Horizon 2020 SME Innovation Associate for Business

Horizon 2020 SME Innovation Associate for Business

Are you:


  • A dynamic SME or Start-up with ground-breaking ideas? 
  • Looking for the help of a talented researcher to make your idea an innovation?  

This programme may be just right for you!

Under 'Horizon 2020', the European Union's Research and Innovation Programme, a new funding scheme will support 90 SMEs hire a researcher as the brain who will bring their brilliant idea to life. 

What is it about?

The 'H2020 SME Innovation Associate' (INNOSUP-02-2016) will help SMEs and Start-ups to find the most highly-skilled and experienced researchers on the research job market. The programme will assist SME by:

  • Making your job vacancy visible all around Europe and abroad;
  • Offering an individual grant that covers the costs of the first year of employment of a non-national researcher in the period between September 2017 and August 2018.
  • Providing training programme to maximise the potential of the recruitment and multiply its effects while assuring a smooth integration of the researcher in the structure and cultural business environment.

Who can participate and how?

Only SMEs (including Start-up companies) established in the EU Member States and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) or countries associated to Horizon 2020 are eligible. 

The application is simple and paperless: 

Is it really so simple?

Yes, it is! The European Commission considers SMEs and entrepreneurs as key partners in creating growth, innovation, jobs and social integration in the EU. We know that they are very busy and this is why we try to make their participation in all EU projects as simple as possible.

How to participate?

  • Call Deadline: 30/06/2016 – Submit your application

Proposals shall be submitted through the Participant Portal by 30 June 2016 at 5 PM (Brussels Time) at the latest. The application is composed of the proposal template (sections 1-3 and sections 4-5) and 2 annexes. The templates can be downloaded on the Participant Portal by clicking on the 'Start submission' button and login using your ECAS password.   

  • After the selection: 01/03-30/04/2017 – Publish the job offer

Once the European Commission has selected the (up-to) 90 SMEs and Start-ups with the most innovative ideas and best recruitment plans, job vacancies will be published on EURAXESS and other international or globally accessible web-based resources from 1st March 2017 to 30 April 2017. The recruitment will take place in May-June 2017 and the new positions will start in September 2017 for a period of 12 months.

Try out the attractiveness of your job vacancy

Before submitting your proposal you can publish the job advertisement on EURAXESS, the dedicated European Job Platform for Researchers.  You can publish your vacancy free of charge in the form of a ‘call for manifestation of interest’ and make your offer conditional to the awarding of the grant (i.e. the recruitment will take place only if your company is awarded the INNOSUP-02-2016 grant).

In so doing, your offer will become available to the thousands of researchers registered to the EURAXESS portal, thus making them able to both express their interest and give you feedback on your vacancy. This pre-publication will allow you to:

  • Test your idea;
  • Fine-tune your offer and make it more appealing;
  • Keep in contact with potential candidates. 

You are also encouraged to use other relevant platforms and media.

Questions? Need Help?

H2020 Innovation Associate infographic

The content of this page is for information purposes only. The relevant legal instruments and the text of the call shall take precedence over the information contained in this page. The European Commission or EASME does not accept responsibility for any use made of the information contained therein.


  • Ylldise Brahimaj's picture

    I am from Albania my position is Private Sector and SME development & CEO at Regional Development Agency (SME) in Albania we are established from EC Phare program since 1993. My expertise is Support and Development SME.
    I would like to Start-ups to find highly-skilled and on the research job market.

    Making my job vacancy visible all around Europe and Balkan;
    Offering an individual grant that covers the costs of the first year of employment
    Provide training programme to maximise the potential of the recruitment and multiply its effects while assuring a smooth integration of the researcher in the structure and cultural business environment.

  • jasaikr's picture

    Dear Ylldise,

    Within the context of the SME Innovation Associate programme, we would suggest you test your vacancy on http://ec.europa.eu/euraxess/

    Kristina @EASME

  • Ylldise Brahimaj's picture

    I am Project Management and SME Development Consultant from Albania at Regional Development Agency(RDA)

  • loni's picture

    Te lutem mos shkruaj me qe je nga Shqiperia se na turperove me traplliqet qe kerkon dhe me anglishten e perdorur!

  • Leonat's picture

    Is Kosovo an eligible country?

    The reason why I am asking is, because the information regarding this is contradictory. On this page it is said that only SMEs (including Start-up companies) established in:

    - EU Member States
    - Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT)
    - countries associated to Horizon 2020

    are eligible. Kosovo in NOT a part of these countries. See: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/grants_manual/h...

