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Clusters Go International – Supporting preparatory actions for the establishment and shaping of new European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International
Date de clôture : 30 oct. 2019  
- 45 jours

 Clusters
 Entreprises et industrie
 Entrepreneuriat et PME
 Innovation
 Transfert de technologie
 Coopération internationale
 COSME
 Développement des affaires

Strand 1 will support the establishment of European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International (ESCP-4i) open to a wide range of European industrial sectors and value chains.

Under this Preparatory phase, applicants are invited to propose preparatory actions that contribute to establish a "European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International" respecting all the characteristics defined in the Call, to develop a joint internationalisation strategy for the Partnership with common goals towards specific third markets and a roadmap for implementation facilitating the internationalisation of its SME members

 

1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

1.1. Introduction

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) play a crucial role in reaching the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy1. Whereas they are considered as crucial engines for growth and job creation, their competitiveness is affected by a limited exploitation of international opportunities and innovation prospects in the Single Market and beyond.

In this context, the Programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (2014-2020)2, (COSME), aims to promote growth and to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises in the European Union.

The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises3 (hereinafter referred to as "EASME" or the "Agency") is entrusted by the European Commission with the implementation, inter alia, of parts of the COSME programme.

In this respect, this call for proposals, managed by EASME, implements parts of the COSME Work Programme 2019, as last amended on 20 August 20194.

1.2. Policy Context

In a globalised world, SMEs need to be able to confront increasing competition from developed and emerging economies and to plug into the new market opportunities these countries will provide. There is a direct link between internationalisation and increased performance of SMEs. International activities reinforce growth, enhance competitiveness and support the long-term sustainability of companies.

In order to unlock these opportunities, SMEs need to find the right partners to develop and produce globally competitive products and services. This calls for new and strategic forms of international cooperation that are often difficult for individual SMEs to manage on their own. SMEs have to increasingly integrate their activities into global value chains in order to become and remain competitive. As global value chains, by their nature, involve or are even controlled and managed by foreign companies, it is often difficult for European SMEs to link to them.

Clusters can help SMEs by acting as real "springboards" for getting access to global value chains and developing long-term strategic partnerships. SMEs benefit from specialised business support services of cluster organisations, like the organisation of international study visits, partnering or “matchmaking” missions. These services enable SMEs to find international partners for research and prototyping as well as to bring products and services to new markets. Cluster organisations can thus support SMEs to identify growth opportunities worldwide, raise their excellence, innovation capacity and their overall competitiveness.

 

In its Political Guidelines, the European Commission has prominently placed a focus for its action on a new boost for jobs, growth and investment, and a deeper and fairer Internal Market with a strengthened industrial base5. While the decreasing trend of employment in industry during the crisis has been reversed since 2013, the challenge of stimulating jobs, growth and investment for the future of Europe’s economy remains – in the face of global competition for industrial leadership.

The Commission presented in September 2017 a renewed EU Industrial Policy Strategy entitled "Investing in a smart, innovative and sustainable industry"6 in order to help European industries stay or become the world leader in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation. The strategic framework outlined in this Communication is summarised by the following illustration:

Figure 1: Strategic Framework for EU Industrial Policy

© 2017, European Union Source: COM/2017/0479 final

In its industrial policy strategy, the Commission highlighted that “EU trade deals create economic opportunities for Europeans and that means jobs7. Small companies as well as big ones use trade agreements to bring the benefits of globalisation back home8.”

This continues the efforts to increase the internationalisation of SMEs and their integration into global value chains undertaken following the Commission Communication 'For a European Industrial Renaissance'9, which acknowledged the need to better exploit the “potential of clusters to create favourable innovation ecosystems for groups of mutually reinforcing SMEs”.

This action will reinforce also European Commission's President Jean-Claude Junker's priorities for growth and jobs as described in his political guidelines "A New Start for Europe: My Agenda for Access Strategy. See for example the Trade and Investment Barrier Report, COM(2017) 338, showing that in 2016 a total of 20 existing trade barriers – including several long-standing ones – were resolved in several sectors in twelve different countries around the world, creating significant additional export opportunities.

