The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched a programme "to help UK organisations benefit from European Union [EU] funding for research and development", even though no new money is being provided for it.
The Framework Programme (FP6UK) aims to ease access for companies and universities to the €17.6bn (£12bn) set aside by the EU for the period 2003 to 2006 to finance R&D in a number of sectors, including IT.
FP6UK said the programme is "a one-door approach" by the DTI, offering a single brand, website and database for all requests for R&D funding. The EU money is already available, but through disparate organisations.
But organisations considering making an application are encouraged to check the DTI website regarding eligibility.
Any project that fails to meet the conditions - they must, for example, have two foreign partners, at least one of them from another EU member country - will be redirected to organisations such as Business Links, which provide their own funding.
"It's all about European co-operation," said the DTI.
Projects that do meet the conditions, however, will be directed towards a National Contact Point within the appropriate sector. In the case of IT this is Peter Walters at www.ukishelp.co.uk, whose job it is to shepherd applicants through the process.
Frameworks run for four-year periods. Under the previous one (FP5), IT projects received €500m of the total €3.6bn allocated to the sector, said Walters.
At IT trade body Intellect, campaigns director Tom Wills-Sandford commented: "The UK's record of productivity and innovation is very poor compared to our international competitors, so Intellect welcomes the FPUK6 initiative."
But he cautioned: "Initiatives of this nature should not been seen as a replacement for the UK's own R&D tax incentives scheme.
"Continuing concern should be given to the reward large UK companies currently receive for investing in R&D, which is between 3.75 per cent and five per cent, significantly below the international level of 10 per cent."
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