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Tunisia weds SMEs to researchers to boost EU success

The ministries of scientific research and industry in Tunisia are joining forces to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) find researchers to help these businesses prepare proposals for the European Union’s next research funding programme.

Jelel Ezzine, director general for international cooperation in Tunisia’s ministry of higher education and scientific research, told Research Africa that the goal is to help the country’s SMEs exploit the funding from Horizon 2020, which begins in 2014.

Horizon 2020 is expected to have a budget of about US$100 billion, when it takes over from the EU’s seventh Framework programme (FP7). Like its predecessor Horizon 2020 is expected to have a funding instrument dedicated to SMEs. Businesses will also be able to participate in other funding instruments in the programme.

“The involvement of our small and medium enterprises in the FP7 has been minor,” says Ezzine.

Teaming businesses up with researchers is the most efficient way of getting them on board with EU research funding, he adds.

“Those with the best experience of EU funding programmes are researchers. We thought it best to team them up because of the minimal experience of SMEs,” he says.

The ministries plan to hold networking meetings between researchers and SMEs during 2012.