 

Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change"10. These guidelines call notably "to complete the internal market in products and services and make it the launch pad for our companies and industry to thrive in the global economy (...)".

By fostering the development of 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International' (ESCP-4i), i.e. European meta-clusters helping SMEs find easier access to global value chains and engage in long-term cooperation with strategic partners in third countries, this action contributes to implement the Cluster Internationalisation Programme for SMEs under the COSME Programme. This represents one of the key pillars of the European cluster policy agenda of the Directorate- General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission (DG GROW). The other focus areas of European cluster policy aim at facilitating interregional cluster collaboration and cross-sectoral value chains and promoting excellence in cluster management to improve the quality of services to SMEs members.

This action builds upon previous successful editions of the "Clusters Go International" call for proposals11 that lead to the establishment of a total of 40 co-funded 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships-Going International' (ESCP-4i) and work concretely together to exploit synergies as well as to develop a joint internationalisation strategy for the benefit of their SMEs.

The 2016-2017 edition of the Clusters Go International action has supported the establishment of up to 26 Partnerships (ESCP-4i)12 including 15 co-funded projects gathering about 150 cluster organisations across 23 European countries and reaching out to more than 17 000 SMEs across Europe. The Partnerships are active in various industrial and cross- sectoral areas including health, aerospace, mobility and logistics, agro-food, energy, marine and environment, packaging, materials and photonics, ICT, construction and sports. The partnerships target economic cooperation with third countries, of which the main ones include Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico and USA.

Figure 2: European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International – First generation (2016-2017)

Source: the European Cluster Collaboration Platform

The second edition of the action (2018-2019) is supporting 25 Partnerships (ESCP-4i)13 by co- funding projects in the fields of dual use technologies, agro-food and packaging, energy and environment, smart city, mobility and transport, ICT, IoT (Internet of Things) and micro- electronics, space applications, health, cosmetics and biotechnologies, textile and construction. These projects target economic cooperation with third countries, of which the main ones include the USA, Canada, China, Japan, India, Australia, South Africa, Chile and the United Arab Emirates. ESCP-4i partnerships of the second generation gather more than 130 cluster organisations across 25 European countries, representing more than 18 500 SMEs across Europe.

Figure 3: European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International – Second generation (2018-2019)

Source: the European Cluster Collaboration Platform

This action further exploits synergies with other key initiatives of the Cluster Internationalisation Programme for SMEs that have been launched to promote transnational cluster cooperation within and beyond Europe with a view to better support SMEs in global competition, including:

 Firstly, the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) which currently counts over 1000 registered cluster organisations from across Europe. It represents the main instrument for European cluster organisations to profile themselves, exchange experiences and identify potential partners for transnational cooperation within and beyond Europe. The ECCP shall be used as the online dissemination platform to promote activities and results of the "European Strategic Cluster Partnerships- Going international" that are to be established through this action. Applicants to this new action shall prepare to provide information material to the coordinator of the ECCP for their Partnership to be promoted and disseminated via the platform. Staring from early 2020, the revamped ECCP foresees to include technical assistance for the participants of the European Strategic Cluster Partnerships – Going International (ESCP-4i).14 A call for expression of interest will addressed to European SMEs having signed Business Partnership Agreements (BPAs) or equivalent cooperation agreements as a result of work of the ESCP4i Strand 2 activities. The applicants will be selected on the basis of the quality of their to concept note submitted. Selected projects will receive technical assistance that may include, inter alia: Technical feasibility studies; Economic and financial analysis (e.g. cost-benefit analyses, cash flows and financial viability modelling); Legal advice, including administrative, intellectual property, taxation, franchising, joint-ventures, regulatory environment; Credit assess support and facilitation with financial entities, and Other assessments or support (e.g. language and communication).

