H2020 SME Innovation Associate – essential tips for your application

The SME Innovation Associate is a new pilot action under Horizon 2020 – the nearly € 80 billion EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme until the year 2020. The action supports European Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to recruit post-doctoral research associates from other countries to help them develop creative business ideas into concrete innovations. Here are a few essential tips to find out if the programme is for you and what you can get out of it.

Is the programme really for you?

H2020 SME Innovation Associate is dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). You should first check if your company fulfils the criteria defined in the SME definition of the European Union. Only SMEs established in EU Member States and Overseas Countries and Territories or countries associated to Horizon 2020 (with the exclusion of Switzerland) can apply. 

How to describe your project?

The programme will support the best and most innovative projects. In your proposal you should focus on the innovative aspects of your business idea and explain the potential impact on society. You must demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your market and provide details about the commercial potential of your product or service. It's also important to include information about how this new product or service will influence the growth and development of your company. 

How to describe the profile you are looking for?

The programme will help you recruit a researcher holding a PhD or equivalent. Be very specific when you describe the profile you need. You must explain precisely what his/her role will be and how he/she will contribute to the development of your innovation. It is also important that you think about the future of your associate after the end of the project.

How to describe the training package?

Your proposal must include a tailored training programme for the researcher. This is to make sure you maximise the potential of the recruitment and offer the associate a tangible experience in a business environment. You must describe clearly what kind of training you will provide and how (through internal resources or subcontracting). The aim is also to guarantee a smooth integration of the associate in the company. Explain what you plan to do to accelerate the integration of the researcher and how you see his/her status in the company. 

Write to convince evaluators to invest in your business

3 evaluators will look at different aspects of your proposal: the clarity and pertinence of objectives, the quality of the proposed coordination and/or support measures, and the ambition and innovation potential of the SME.

Each of the evaluators will look at 3 criteria: impact, excellence, and implementation. Make sure your proposal is well balanced and covers all aspects of each evaluation criteria:

Excellence: the objectives of your business idea must be clear and pertinent in relation to its innovative potential. Specify the issue/problem/opportunity that your project could tackle and how this will impact your business. Be specific in describing the envisaged profile and the skills/knowledge that you need. Explain the position that this person will have within both the project and your structure and how his/her recruitment will be beneficial for both.

Impact: you must explain how the envisaged profile will contribute in exploring the potential of the innovative idea and turn it into an innovation programme. You should explain how you will advertise your vacancy and foresee communication actions targeted at different target audiences. You must as well explain why SMEs need and European support to the recruitment of PhDs. What are the barriers, obstacles, framework conditions preventing you to autonomously recruitment the appropriate candidate in your country?

Implementation: describe your work with the SME Associate over the next 12 months. Pay a great attention to your work plan, the attribution of resources to the different work packages and their alignment with the objectives and deliverables. Describe tasks and responsibilities of the SME Associate within the project but also within your business structure and the resources that you will allocate to allow their fulfilment. Include a coherent and effective recruitment and personnel development plan.

Form also matters

Take time to think about a catchy title and to craft an attractive abstract. These two elements are very important as they will form the first impression the evaluators get from your project. Take the time to review and polish the language and don't hesitate to ask your colleagues and relatives to read and comment on your proposal.

H2020 SME Innovation Associate FAQs  

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