Yesterday we explained about our latest FP7 project, and how we resolved the paradox between the undeniable opportunity and the unmanageable risk for SMEs getting involved. We didn’t explain the problems we’ve had with the Scottish business development agencies and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in particular, so we’ll do that now.
If Alex Salmond and his cohorts genuinely want Scotland to stand on its own two feet, and if HIE wants to answer all those questions about the value it helps create, both of them should read our report and change the way they do their most important job – foster enterprise!
The EUs FP7 will contribute €30 billion to fund research in eHealth and all that investment goes to helping SMEs build new businesses. A blind man could see any government in Europe should want its local businesses to grab as much of that as possible. It’s a way to leverage small amounts of investment into massive results – spend a few shillings helping SMEs grab €millions. This is particularly true for any business development agency based in the Scottish Highlands, with a published focus on building a life sciences cluster of SMEs.
In the past the common sense of helping businesses propose projects was recognised by the Scottish Government. The Scottish Proposal Application Fund (SPAF) contributed 50% of proposal costs, up to a maximum of £15,000. Any Scottish company qualified for this support – all they had to do was fit the rules.
But that common sense got lost somewhere along the way when the government closed the SPAF and handed over responsibility for helping SMEs win FP7 funding to HIE.
Now it turns out nobody in HIE knows anything about FP7, and if they do they don’t see helping businesses win funding is part of there remit, and if they do see that as part of the remit that would only apply to businesses they already have in the support structure.
Why isn’t HIE doing everything it can to get local SMEs applying for, and winning, FP7 research projects as part of its strategy of building a new life sciences industry cluster?
That’s a paradox I can’t resolve.