  •   Secondly, a number of specific cluster matchmaking events are being organised mainly by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform to promote closer cluster cooperation with partners within and outside Europe in areas of mutual interest. The ECCP and Commission services will continue to organise Cluster matchmaking events to the benefit of the cluster community of the COSME participating countries in 2019 and in 2020. The "European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International" to be established or strengthened through this action will be invited to participate on a voluntary basis to such forthcoming matchmaking events. Each Partnership undertaking activities under Strand 2 of this action (Implementation phase) can allocate a budget to participate in at least two international cluster matchmaking events organised in third countries and/or in Europe by the European Commission services;

  •   Thirdly, policy exchanges with third countries are being initiated and several Cooperation Arrangements on Clusters were signed between DG GROW and their counterparts in Third countries15. The objective of such exchanges is to promote cluster cooperation with national authorities from third countries so as to facilitate linkages between clusters and equivalent organisations in mutual economic and strategic interest.

    Furthermore, the present call for proposals is targeting actions that shall exploit cooperation potential and business opportunities in the context of actions funded by the Partnership Instrument (FPI)16 a financial instrument promoting EU and mutual interests with strategic partner countries, as part of the EU's instruments for financing external action and Regulation N° 234/2014, such as the forthcoming 'Low Carbon Business Action in the Americas (LCBA)' (Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Argentina and Chile)17 to be launched in 2020.

    The LCBA aims to establish Business Agreements between EU businesses and American businesses to support commercially viable projects promoting the take-up of low carbon technologies. The LCBA will organise a series of business matchmaking events in relation to the green economy with the participation of SMEs and clusters. This shall lead to signing Business Agreements that should develop into concrete projects with technical assistance. LCBA will thus effectively contribute to the exchange and uptake of low emission technology through industrial cooperation between companies in the Americas and the European Union (EU) to address the global challenge of climate change.

    The general context above applies to all phases and strands' applications. Furthermore, Strand 2.b applications, which are reserved to focus on a specific thematic area, are supported by an additional specific context as detailed below:

     

Specific context for Strand 2.b applications supporting preparatory actions in the field of Earth Observation applications:

Earth Observation (EO) refers to the use of remote sensing technologies - such as satellites and dedicated measurement systems - to monitor the state and evolution of our planet on land, at sea and in the atmosphere.

The European Union has developed an independent earth observation capacity through the implementation of the Copernicus programme18, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). Copernicus delivers operational data and information services on a full, free and open basis. These services cover a broad range of application areas, from climate change monitoring, sustainable development, transport and mobility to regional and local planning, maritime surveillance, energy, agriculture and health - to name only a few.

The requirements of Copernicus core users are permanently evolving and the programme should adapt to the changing market environment, notably the emergence of private actors in space (“New Space”) and socio-political developments requesting rapid responses

In the context of the digital revolution and of the "big data" paradigm shift, the exploitation of Earth Observation systems carries extraordinary business potential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). By making the vast majority of its data, analyses, forecasts and maps freely available, Copernicus creates unprecedented opportunities for business innovation through the development of value-added applications and services tailored to the needs of specific groups of users. This segment of the earth observation industry is traditionally referred to as the "downstream sector".

According to the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC), more than 95% of the EU downstream sector is composed of SMEs19. The number of start-ups and innovative companies engaged in the development and sale of value added services and products drawing on Copernicus is steadily on the rise. It is estimated that the programme could create up to 48 000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030.

Earth Observation is by nature global and there is a growing demand from EU partners to benefit from Copernicus data. This opens up opportunities for European downstream companies, which have developed expertise in devising innovative, tailor-made products and services based on Copernicus. The development of the global downstream market is of sizeable importance for the EU, accounting for 58% of the global space economy. The maturity of the EO market worldwide remains highly dependent on economic and technological factors. North America is by far the most developed market, followed by Europe and Australia. However, this trend is evolving rapidly due to political and technological developments in other parts of the world, which create additional demand for EO applications and attract new players in the market.

The European EO industry is showing strong interest in developing international activities and capturing new markets. However, it remains confronted to the well-known obstacles faced by European SMEs willing to expand into third countries, including challenges linked to different business and regulatory environments and to the identification of suitable local partners.

The Space Strategy for Europe20 adopted on 26 October 2016 highlighted the Commission's intention to further support space business internationalisation by mobilising existing instruments tohelp European companies, particularly clusters and networks of SMEs, access international markets. Strand 2.b is intended to contribute to this objective with a view to be part of a space economic diplomacy.

