Firms of all sectors may apply for investment subsidies under the Competitiveness Program of the EU-sponsored Third Community Support Framework (CSF) for the development of industrial research and technology. The program aims to promote: – New knowledge useful for the definitive formulation of new or improved products or services of high added value, or for improving productivity and production methods; – The search for methods of transferring advanced technology to traditional sectors of industry; and – The development of research activities with elements of innovation. The subsidy may also be applied to activities at a «pre-competitive stage,» meant as the specification of the results of research in a plan, model or program for new products or services. The sectors covered by the program come under the following headings: – Automation (CIM, CAD/ CAM); – Information technology, electronics, communication, media; – Processing, metallurgy, materials (metals, ceramics, polymers, fibers, leather, paper); – Agro-industrial, forestry and fishing production, foodstuffs, beverages; – Environmental and energy technology; – Construction, mechanical engineering, transport; and – Medicine, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic methods. Proposals may be submitted by firms of any size that have been operating for less than five years, and by several firms jointly. The financial participation of a firm in such a project cannot exceed 50 percent of its turnover in the previous fiscal year or of its share capital. Firms will be eligible for subsidies in the following cost categories: – For payroll expenses of new staff, 80 percent. If new staff have been hired on a temporary project basis, 50 percent of the expense; – For payroll expenses of already employed staff, 30 percent; – For mechanical equipment, up to 50 percent. The purchase of basic equipment, depreciation and leasing costs is not subsidized. – For consumables, up to 50 percent; – For other expenses, up to 30 percent if they do not exceed 5 percent of the project’s total budget. These include costs of certification, pre-standardization and copyrights, and transport costs. The total subsidy may not exceed: – 60 percent of the above mentioned expenses, irrespective of the size of the firms undertaking the project; – 45 percent of total expenses for activities at a pre-competitive stage, irrespective of the firm’s size; or – 35 percent of the above-mentioned expenses for activities at a pre-competitive stage undertaken by a large firm. The duration of the project may not exceed 24 months. Proposals may be submitted at any time.