The Commission has decided not to raise any objections under Community state aid rules regarding the financial aid to be provided by the French Industrial Innovation Agency to two research and development programmes, "NanoSmart" and "HOMES". The Commission took these two decisions on the basis of the in-depth study required by the new Community Framework on research, development and innovation aid. The NanoSmart programme for the nanotechnology industries is designed to improve the performance of microelectronic and optoelectronic components. NanoSmart is being carried out by the enterprise SOITEC in partnership with the research centre CEA-LETI. The HOMES programme, aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings, brings together Schneider Electric and 15 other enterprises and research centres. The state aid granted is €80 million for NanoSmart and €39 million for HOMES.
The NanoSmart programme aims to improve the performance and electricity consumption of microelectronic and optoelectronic components by developing new supports called "substrates". Substrates are traditionally circular plates of crystalline material, usually silicon. They can be developed into higher added value substrates ("advanced substrates") using techniques that improve the properties and functionalities of the materials. The aim of NanoSmart is to produce new advanced substrates.
The total cost of the programme is around €200 million spread over five years, €80 million of which is to be provided by the Industrial Innovation Agency. NanoSmart is being carried out by the company SOITEC. On 10 July 2007 the Commission approved aid of €12.25 million granted to SOITEC for the "Bernin 2010" project, mainly relating to new generations of SOI ("Silicon on Insulator") substrates. NanoSmart is more ambitious and further removed from the SOI structure.
NanoSmart brings together the SOITEC group and CEA-LETI, an applied research laboratory. The aid granted to SOITEC consists of a direct grant of €34 million and an advance of €28 million, reimbursable only in the event of the success of the project. CEA-LETI will receive €18 million.
HOMES will enable energy savings of around 20% in buildings thanks to active energy control. These savings will be achieved through innovations in the architecture of the electricity distribution systems, the electrical and electronic components. All the functions contributing to the energy efficiency of the building (heating, air conditioning, lighting, sealing, security, etc.) will be integrated in the same architecture.
HOMES is being led by Schneider Electric, a large enterprise in the electricity distribution and automatic control sector, in partnership with 15 other French and European enterprises and research centres.
The total cost of the programme is €87 million spread over six years. The Industrial Innovation Agency will provide direct grants of €23 million to be distributed among all the partners and an advance of €16 million to Schneider Electric, reimbursable only in the event of the success of the project.
In accordance with the new Community framework on research, development and innovation aid, aid measures over the threshold of €10 million set for projects chiefly involving industrial research must be individually notified to the Commission. The aid earmarked for Nano Smart and HOMES was notified by France on 12 April 2007 and 16 February 2007, respectively. On the basis of its study, the Commission considers that this aid will have significant positive effects, is aimed at remedying the identified shortcomings of the market, will act as an incentive for the enterprises concerned and is proportional. The Commission also considers that the adverse effects of this aid on competition in the markets in question will be relatively limited. [13 September 07]