 

2. OBJECTIVE(S) – THEME(S) – ACTIVITIES – OUTPUTS

2.1. General and Specific Objectives

The main objective of the action is to intensify cluster and business network collaboration across European countries and also across sectorial boundaries and to support the establishment of European Strategic Cluster Partnerships to lead international cluster cooperation in fields of strategic interest towards third countries beyond Europe and notably in support of the development of emerging industries.

By reinforcing cluster and business network cooperation and supporting the shaping of European Strategic Cluster Partnerships-Going International (ESCP-4i) (i.e. European meta-clusters) in a more strategic manner at European level, this action will help European SMEs access new global value chains and take a leading position globally.

This action focuses on the promotion of cluster internationalisation where interested consortia have the opportunity to develop and implement a joint internationalisation strategy and support SME internationalisation towards third countries beyond Europe.

The action will be implemented by consortia of organisations that are interested in establishing and running a 'European Strategic Cluster Partnership-Going International' (ESCP-4i). The Partnerships are expected to develop a joint ‘European’ strategic vision with a global perspective and common goals towards specific third markets.

In addition, the Partnerships are expected to demonstrate swift adaptability to future developments in international trade and coherence of their strategic priorities with EU strategies, notably as regards trade policy.

"European Strategic Cluster Partnerships – Going International (ESCP-4i)" are characterised by the following principles:

1. Being European, meaning ESCP-4is must be composed of a minimum of three partners all established in EU Member States or countries participating in the COSME programme under Article 6 of the COSME Regulation (in line with the specific eligibility criteria in

section 6).

2. Being Strategic, meaning the ESCP-4i's members aim to develop and implement a joint internationalisation strategy with common goals and fostering complementarities between them, promoting cooperation across related industries and sectoral boundaries notably in support of emerging industries.

Concerning the focus of cross-sectorial cooperation and outreach to related industries, applicants may seek inspiration from the work of the European Cluster Observatory, which has identified, analysed and reported on several “emerging industries” such as in the “European Cluster Panorama 2016”.21 Yet, such identified emerging industries or growth trends must not be followed without reflection. Instead of merely prioritising new technologies or industrial growth areas where there might be little pre-existing strength, applicants should seek to unlock complementarities across existing and related economic activities22.

3. Representing Cluster(s) through cluster organisations or equivalent business network organisations that have an own independent legal entity. Each Partnership member must also be registered on or have submitted a registration request23 to the European Cluster Collaboration Platform24 with a detailed profile of its cluster or network;

4. Forming a Partnership, with the aim to set-up a Partnership Agreement engaging ESCP-4i members to develop common actions and setting out the modalities of cooperation between them. The ESCP-4i members commit to develop a roadmap for implementation with a long- term cooperation agenda to foster their sustainability of the Partnership beyond the lifetime

of the project funded under COSME.

5. Working towards Going International by developing and implementing a joint 'European' strategy for going international beyond Europe. The ESCP-4is strive to successfully support the internationalisation of their SME members towards specific third countries, and/or attracting strategic foreign direct investment and cooperation partners and/or securing critical imports, knowledge and technologies with a view to support growth, jobs and investment in Europe.

The "European Strategic Cluster Partnership - Going International" (ESCP-4i) label will be awarded to all eligible and successful consortia that fulfil the ESCP-4i characteristics as defined above and express their interest and commitment in developing them by signing a "ESCP-4i" Charter25 which commits the Partnership members to comply with the above principles.

The list of all selected ESCP-4i will also be published under a dedicated corner of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. This will allow partnerships to profile themselves and to promote their activities and interests for further cooperation, including in relation to regional authorities.

Strand 1 applicants will have to identify minimum two target countries for their activities. They are encouraged to have not more than five target countries at the end of the Preparatory phase in order to be able to meet the objectives outlined in this call.

 

The present call for proposals is targeting actions for two phases, divided in three Strands: Preparatory phase

Strand 1 will support the establishment of European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International (ESCP-4i) open to a wide range of European industrial sectors and value chains.

