Horizon 2020 SME Innovation Associate – Funding PhD recruitment in SMEs

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The European Union is taking first steps to help European SMEs and start-ups fund recruitment of the best talent for research and innovation from around the world.  The EU will fund the recruitment of post-doctoral research associates from other countries to explore an innovation business idea in the European SMEs and start-ups.

What's the big deal?

Innovation in SMEs is often hampered by a lack of access to specialised skills and knowledge. At the same time, many companies find it difficult to manage innovation processes effectively and struggle to recruit specialised knowledge as they don't tend to have extensive international Networks or the well-known brand names of large enterprises.

This is where the SME Associate programme comes in. By developing such enterprise-led mobility programme, the EU aims to increase access to talent for SMEs and start-ups by encouraging mobility. Because of this experimental nature it applies a fixed period for the recruitment of the researcher aligned to Academic year in most European countries. 

So who is it for? 

The SME Associate is accessible to all SMEs and start-ups established in the EU Member States and countries associated to Horizon 2020. The researchers must at least hold a PhD (or equivalent), have demonstrated expertise in line with the job advertisement, and comply with the transnational mobility criteria.

The SMEs will receive an individual grant covering salary and related costs of employing a post-doctoral research associate, including full training costs. This could allow the company to employ the right talent from anywhere across the globe to conduct research for their innovation idea.

If you are a researcher, on the other hand, you will be able to partake in the business's innovation process, learn industrial innovation and business management skills, as well as boost your CV with business experience abroad.

What's next?

Read more about the programme; see whether you meet the requirements and apply as of 11 February 2016!

H2020 SME Innovation Associate infographic
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  • Sarah BADR | Thu, 04/02/2016 - 18:54
    New job opportunities

    I'm a Doctor in Physics and looking for new job opportunities. I like to constantly have new challenges and learn new skills. I'm curious about lots of things: I love traveling and art, I practice music, sports and new languages and I'm having a month work experience at Sparks & Co, as a Communication Assistant, which happend to be a very rewarding experience for me.
    I'm motivated to be part of this Horizon 2020 project. I believe it will give better opportunities for young researchers to find their dream job and SME's/start-ups will take advantage too of having high-skilled and dynamic people collaborating in their projects.

  • Alessandro @EASME | Tue, 23/02/2016 - 15:49
    Recruiting Phase

    Dear Sarah,
    this is indeed a great opportunity for researchers: a challenging job, a transnational scheme and a full training package may be waiting for you as from September 2017.
    For this year, check the EURAXESS website regularly from now until end of June (call deadline) and give your contribution to the call for manifestation of interest.
    Next year, from March to April 2017, apply for one (or more) of the 90 vacancies that will be published on EURAXESS!
    Good luck!


Pascal Lefèvre | Sun, 14/02/2016 - 13:12
This should be illegal

When I first heard about this initiative, I thought it was joke to give the European Union a bad name. This initiative clearly excludes all Europeans who hold a PhD and are not willing to serve the oligarchs of another country. It is a discrimination of people in their very own countries. I start understanding why so many people criticize the EU.

  • Richard | Tue, 16/02/2016 - 11:29
    Pascal, the explanation is

    Pascal, the explanation is very simple. The EU only sponsors projects where there is a European-wide component. Stimulation of hiring of PhDs who stay in their country is a responsibility of that country, and the EC cannot interfere. And the programme is for SMEs (small companies), so oligarchs are excluded.

  • Alessandro @EASME | Tue, 23/02/2016 - 15:56
    Transnational mobility criteria

    Dear Pascal,
    The European Union is competent only for projects with an European dimension. Some Member States are also implementing similar programmes. Only SMEs can participate in this call.
    Thank you for your feedback, let's keep discussing!

  • Nataliia | Fri, 08/04/2016 - 11:57
    Sensibilisation des doctorants à l'entrepreneuriat ne marche pas

    Dear Pascal,

    Unfortunately by posting such a comment you show your incompetence and inability to understand the current economical situation. I recommend you to address you local PhD association, probably they could help you. If ever you are in Alsace, I strongly recommend you to join us, Association des Doctorants et Docteurs d'Alsace http://www.beta.addal-asso.fr/?lang=fr

    Sincerely, Nataliia

  • Sean Burke | Tue, 23/02/2016 - 13:24
    Phase 1 query for participation phases

    In the "Additional information for SMEs and Start-ups" document, page 4 states that phase 1 is optional. However, the grant application occurs in this phase and there is a specific statement the testing phase is an essential element of the selection phase. So what is optional in this phase?
    A further question is "does the post doctorate person need to be defined prior to the application submittal and be named within the application?". If not, what is the essential element exactly?
    There is a lot of confusion surrounding the phases and what the rational is for these.

  • Alessandro @EASME | Tue, 23/02/2016 - 16:16
    Participation Phases

    Dear Sean,
    By 30/06/2016 companies should submit the application (application form, the declaration of honour and job vacancy). This is the only mandatory "phase".
    To help companies finalising the job vacancy, the Commission gives the opportunity to publish a call for manifestation of interest on EURAXESS between now and the call deadline (30/06/2016). This is optional but the Commission believes it may help companies to improve the quality of both the business idea and/or the vacancy notice (vacancy notice that is an essential element of the application as mentioned on page 4 of the additional information to applicants).
    Under this Programme researchers will be recruited during Summer 2017 and will start working on 1st September of the same year. Waiting until then can be challenging for SMEs. This is why the Commission gives the opportunity to "opt-out", meaning to keep the vacancy on EURAXESS after the call deadline and to eventually recruit the PhD holder without the support of the European Union.

  • ILARIA SCHIAVI | Fri, 04/11/2016 - 13:11
    Evaluation results

    Hello, looking forward to the end of the month for knowing the results of the evaluation...or are you able to get us out of our misery a little bit beforehand???
    many thanks

  • Anonymous | Fri, 11/11/2016 - 15:42
    New Opening

    In a Horizon 2020 Programme Call we know that the call will be opened in a different tranche throw the year, does the Sme Innovation Associate Call foresee a future reopening?

    Thanks for the answer!

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