European associations representing researchers and industry are claiming to have taken an important step forward in encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in the 7th Framework Programme, with the launch of a simplified Model Consortium Agreement.

The model agreement has been named Desca - short for Development of a Simplified Consortium Agreement for FP7,' and was launched at a workshop in Bonn on 17 January. According to the Secretary-General of Eurochambres, Arnaldo Abruzzini, it "will be particularly beneficial to SMEs, for which participation in large research consortia implies challenges".

Anne Mungersdorff, Deputy Director of the European liason office of German research organisations (Kowi), states that one of the most important of these benefits will be simplification. She noted to Europolitics that under FP6 there were around 17 different model consortium agreements in use, and stated that it was necessary this time to create a "European model which is clear and simple," as well as easily available to projects wishing to use it. She claims that the content of the model agreement itself has been "reduced to the necessary minimum," with guidance notes provided on all the clauses.

The second main achievement of Desca, according to Abruzzini and Mungersdorff, is that it provides "balance" regarding the individual interests of the partners in the consortium. It does this by addressing key issues such as membership of management bodies and voting rights, and the extent of each partner's...

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