    Whereas, in the General Annexes of the Work Programme, Kosovo IS listed in the countries that are eligible to receive funding through Horizon 2020. See: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2014_2015/an...

    I would appreciate the clarification.

  • faturma's picture

    Dear Leonat, as you can see in the table on page 7 in the General Annexes of the Work Programme, eligible are "only applications from for-profit SMEs established in EU Member States or Horizon 2020 associated countries "(which refers to your first link). Thus, Kosovo is  not eligible.


    Marie @EASME

  • Cristina's picture


    As a SME I would like to know if it is possible to share a phd between two companies.


  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Cristina,

    Applicants shall be single entities (no consortium). Consequently the application shall be submitted by a single SME aiming at recruiting a single PhD holder to explore an innovative business idea.
    This will not prevent the applicant to develop, at a later stage, the business project in cooperation with another enterprise.
    However, sharing the PhD is not possible.

  • DIMITRIOS's picture

    I would like to ask if newly set up Companies (not having a full year of activity) are eligible to apply

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    All established companies can apply for this call, including startups and newly established. For more information please refer to our webpage and the FAQ on the Participant Portal. You can also contact us directly at EASME-INNOVATION-ASSOCIATE@ec.europa.eu
    More information available at https://ec.europa.eu/easme/sites/easme-site/files/h2020_sme_innovation_a...

  • Magdalena's picture


    Is recruitment is open to researchers from any country?
    Ensuring the principle of mobility and the type of scientist (at least have reached R2 level in the European Framework for Research Careers).

    Best regards,


  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Magdalena,
    there are no restrictions in relation to the nationality of the researchers. Please consult our FAQs http://europa.eu/!tt89VB
    kind regards,

  • Sebastien's picture

    I have a question about the type of job in the vacancy : could it be a one-year osition (as a post-doc) or it must be a permanent job with a one-year of grant from UE ?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Sebastien,
    the EU will support the recruitment for 12 months (September 2017-August 2018) of a Researchers (PHD holder). However SMEs can offer longer contracts. Please consult our FAQs for more information http://europa.eu/!tt89VB

  • Arda's picture


    Does it cast a conflict of interest if the PhD older is a shareholder of the innovative SME?

    Arda Isildar

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Arda, the aim of the action is to support SMEs in recruiting specialised profiles (PhD holders) that are not available at the local/national level. Consequently the recruitment of the profile is done after the selection of the companies. If the profile is a shareholder of the SME this exclude him/her from applying. Furthermore he/she will probably not comply with the transnational criteria. In fact the researcher must come from a different country than the place of employment (irrespective of his/her nationality). This means that at the time of recruitment (September 2017), researchers must have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country where the company is established for no more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date (from 01/09/2014 until 31/08/2017).

  • Caroline Mick's picture

    Dear EASME,

    We see that funding rate is 100%, but what is the maximum amount that can be funded under one SME associate programme? Can these costs include bench fee, i.e. consumables and more?

    Caroline Mick

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Caroline, there is no maximum amount related to this programme and the support will be linked to the company's needs.
    Please consult our FAQs for more information http://europa.eu/!tt89VB

  • Tina's picture

    I'm a little bit confused about the "types of action". Is this programme related only to CSA? and what does the description (Part D of general annexes) refer to? it seems to be related only to the search of project manager or something like that. In other words, if I am a SME looking for a PhD holder working in synthetic chemistry or a biologist, does this vacancy profile fit the purpose of the programme? can it receive the grant? Thank you for your time.

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Hi Tina,
    the action is a CSA because we are not directly funding a research project but the preliminary exploration of a business idea. The call is open to any business including chemistry and biology. Consequently the vacancy profile is in line with the purpose of this call. The overall purpose is to select an SME on the basis of an innovation business idea and support the recruitment of a researcher to work out this idea for a 1 year. More info is available on our webpage https://ec.europa.eu/easme/en/h2020-sme-innovation-associate

  • MEHMET's picture

    Could the legal entities in Turkey participate this call for H2020?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Mehmet,
    yes they can as Turkey is among the countries associate to Horizon2020 http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/grants_manual/h...

  • Jean-Luc Eggen's picture

    What is the length of the application, 2 pages or 10 pages?

    Thanks in advance

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Jean-Luc,

    the application is 10 pages (Part B section 1-3). You can consult our guide on how to download the forms https://ec.europa.eu/easme/sites/easme-site/files/h2020_innovation_assoc...

  • Spartaco Grieco's picture

    Un noprofit che possiede una partiva iva nel settore dell'inclusione sociale, ed attività ludico motorie, che abbia presentato bilanci e rendiconti nel rispetto delle normative vigenti del paese di origine, può aderire a tale proposta?

