Dr. Jäkel said that the answer was “both.” A special program offers small SMEs various consulting services and a small grant of 15,000 Euros. The companies learn in cooperation with Fraunhofers and others how to develop their business, and how to collaborate in networks and clusters.
Dr. Prabhakar asked about the goal of the program to support SMEs. Dr. Jäkel said that it is a bottom-up program, open not only to all kinds of technologies but different strategies, with the main focus on cooperation. “That’s what SMEs need. They need knowledge of research institutions, but also ability to do some R&D on their own, and they get partners for that, and also support networks. We bring together knowledge to let them be more successful in the market.”
Dr. Neuhoff asked whether the SBIR program held open calls for proposals.
Dr. Wessner said the calls were not open, and can be quite specific in their goals, such as developing a new material or building certain equipment. “An advantage is that it lets people bring in their own ideas. It is abused when agencies tell companies what they want.”
Dr. Jäkel added that the Center Innovation Program for SMEs had no calls at all. Instead, companies can apply as they wish, and even receive help in designing their project. About 65 to 70 percent are approved; he said that while that figure may sound high, most weak projects are already screened out beforehand by agencies.