505. The European Union is pleased to co-sponsor this agenda item together with the other delegations. We thank Switzerland, in particular, for the concept paper which was high quality and for its active role in the drafting of this document with the other delegations. We also thank, as usual, the United States for their full involvement in the coordination of the group and the organization also of the side event yesterday.
506. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) play an increasingly important role in corporate strategy and the intangible assets created through innovation represent a major share of the value of today's businesses. The IPRs associated with intangible assets are the legal guarantee for potential returns on investment in innovation and a means to get funding, notably in start-ups and early-stage companies. The use of IPRs to gain finance is considered an important aspect given that SMEs and start-ups encounter difficulties in raising funds from bank loans due to the risks involved, while venture capitals ask for a large equity interest.
507. According to certain surveys that we monitor in the European Union the EUIPO SME scoreboard 2019, and the most recent one in 2022, only 13% of SMEs owning IP rights tried to use intangible assets to obtain finance: 9% successfully and 4% unsuccessfully. Additionally, only 25% of SMEs IPR owners have professionally valued their intangible assets, and this drops to 20% for small and micro-sized IPR owners.
508. According to the most recent study 2022 Intellectual Property SME Scoreboard, 15% of SME owners of registered IP rights reported that they had suffered from infringement of an IP right that they own. In light of these figures, I have already mentioned this year, and in light of the information, the European Union has developed programmes supporting young entrepreneurs coming from the universities favouring the financing of the SMEs or innovative start-ups, most of the time these startups are created by PhD students.
509. The main programme, for PhD student in Europe or elsewhere, there is no discrimination, is the Marie Curie Actions. The newest programme, Marie Skłodowska, it is her name, (MSCA Doctoral Networks 2022 deadline next 15 November 2022) implements doctoral programmes, creating partnerships between universities, research institutions and research infrastructures, businesses including start-ups of course, and other socio-economic actors from different countries across Europe and beyond.
510. This action offers training in research-related domains, as well as transferable skills and competences relevant for innovation and long-term employability such as IPR but also entrepreneurship, commercialisation of results, communication. Through industrial doctorates, doctoral candidates may step outside academia and develop skills in industry and business by being jointly supervised by academic and non-academic organisations, both of which can be established in the same EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country.
511. A start-up can also receive support of a technology transfer office in the university. Such offices accompany start-ups and provide the necessary initial guidance and resources, including designing the intellectual property strategy and providing help for IP registration. The technology transfer offices are organized at EU level within the European TTO circle | JRC Science Hub Communities, it is really easy to find on the net.
512. A PhD student with a good business idea would be eligible to apply for Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. This is a cross-border exchange programme which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other participating countries. The exchange of experience takes place during a stay with the experienced entrepreneur, which helps the new entrepreneur acquire the skills needed to run a small firm, in particular as regards the IP strategy. The host benefits from fresh perspectives on his/her business and gets the opportunities to cooperate with foreign partners or learn about new markets.
513. Furthermore, both the European Union and its Member States have a number of general programmes to support access to finance, in particular for micro, small and medium companies. Under the Single Digital Gateway, such young entrepreneurs can find a number of access to finance programmes: Access to finance/Your Europe.
514. As regards the EU, the Commission launched in November 2020 the Intellectual Property Action Plan to support the EU's recovery and resilience. The IP Action Plan identified a number of priorities, among which one was to promote an effective use and deployment of IP, in particular by SMEs and start-ups. To achieve this priority, the Commission committed to offer financial support for SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, helping them to manage their IP portfolios as well as helping them move towards green and digital technologies which are our priorities in the European Union.
515. In the framework of this general Action Plan, the Commission and the EUIPO launched the new EU SME Fund on Intellectual Property in 2022, which offers intellectual property vouchers for EUbased SMEs for post-COVID-19 recovery and green and digital transitions for the next three years (2022-2024). The new EU SME Fund, with its budget of EUR 47 million, offers a great variety of services: partial reimbursements of various national fees or costs for instance. Start-ups need a flexible IP toolbox and quick financing to protect their innovations. Hence, for the first time the new EU SME fund is now also covering patents. The European Commission's financial contribution, which can amount up to EUR 2 million, will be dedicated fully to the patent related services.
516. This action, the EU SME Fund, is implemented by the EUIPO through calls for proposals. The applications are examined and evaluated based on a first in first out criterion. SMEs with no experience in the area of intellectual property are encouraged to apply first for an IP Scan service and only subsequently to the other services. The IP Scan service will provide a broad assessment of the IP needs of the applicant SME, taking into account the innovative potential of its intangible assets.