Implementation phase

Strand 2 will support the initial implementation, testing and further development of European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International (ESCP-4i) including those "ESCP-4i" funded through the previous 'Cluster Go International' calls COS-CLUSTER- 2014-3-03 and COS-CLUSINT-2016-03-01 (except those already funded under the Strand 2 of the two previously mentioned calls for proposals pursuing the same or related objectives) and similar existing pan-European alliances of cluster and business network organisations complying with the characteristics of an ESCP-4i as described above:

 Strand 2.a) will support the first implementation, testing and further development of 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International' (ESCP-4i) in a wide range of European industrial sectors and value chains, except those targeted in Strand 2.b below.

 Strand 2.b) will support the first implementation, testing and further development of up to two 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International' (ESCP-4i) in the Space and Digital sector (use of earth observation data and related applications), specifically for downstream users of earth observation data in the context of Copernicus – the EU's Earth Observation and Monitoring programme.

 

2.2. Description of the eligible activities

Preparatory phase (Strand 1)

Under the Preparatory phase, applicants are invited to propose preparatory actions that contribute to establish a "European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International" respecting all the characteristics defined above (see section 2.1) to develop a joint internationalisation strategy for the Partnership with common goals towards specific third markets and a roadmap for implementation facilitating the internationalisation of its SME members.

Mandatory actions under the 'Preparatory phase' (Strand 1) are:

1. Development of a joint internationalisation strategy defining a joint European strategic vision with a global perspective and common goals and actions towards specific third

markets as well as an implementation roadmap.

  1. Dissemination about all project activities, news, events, testimonials and results shall be channelled through the dedicated partnership section of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP)26. In case of the development of another website for project implementation purposes, all information on project activities, news, events, testimonials and results must be fully transferred to the ECCP website on an on-going basis.

  2. Learning and monitoring activities, such as promoting exchanges between Partnerships and enabling cross-fertilisation and learning from their successful and unsuccessful experiences as well as monitoring activities measuring the outcomes of the Partnership based on a clear set of performance indicators (see section 2.3). Representatives of the Partnership must participate in one European event per year promoting the learning and monitoring activities carried out by the different Partnerships.

Possible actions under the 'Preparatory phase' (Strand 1) can also include the following (non- exhaustive list):

 Development and signature of cooperation agreements between the Partnership and international (i.e. non-COSME countries) business and/or research intermediaries (including cluster or business network organisations, academia, technology centres and research or economic development organisations) in target countries;

 Identification of initial strategic partners across Europe (e.g. by conducting a

complementarity, compatibility and readiness check in terms of strategy, skills, language capabilities, etc. to find the appropriate partners);

  •   Partnership building (e.g. through training/coaching activities on building collaboration, coordinating and leading a Partnership, and organising cluster visits for Partnership members and their SMEs, regional actors and other relevant stakeholders, including technology centres and science parks);

  •   Legal advice for developing a legal representation for the consortium (e.g. by exploring the need for a coordination or management structure, to establish a legal entity and define its form, coordination and mandate);

  •  Identity shaping such as the development of a joint communication/marketing and branding strategy, development of a common logo and visual identity of the Partnership;
  •  Intelligence gathering (e.g. studies/analyses on market insights, value-chains and global mega trends and opportunities; knowledge about competing players, relative positioning, market trends and opportunities – and defining the added value of the Partnership's combined competencies in relation to this; identification of cooperation opportunities to target in third countries (non-COSME participating countries); initial exploratory visits to third countries or invitation of experts from third countries);
  •  Collaboration planning (e.g. coaching/advisory support for formulating a joint strategic vision and common goals; facilitating commitment/preparation to engage in cooperation relating to resources, staff, knowledge, IPRs; strategically-oriented consultation of cluster SME members and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. technology centers as appropriate) to assess their needs and interest in cooperation and target third countries with focus on high value objectives, including soft-landing facilities, direct investment facilitation mechanisms, business potential of product markets, leading edge product markets, positioning in global value-chains, next generation of relevant products; defining the scope and implementation modalities of common actions; other relevant activities associating strategy development and operational collaboration actions with cluster actors, particularly SMEs);
  •  Joint actions planning (e.g. coaching/advisory support for mentoring SMEs to identify international opportunities in strategic third countries; generating ideas for collaboration with third countries and identifying the joint actions to be developed and implemented in a second phase taking into account the readiness of cluster SME members to engage in cooperation with third countries).

