The advances in microelectronics during the last two decades have made a significant impact on industry and commerce.

Today, microelectronic technologies are key to innovation and wealth creation in most industrial sectors.

Europe's research laboratories have led the world in developing many of these technologies which have become the driving force behind advances in communications, computing, industrial control, transport and other applications.

Despite this, the majority of European enterprises, especially small and medium companies, have not jet taken full advantage of existing microelectronic technologies to become more competitive and achieve a wider penetration of their home and export markets. This has limited their ability to innovate and compete in a market place that is becoming increasingly global.

Against this background, the European Commission launched the First User Action to stimulate the wider use of microelectronic technologies and to help in lowering the real and perceived barriers that have prevented a significant proportion of these enterprises from utilising new technologies and competing favourably in the world market.