. The “Open Method of Coordination” (OMC) was introduced at the same time to help Member States progress jointly on their reforms. Subsequently, the EU Heads of State and Government decided in 2003 that EU investments in Research and Development (R&D) should approach 3% by 2010 (the Barcelona target), and that the OMC should be applied to reach this target. The Community’s Committee for Scientific and Technical Research (CREST) was given the task to oversee the OMC process.
CREST has worked through a number of OMC expert groups in yearly cycles. To reinforce andcomplement the OMC application to investment in research, the European Commission launched the OMC-NET scheme in 2005. The scheme is implemented through calls for proposals for Coordination and Support Actions (CSA). It offers Member States or their regions the possibility to develop policy coordination activities on issues of their own interest with support from the European Commission.
EUROPEER SME is one of ten projects financed in the OMC-NET pilot call which was launched in 2005 under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). The EUROPEER SME project:
- fostered mutual learning and elaborated best practices on national and regional R&D support programs to Small and Medium Enterprises (SME),
- optimised the exchange of best practices by identifying conditions for transferability and developing transfer schemes,
- and diminished overlap and strengthened the coordination of R&D policies directed to SME.
The EUROPEER SME project used peer reviews as its working method. The method of peer reviews implies that the partners present in the peer groups are equal, which is crucial for mutual learning. The project comprised 14 partners from ten European countries. Therefore, EUROPEER SME had and has an important transnational impact. The impact of the project has been valuable on different levels. In particular the mutual learning and peer reviews have initiated a vivid exchange between project partners, and several partners are preparing the implementation of new instruments as a direct result of the project. However the impacts go far beyond the core group of project peers. The instruments themselves as well as the transfer method have met great interest from various actors in the field in European countries and beyond.