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FP7 Capacities Work Programme

‘Research for the benefit of SMEs’: Supporting innovative SMEs

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A new call for proposals totalling EUR 252 million with four activities under the 2013 FP7 Capacities Work Programme (WP)Research for the benefit of SMEs’ was published on 10 July and has a submission deadline of 15 November 2012. The overall aim of the activities is to enable participating SMEs to innovate and to become more competitive in a global market.

The main focus of the WP remains the outsourcing of research by SMEs to specialised ‘RTD performers’ (research service providers such as universities, research centres and other research performing companies), as well as by research-performing SMEs which need to complement their core research activities. The measures ‘Research for SMEs’ and ‘Research for SME Associations’, which constitute the two core activities of the WP, facilitate the achievement of these objectives.

The third activity is aimed at funding demonstration projects based on previous successful ‘Research for SME’ projects. These projects are required to demonstrate the viability of a new solution which offers a potential economic advantage, but which cannot be directly commercialised as further technological or other developments are needed.

The final activity is an SME coordination and support action in order to prepare for the next funding period 2014-2020 (Horizon 2020).

Research for SMEs

The objective of this scheme is to support SMEs in the project to outsource their research activities. Projects aim at creating new knowledge or achieving results with a clear exploitation potential to improve or develop new products, processes or services which meet the needs of the participating SMEs. This scheme can assist SMEs in acquiring technological know-how and accessing international networks for their medium- to long-term business development. It is a bottom-up scheme: projects may address any research topic across the entire field of science and technology.

An important aspect of the scheme is that SMEs are able to retain the rights for exploitation and often the ownership of all project results.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to form small consortia typically involving at least five participants, but generally not exceeding 10. The overall budget of the project should be between EUR 500 000 and EUR 1.5 million, and its duration should normally be between one and two years.

Research for SME Associations

The underlying purpose of this scheme is to indirectly support SMEs through their associations and groupings in order to outsource research activities. It targets SME associations which act on behalf of their members to identify and address common technological problems, and to promote the effective dissemination and take-up of research results. Projects may address, among other matters, pre-normative research issues, new business, management, production and service models, as well as technological problems related to the development and implementation of legislation, that cannot be dealt with by the ‘Research for SMEs’ scheme. It also follows a bottom-up approach. The rights for exploitation and preferably the ownership of all project results will remain with the SME associations and groupings.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to form consortia typically involving between five and 15 participants; the SME end-users group should be limited to the two to five members necessary to achieve the objectives. The overall budget of the project should typically be between EUR 1.5 and EUR 3 million, and its duration should normally be between two and three years.

Demonstration activity

This scheme helps SMEs to increase the impact of their projects or to explore new ways of using the acquired knowledge from their research for SMEs or SME association projects. SMEs often need to follow up research projects with work linked to ‘demonstration’ or production of prototypes before actually commercialising goods and services, but funding for this kind of activity is not readily available. SMEs applying to this scheme need to be former participants in a successful ‘Research for SMEs’ or ‘Research for SME Associations’ project.

Activities may include the testing of prototypes, scale-up studies, performance verification and implementation of new technological and non-technological solutions, as well as detailed market studies and business plans. There are no thematic restrictions, and it too is a bottom-up scheme.

Applicants are encouraged to form small consortia suitable for the purpose of the proposed demonstration project. The overall budget of a project should typically be between EUR 500 000 and EUR 3 million, and its duration is expected to be in the range of 18 to 24 months.

Coordination and Support Action

The coordination and support aims at screening the current available mentoring and coaching models at national and European level and developing one or several scenarios for a workable approach to be linked to the SME instrument proposed under Horizon 2020. The project can also contain direct actions to test and to validate the developed scenario(s) with a view to possible roll-out, comprising training of and dissemination to potential actors.

Members of existing European support networks dedicated to SMEs are particularly encouraged to participate. It is expected that the duration of a project shall not last longer than 12 months. Only one proposal will be selected for financing.


The available budget for WP2013 is EUR 252 million. The indicative budget for the four activities is as follows:

# Activity/ Area Indicative budget (EUR million)
2.1 Research for SMEs FP7-SME-2013-1 169.56
2.2 Research for SME Associations FP7-SME-2013-2 55.00
2.3 Demonstration Activity FP7-SME-2013-3 27.00
2.4 Coordination and support action FP7-SME-2013-4 0.75