  • Spartaco Grieco's picture

    ...Sorry for the message write not translate before:)
    A nonprofit that has started a VAT in the area of social inclusion, mobility and recreational activities, which has submitted annual reports and accounts in compliance with the regulations of the country of origin, may accede to this proposal?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Spartaco,

    Yes it is possible. Please check our FAQ: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/faqs...

  • Gina's picture

    Hi all, can a sme participate for two different vacancies related to two different ideas?

  • Simona's picture

    Is it already planned another call in the near future eg in 2017? Thank you!

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Simona,
    not for the time being. Better to apply now :)

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Gina,
    yes, multiple submissions are possible.

  • Olga's picture

    What are the training activities described as Core EU ones? Where they are planned to take a place and for how long? Are they also for Supervisors?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Olga,

    Please check our FAQs session for more details http://buff.ly/25Nw8LB

  • Chiara's picture

    Does the costs for tailored training include, besides travel and subsistence, expenses for external experts and lecturers, fees to participate in workshops etc?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Chiara,

    The costs for tailored training may cover costs of subcontracting the training and/or other direct costs incurred by the Enterprise to organise the training by itself (i.e. renting a venue, material, catering service etc.).

    Please check our FAQs session for more details http://buff.ly/25Nw8LB

  • Chiara 's picture

    According to some web sources, I've read that also the recruitment costs are eligible for the grant: isn't it?
    Consider also that the Grant will be signed (by the awared SMEs) before march 2017, can the projects start in March 2017 (including the recruitment stage) or they must start only in September 2017 (until August 2018)? According to the second hypothesis, how can I include the recruitment plan and activities within the work plan and project's gantt diagram?
    Many thanks

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Chiara,

    the recruitment costs are not eligible but are covered under the lump sum covering the indirect costs (25% of the direct costs).
    You can recruit before September 2017. This option is known as Fast Lane to Recruitment: https://ec.europa.eu/easme/en/news/sme-innovation-associate-fast-lane
    If you believe that you can recruit before September you probably have a strategy and this is what you should describe in your proposal.

  • Consuelo's picture

    Could the project last more than 12 months? Is it possible to include in the project Gantt also the previous activities of staff recruitment, namely the recruitment process? Or the project must start with the employment contract?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Consuelo,
    Yes, 12 months is the minimum but it can last longer. The costs will be eligible as from September 2017 but in your proposal you should explain also your recruitment strategy. Please check our FAQs session for more details http://buff.ly/25Nw8LB

  • Fiorella 's picture

    How does the reporting system work? Is there an intermediate report or just a final one?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Fiorella,
    you will have only one final report linked to the final payment. For payment modalities, please check our FAQs session http://buff.ly/25Nw8LB

  • Andrea 's picture

    Could the tailored training be oriented on Project Management, Scientific communication and Technology Transfer as well as on Business and Innovation programmes?

  • John 's picture

    Coud the Tailored training Plan focus on the Project Management, Scientific communication and Technology Transfer as well as business and innovation programmes?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear John,
    according to the Work Programme companies are supported in "implementing a training and development plan specifically for the associate, tailored to the needs of the associate and the enterprise to make the associate fully operational in the company". It is up to the company to define their needs. We encourage you to explain and clearly justify the reasons for this specific focus.

  • Anonymous's picture

    Thank you.
    Is possible to include a module of Business training (such as personalised Accelerating programme) also if the Core Training will foresee " industrial innovation and business management" training?

  • Aleksandra's picture

    As the associate must commit himself for a full-time position, does it mean that he/she must resign from his/her current position in his/her place of work or is it allowed to combine functions?

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Aleksandra,
    being a full time job the position of Innovation Associate is incompatible with other professional activities.

  • OCTA Innovation's picture

    Dear Alessandro,

    1) Please confirm that entities smaller than 50 employees and smaller turnover can participate in SME Innovation Associate.
    2) What about associations of SMEs? Is this eligible? If yes, under which conditions?

    Thanks a lot,

    OCTA Innovation

  • Alessandro @EASME's picture

    Dear Octa Innovation,
    yes, companies with less than 50 employees are eligible. Please consult the definition of SME and particularly the use guide http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/business-friendly-environment/sme-defini...

  • OCTA Innovation's picture

    Thanks a lot Alessandro for your prompt answer.

    Could you please let us know about associations of SMEs? Is this eligible? If yes, under which conditions?

    Thanks a lot,

    OCTA Innovation

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