Commission plans shakeup of key State Aid laws in relation to R&D funding

The European Commission is undertaking a review of the current state aid framework which is due to expire at the end of 2013. 

As part of that review, the Commission has recently launched a public consultation into the current General Block Exemption Regulation (“GBER”) which exempts certain categories of state aid, such as support for SMEs and funding for R&D projects, from the normal requirement of notifying state aid measures to the Commission. 

In addition to the current GBER consultation, separate reviews have been conducted for specific types of aid such as research, development and innovation (“R&D&I”), the questionnaire for which was published at the end of 2011 with the deadline for submissions in early 2012.  The Commission has identified R&D&I policy as an essential component of its strategy for growth and jobs. 

The mid-term review of the R&D&I framework, published prior to the questionnaire, indicated that there is a clear need to improve the conditions for private R&D in the EU.  It was reported that at that time the R&D spending in Europe was below 2%, compared to 2.6% in the US and 3.4% in Japan, mainly as a result of lower levels of private investment.  The questionnaire asked public authorities whether there were particular factors preventing them from granting a larger proportion of R&D&I aid through block exempted measures and whether the current level of notification thresholds for R&D&I measures were appropriate.

The proposed reforms are important because GBER has been responsible for cutting the administrative burden both on the Commission and on national public authorities who would otherwise have been obliged to notify their state aid plans to Brussels. 

The review is therefore a significant one for both public authorities and organisations seeking to benefit (or who currently benefit) from financial assistance in relation to R&D.  If your organisation benefits under the current scheme (or your R&D activities are hindered by the current rules), then you may wish to contribute to the consultation and explain how the Commission can better support R&D and innnovation in your sector. 

The consultation responses will form a key part of the Commission’s proposals for a revised Regulation which is due for publication next year. The Commission is seeking responses to the current consultation by 12 September 2012 at the latest.  If you are considering responding to the consultation and need assistance please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Laura is a blogger on Brodies PublicLaw Blog, specialising in state aid and competition law.

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