European Partnership on Innovative SMEs
Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- Improved knowledge transfer in the European innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) ecosystem, through increased and sustained collaboration between SMEs, public research partners and academia;
- Mitigation of difficulties in access to finance for European innovative SMEs and thus contribute to enhanced growth and expansion of European innovative SMEs;
- Improved European innovative SME access to new international markets or value chains thus leading to improved market share and sales for European innovative SMEs increasing their employment capacity;
- Increase public research and innovation funding to European innovative SMEs, to spur more high-quality collaborations and more innovative solutions;
- Pull together national efforts to spur internationalisation and collaboration in European innovative SMEs, avoiding unnecessary duplication leading to a simplified offer to beneficiaries, achieving a more balanced geographic participation, ensuring complementarity and improved innovation ecosystems across Europe;
- Identify and better exploit existing or emerging opportunities in the global markets and establish win-win international innovation partnerships, such as networks of incubators and accelerators with the help of the INNOWWIDE instrument and other existing support mechanisms. Scope :
The objective of this action is to continue to provide support to the European Partnership of Innovative SMEs identified in the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024 and first implemented under the topic HORIZON-EIE-2021-INNOVSMES-01-01: European Partnership on Innovative SMEs, and in particular to fund additional activities (which may also be undertaken by additional partners) in view of its intended scope and duration, and in accordance with Article 24(2) of the Horizon Europe Regulation.
The consortium which applied to and received funding under the European Partnership on Innovative SMEs topic of the European Innovation Ecosystems Work Programme 2021-2022 is uniquely placed to submit a proposal to continue the envisioned partnership. Not only did this consortium submit the proposal leading to the identification of the partnership in the Horizon Europe strategic planning 2021-2024, it has also implemented the partnership through co-funded calls in 2021-2022 based on this planning and further to the European Partnership on Innovative SMEs topic. It is also deemed relevant that the same consortium was responsible for carrying out the Horizon 2020 predecessor programme EUROSTARS 2. In this context, the current consortium has particular expertise in relation to the objectives of the Partnership, the activities to be implemented and other relevant aspects of the action. In practice, another consortium could not continue the activities of the Partnership underway without significant disruption to the ongoing activities, if at all.
The proposal should cover all the additional activities which will be implemented using the budget and in the framework of the amendment to the existing grant agreement that will result from this proposal, and which are not covered in the existing grant agreement. The proposal should address time, resources and activities building on the two main types of activities from the previous period. These are largely additional calls for proposals covering the 2023- 2024 period (Eurostars and INNOWWIDE projects) resulting in international collaborative research and innovation projects. While these projects should further contribute to the results which were achieved in the previous period, the scope should in addition include the lessons learnt from the initial three Eurostars calls of this partnership in the first period of implementation, in order to potentially improve the activities during the forthcoming period. Furthermore, as second additional activity, it would be beneficial to analyse the results and lessons learnt from the very first Eureka-INNOWWIDE call with a new pilot phase focusing on Africa. These additional activities should contribute to the further development of the “Eureka-INNOWIDE” scheme including its further possible evolution. Coordination and support activities, the creation of synergies between and synchronisation of national programmes, and a better cooperation and knowledge exchange between national intermediaries should be continued through new or repeated activities and additional events during the forthcoming period.
Collaborative research and innovation activities and a strong focus on support to the internationalisation of European innovative SMEs should drive the additional activities and calls for proposals during the period 2023 to 2024 in line with the overall call schedule until the end of the partnership. There is a clear added value and ‘selling point’ for the continuation and additional calls under this initiative to further address gaps towards a better alignment and increased focus on internationalisation. This reflects and recalls the definition of European Partnerships in the Horizon Europe regulation as initiatives where the union and its partners ‘commit to jointly support the development and implementation of a programme of research and innovation activities, including those related to market, regulatory or policy uptake.’
The below list of specific activities, going beyond research and innovation activities, can therefore be implemented under the period of 2023-2024 (continuation of the partnership) and are anticipated as expected outputs to:
- Support transnational near-market collaborative research and innovation addressing technological and societal challenges;
- Enhance SME readiness (absorptive capacities in all participating countries),
- Attract wide range of beneficiaries by country and SME type and age;
- Create synergies among national programmes by streamlining their execution;
- Enhance cooperation and knowledge exchange at level of national intermediaries.
- Lessons learnt concerning proposals and project implementations for future improvements.
The proposed continuation of the initiative will help innovative SMEs to further increase their research and innovation capacities and productivity, shorten the time to market of their innovations and to become embedded in global value chains and new and/or expanded markets. It will achieve this through additional support to innovative SMEs in developing products, processes and services through funding market-led, cross-border, research and innovation collaborative projects and providing accompanying measures. The initiative addresses collaboration in Europe and beyond, and the commercialisation of new knowledge. Thereby it will strengthen the overall resilience of the European innovation ecosystem.
The overall objective of the initiative, to be conducted during the full duration of Horizon Europe, is to implement a co-funded European Partnership for Innovative SMEs to stimulate economic growth and job creation by enhancing the competitiveness of innovative SMEs while contributing to deliver a positive economic, societal and environmental impact in Europe and beyond.
In order to address that objective, the initiative should:
- Enable innovative SMEs to develop all forms of innovation, including breakthrough innovation, and strengthen market deployment of innovative solutions;
- Foster the internationalisation of European innovative SMEs;
- Connect national programmes to unlock the potential of all partners.