Expected results and deliverables for the 'Preparatory phase’ (Strand 1):

The consortium members must submit at least the following deliverables. All deliverables must appear in the table “List of Deliverables” in Section A of the Description of the Action (Technical

Annex 1) of the submitted proposal:

A joint internationalisation strategy defining a joint European strategic vision with a global perspective and common goals and actions towards specific third markets. The joint internationalisation strategy must comprise:

  •   a Partnership Agreement respecting the principles of the "European Strategic Cluster Partnerships – Going International" defined above, identifying the Partnership members, committing them to develop common actions, setting out the duration and modalities of cooperation between them, and expressing clearly their interests and plans for engaging in international cluster cooperation together.

    The Partnership Agreement must include a long-term cooperation agenda with a view to foster a sustainable Partnership beyond the lifetime of the current project co-funded under COSME. In particular, it must indicate which additional public-private co-financing is envisaged to be mobilised for the development and then implementation of the international plan. It may also include Letters of Intent by selected clusters, SMEs and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. technology centres) confirming their readiness to engage in internationalization activities in the context of the Partnership internationalisation strategy and as outlined in the implementation roadmap.

  •   an internationalisation strategy plan providing (in a document of maximum 10 pages) a detailed description of the purpose of the collaboration and its strategic objectives through a

 

SWOT analysis; the different fields of competences and the envisaged complementarities between the Partnership members; the expected advantages, the minimum two selected targeted third countries (i.e. non-COSME participating countries), the cooperation interest in terms of thematic area/application/technologies per targeted third country; the potential international cooperation partners; the expected mutual added value and interest among the Partnership members and the international partners; the expected economic impact expressed through quantitative indicators, notably in terms of growth, jobs and investment in Europe for the Partnership SME members27.

The plan must present how the Partnership will seek and exploit synergies with the inter- regional activities, notably further cluster cooperation funded under COSME e.g. as through the future “European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for smart specialisation investment (ESCP-S3) or the European Territorial Cooperation Regulation (INTERREG) and the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF), e.g. in the context of smart specialisation strategies as well as the

EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, notably the Horizon 2020 INNOSUP-1 action for “Cluster facilitated projects for new industrial value chains”28. To this end, the Partnership members shall therefore demonstrate how their approach has the potential to act as a catalyst in contributing to and/or being leveraged by other activities supported under COSME, Horizon 2020 and European regional funds.

Moreover, the plan must also include:

  • –  background information about previous international activities and cross-sectorial

    cooperation activities of each Partnership member and between them;

  • –  benchmarking information on existing international cooperation initiatives directed at similar

    target countries and thematic areas;

  • –  a joint branding and marketing strategy statement (including proposal for a joint logo) and

    plan.

 an implementation roadmap providing a comprehensive overview of the joint activities foreseen to be developed with a detailed plan for implementation highlighting the different and concrete roles and steps aimed at facilitating the internationalisation of SME members (in particular those pre-identified and that have signed a Letter of Intent as described in the Partnership Agreement section above).

Implementation phase (Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b)

Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b shall support the initial implementation and testing of the joint internationalisation strategy proposed by applicant consortia. It shall foster the further development of the “European Strategic Cluster Partnerships – Going International” by building cooperation activities with international partners in minimum 2 third countries (i.e. non-COSME participating countries) or world regions and initiating business partnerships for European SMEs in each target market. A longer duration beyond 24 months for the implementation of Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b actions can be considered, based on consortia’s needs to achieve the objectives and duly justification.

Strand 2.a will support the first implementation, testing and further development of 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International' (ESCP-4i) in a wide range of European

industrial sectors and value chains, except those targeted in Strands 2.b below.

Strand 2.b will support the first implementation, testing and further development of up to two 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International' (ESCP-4is) in the Space and Digital sector (use of earth observation data and related applications), specifically for downstream users of earth observation data in the context of Copernicus – the EU's Earth Observation and Monitoring programme. The objective will be to promote access to international markets for European clusters and networks involved in the development and provision of earth observation products and services (e.g. geo-information services and ICT applications supporting societal goals in a broad range of areas such as management of natural resources, precision agriculture or smart cities). Internationalisation strategies should enable cooperation with third country partners in view of exporting high value-added and knowledge-intensive products and services based, inter alia, on Copernicus data and services.

