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Support for cooperation between SMEs and the European Union


Official title

"Initiative to encourage partnership between industries and/or services of Europe (INTERPRISE)".


Legal references

INTERPRISE call for proposals OJ C 329 of 31.10.97, p. 17.



Based on the EUROPARTENARIAT programme (see corresponding fact sheet), INTERPRISE aims to support actions at the regional and national level in order to encourage contacts between entrepreneurs and promote collaboration between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The projects must involve at least three regions of three different Member States.


Target public / beneficiaries

Small and medium-sized enterprises as defined by the European Commission, i.e. have fewer than 250 employees and have either an annual turnover not exceeding 40 million ECU or an annual balance-sheet total not exceeding 27 million ECU. In Addition SMEs must not be owned as to 25% or more of the capital voting rights by one enterprise, or by jointly by several enterprises falling outside the definition of SME.



INTERPRISE is managed by Directorate General XXIII (Enterprise Policy, Trade, Tourism and Social Economy).

The eligible project holders are:

  • the Chambers of Commerce and Industry;

  • local, regional or national development agencies;

  • employers' federations;

  • European Business and Innovation Centres - BICs (see corresponding fact sheet);

  • Euro Info Centres (see corresponding fact sheet);

  • foreign trade institutes;

  • research, innovation and technology centres;

  • consultants.


Eligible measures / nature of activities

The INTERPRISE programme encompasses the entire Union; any combination between regions and/or countries is possible. A programme between at least three regions and/or countries of the European Union and/or the European Economic Area may be extended to one or several non-member regions/countries. Note that the costs associated with the latter will not be deemed eligible for EU support.

The projects must at least include the following phases:

  • identification and selection of enterprises in the regions concerned, interested in the establishment of a cooperation agreement with an enterprise from another participating region;

  • active search of enterprises interested in the regions concerned;

  • a final meeting enabling the establishment of direct contacts between the enterprises concerned and the participating regions.
  • the objective of the project must be to arrange meetings between the firms in order to promote partnerships. Information seminars are thus excluded but may be acceptable as a supplementary feature;

  • it must be organized by at least three bodies (one main organizer - who submits the official proposal and, in case of its acceptance by the Commission , is the beneficiary of the subsidy - and two partners) from three different Member States of the European Union or the European Economic Area;

  • the organizations concerned must financially participate in the programme, either directly or via another (official) organization which is part of the regions of the countries concerned;

  • the project should bring together at least 15 enterprises from each region support from the Commission, "Directorate General XXIII INTERPRISE" must be indicated on each document or official publication;

  • a spread of INTERPRISE events in terms of sectors, timing and regions is to be achieved;

  • the clearness of the presentation, the fit of the proposal with the economic policy of the region concerned, the quality of the marketing approach and the number of companies targeted in comparison with cost will be taken into consideration.



The present programme runs from 1 October 1998 and 30 September 1999.

There are four deadlines during the year to present a programme:

  • 31 December 1997 for events to be held between 1 October and 31 December 1998

  • 31 March 1998 for events to be held between 1 January and 31 March 1999

  • 30 June 1998 for events to be held between 1 April and 30 June 1999

  • 30 September 1998 for events to be held between 1 July and 30 September 1999


Rural dimension

As organizations providing support to SMEs, the local action groups and LEADER II collective players are among the possible operators. Cooperation between enterprises of LEADER areas of different Member States are eligible.


Nature and amount of aid / European Union financial support

The following types of support may be taken into consideration:

  • co-funding of the project in the form of subsidies which may not exceed ECU 60 000 and 50% of the total budget anticipated for the organization;

  • support from the organization based on the experience of DG XXIII in cooperation programmes award of the Commission label ("in cooperation with", "approved by", etc.);

  • presence of a Commission representative during the events.


Procedure for the presentation of proposals

A proposal must include the following information:

  • a detailed description of the different objectives and phases of the project with, if possible, the sectors concerned a timetable of the work;

  • a statement of the participating organizations, expressly mentioning the commitment of active collaboration in the project (notably by guaranteeing the participation of at least 15 enterprises), and the name of the main coordinating organization;

  • information on the organizations and the curriculum vitae of each person responsible for the project the budget in ECUs with a clear and precise indication of receipts and expenditures;


Communication supports

  • INTERPRISE Vademecum


Information offices or additional sources of information


date of publication: 01/98

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