While the award of a grant to continue the Partnership in accordance with this call should be based on a proposal submitted by the coordinator of the consortium funded under European Partnership on Innovative SMEs and the additional activities (which may include additional partners) to be funded by the grant should be subject to an evaluation, this evaluation should take into account the existing context and the scope of the initial evaluation as relevant, and related obligations enshrined in the grant agreement.
Taking into account that the present action is a continuation of the topic HORIZON-EIE-2021-INNOVSMES-01-01: European Partnership on Innovative SMEs and foresees an amendment to an existing grant agreement, the proposal should also present as an Annex the additional activities (including additional partners) to be covered by the award in terms of amendments to the grant agreement that would result from the action.
The Commission envisages to include new actions in its future work programmes to provide continued support to the partnership for the duration of Horizon Europe.
Type and range of activities
A main activity would be to run calls for proposals, organise the evaluation process and enable collaborative cross-border research and innovation projects. Beyond providing funding to innovative SMEs for cross-border research and innovation (R&I) collaboration, they should include further promotion of the programme in underrepresented Member States, including but not limited to, through dissemination events, mutual learning seminars or roadshows.
The initiative should exploit synergies with cohesion policy funds and significantly support the widening aspect. In any case, links with regional smart specialisation strategies should be a priority.
Accompanying measures such as INNOWWIDE should be included in the proposal.
Expected partner composition and geographical coverage
- National administrations and National Funding Bodies (NFBs).
The private sector and research actors would need to be mainly drawn from the activities of the national and/or regional funding organisations. The effort, networks and judgements of these organisations are key to initiate cross-border research collaborations, to help prepare applications and to fund successful participants. The success of the initiative depends largely on these organisations.
A dedicated implementation structure may notably support them through various activities and services such as to organise calls, manage funding, monitor payments and projects and implement dissemination events, roadshows, matchmaking events, webinars etc.
The initiative should have an extended geographical coverage beyond Member States and Associated Countries, and the potential to evolve towards a global programme under Horizon Europe, including through possible involvement of additional partners during the lifetime of the programme. Third countries are welcome to participate in the Partnership in line with the standard criteria related to co-funded partnerships in Horizon Europe. The initiative should promote the ambition towards more projects involving other partners than those in geographical proximity and the sufficient utilisation of the potential of the extended Eureka network.
Types and levels of contributions from partners
Proposals should mobilise the necessary financial resources from participating national (or regional) research programmes with a view to implementing joints call for transnational proposals resulting in grants to third parties.
Member States are invited to maximise the financial support provided to innovative SMEs through increased national funding during the selection process.
Proposals should focus on supporting international, projects led by innovative SMEs. They should enable international cooperation, enabling small businesses to learn, combine and share expertise and benefit from working beyond national borders.
In line with the ambitions of the partnership to foster international collaboration and the provisions of the model grant agreement, projects involving one legal entity established in a Member State or Associated Country as beneficiary and one legal entity established in a non-associated third country as partner may be supported in the same manner as under Eurostars 2. As per Horizon Europe rules, projects with no participants from Member States or Associated Countries are not eligible for participation in the partnership. At least two thirds (67%) of the projects supported must involve at least two beneficiaries from Member States or Associated Countries.
Focussing on helping European innovative SMEs to grow and successfully embed in international markets and value chains by developing methodologies and technologies, the partnership is expected to collaborate closely with other relevant European Partnerships, missions and the European Innovation Council in order to ensure coherence and complementarity of activities. Proposals must describe the methodology for their collaboration and the aims the project wants to achieve with this kind of collaboration.
Proposals should include only their commitments for the period covered by the present work programme.
Specific Topic Conditions :
The total indicative budget for the duration of the co-funded Partnership EUR 250 million.
- Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes
Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System
- Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide .
- Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
The following additional eligibility criteria apply:
The proposal must be submitted by the coordinator of the consortium funded under HORIZON-EIE-2021-INNOVSMES-01-01: European Partnership on Innovative SMEs. This eligibility condition is without prejudice to the possibility to include additional partners.
Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes
Evaluation and award:
Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes
If the proposal is successful, the next stage of the procedure will be grant agreement amendment preparations.
If the outcome of amendment preparations is an award decision, the coordinator of the consortium funded under HORIZON-EIE-2021-INNOVSMES-01-01: European Partnership on Innovative SMEs will be invited submit an amendment to the grant agreement, on behalf of the beneficiaries.
- Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes
- Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes
This action is intended to be implemented in the form of an amendment of the grant agreement concluded pursuant to topic HORIZON-EIE-2021-INNOVSMES-01-01: European Partnership on Innovative SMEs.
For the additional activities covered by this action:
- Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties (FSTP). The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants.
- Financial support provided by the participants to third parties is one of the primary activities of this action in order to be able to achieve its objectives. The EUR 60 000 threshold provided for in Article 204(a) of the Financial Regulation No 2018/1046 does not apply.
- The maximum amount of FSTP to be granted to an individual third party is EUR 25.000.000. This amount is justified since provision of FSTP is the primary activity of this action and it is based on the extensive experience under predecessors of this partnership.
- At least two thirds (67%) of the projects supported through FSTP must involve at least two beneficiaries from Member States or Associated Countries.
The starting date of grants awarded under this topic may be as of the submission date of the application. Applicants must justify the need for a retroactive starting date in their application. Costs incurred from the starting date of the action may be considered eligible (and will be reflected in the entry into force date of the amendment to the grant agreement).
- The funding rate is 30 % of the eligible costs.
- Specific conditions: described in the [specific topic of the Work Programme]
Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System
Standard evaluation form — will be used with the necessary adaptations