Mandatory actions under the 'Implementation phase' (Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b) are:

  1. Development and signature of cooperation agreements between the Partnership and international (i.e. non-COSME countries) business and/or research intermediaries (including cluster or business network organisations, academia, technology centres and research or economic development organisations) in each target country.

  2. Development and signature of business agreements (or equivalent formal cooperation documents) to develop joint collaborative project between the Partnership SME members and business and other relevant stakeholders from third countries (i.e. from non-COSME countries), eventually leading to increase exports, investment opportunities and international ventures generating employment for European businesses.

  3. Undertaking the necessary steps to make these business agreements commercially viable. Partnerships will have the possibility through the European Cluster Collaboration Platform to apply for funding that provides technical assistance to implement and make these business agreements commercially viable.29

  4. Preparation of a long-term strategy for the Partnership with a medium to long-term cooperation agenda by involving the different relevant stakeholders (e.g. local, regional or national public authorities) with the aim to foster the Partnership sustainability beyond the lifetime of the project funded under COSME.

  5. Dissemination about all project activities, news, events, testimonials and results to be channelled through the dedicated partnership section of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP)30. In case of the development of another website for project implementation purposes, all information on project activities, news, events, testimonials and results must be fully transferred to the ECCP website on an on-going basis.

  6. Learning and monitoring activities, such as promoting exchanges between Partnerships and enabling cross-fertilisation and learning from their successful and unsuccessful experiences as well as monitoring activities measuring the outcomes of the Partnership based on a clear set of performance indicators (see section 2.3) including business and innovation oriented results derived from their international cluster cooperation activities. The monitoring activities shall be linked to the cooperation goals of the Partnerships. Representatives of the Partnership must participate in one European event per year promoting the learning and monitoring activities carried out by the different Partnerships.

Possible actions under the 'Implementation phase' (Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b) can include the following (non-exhaustive list):

 Cooperation building with third countries aimed, notably, at identifying the right partners in third countries, organising minimum one tailored fact-finding mission in each target market, joining relevant networks and hosting tailored fact-finding missions in Europe for international partners;

– Tailored identity shaping and joint promotional activities such as the development of a joint communication/marketing and branding strategy adapted to the target third countries; study on the feasibility and assistance needed for establishing an "Ambassador" function or opening a joint representation office in third countries (e.g. legal advice, identification of a permanent representative); study on the feasibility of establishing a (permanent) representation in Europe for hosting international delegations; exploration of the possibilities for using existing regional/national offices abroad for supporting joint promotion and visibility;

– International matchmaking activities with third countries involving also the cluster Partnership SME members with the aim to initiate concrete business and research &

technology collaboration projects, such as through the organisation of international business matchmaking missions and site visits in third countries and in Europe, facilitating C2C (cluster-to-cluster) and B2B (business-to-business) tailored meetings; conducting follow-up activities on cooperation potential identified at matchmaking events, etc. Such missions abroad shall focus on economic impact for companies, have specific, individualised B2B programmes organised for each company, prepare possible “return” visits of foreign partners to Europe, promote common identity of the European clusters through the Partnership; evaluate economic impacts after 6 and 12 months;

 In addition, each Partnership must allocate a budget, within the scope of Strand 2 projects and without relying on additional COSME funding, if they foresee to participate in at least two international cluster matchmaking events to be organised in third countries and/or in Europe by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform and/or supported by the European Commission services or EASME;

 Operational collaboration activities with third countries, supporting notably the implementation of business partnership agreements between the Partnership SME members and business and other relevant stakeholders from third countries to develop joint collaborative projects with an international partner and build the projects into viable and bankable proposals for investments, such as by conducting technical and financial feasibility studies ; supporting the identification of relevant financing sources; funding for pilot/experimental practical collaboration actions involving SME members and actions providing various types of assistance for SME members in order to a) identify tailored business and innovation cooperation opportunities in target third countries, b) prepare joint business plans with an international partner, c) draft legally binding international collaboration agreement, and d) access available funding opportunities for

internationalisation.

Expected results and deliverables for the ‘Implementation phase’ (Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b):

The consortium members must submit at least the following deliverables. All deliverables must appear in the table “List of Deliverables” in Section A of the Description of the Action (Technical

Annex 1) of the submitted proposal.

 Reports on collaboration activities developed and implemented with international partners in each target market; fact-finding mission reports; matchmaking mission reports with details on potential cooperation actions identified and initiated through international cluster and business matchmaking events; reports on possible pilot operational collaboration projects developed between Partnership SME members and international partners; proposed IPR collaboration and standards setting initiatives;

 Signature of minimum one cooperation agreement/ Memorandum of Understanding between the Partnership members and one international partner for each target market, targeting at least two third countries or world regions. Each cooperation agreement should include a concept note outlining the intended cooperation objective and activities;

 Signature of minimum two business agreements to develop collaborative projects between the Partnership SME members and business or other relevant stakeholders from third countries for each target market. Each business agreement should include a concept note outlining the

intended collaborative project and planned activities, and detailing the need for customised assistance for the implementation of further operational collaborative activities with a view to lead to increased exports and investment opportunities generating employment for European businesses;

 A monitoring scoreboard with verifiable indicators of the project results and their expected impact such as increased exports, increased jobs in Europe, increased visibility of European SMEs in foreign markets, innovation projects (including patents), new or adapted products and services, critical imports secured and direct foreign investments or cooperation partners attracted, or expertise in support of these activities;

 A mid-term report on the cooperation activities undertaken and lessons learned, with a monitoring scoreboard as set out above and practical recommendations for improving the implementation of the strategy, at the end of the first year of implementation;

 A final report on the cooperation activities undertaken and lessons learned, with a monitoring scoreboard as set out above and practical recommendations for improving the implementation of the strategy at the end of the project with a plan for a long-term cooperation agenda fostering a sustainable Partnership beyond the lifetime of the project.

2.3. Indicators for the proposed action

The actions to be implemented under the Strand 1 'Preparatory phase' and the Strand 2.a and 2.b ('Implementation phase') will be assessed, as a minimum, against the following compulsory performance indicators:

  •   Number of cluster organisations and business networks from different COSME participating countries having benefited from the supported actions;

  •   Number of cooperation agreements31 resulting from the supported actions (optional for Strand 1);

  •   Number of business agreements32 resulting from the supported actions (optional for Strand 1);

  •   Number of events (workshops/ matchmaking events/ working group meetings) organised;

  •   Number of cluster and business matchmaking meetings supported;

  •   Number of SMEs having directly or indirectly benefited from the supported actions, resulting in cooperation projects33;

  •   Increase in the percentage of the turnover from international activities, and employment in Europe, of the SMEs having benefited directly and indirectly from the supported actions, as measured through a survey by the end of the action (optional for Strand 1);

  •   Impact of the supported actions in terms of number of resulting cooperation projects between international cluster and business network partners (optional for Strand 1).

    Applicants must include these compulsory indicators and propose additional performance SMART (i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) indicators in their proposal.

    All indicators must appear in the table “Performance Indicators” in Section B of the Description of the Action (Technical Annex 1) of the submitted proposal, as well as under the “Performance Indicators” table of its corresponding Work Package in the proposal.

 

3. TIMETABLE

a) Deadline for submitting applications

30/10/2019 17:00 h Brussels time

b) Evaluation period*

November and December 2019

c) Information to applicants*

January 2020

d) Signature of grant agreements*

April 2020

e) Starting date of the action*

April 2020

* indicative.

 

4. BUDGET AVAILABLE AND FUNDING OF PROJECTS

The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects is estimated at EUR 8.300.000 divided as follows:

  •   For Strand 1 and Strand 2.a: EUR 7.400.000

  •   For Strand 2.b: EUR 900.000
    The maximum grant per project will be EUR 200.000 for Strand 1.
    The maximum grant per project will be EUR 450.000 for Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b. EASME expects to fund 24 proposals:

    10 proposals in Strand 1; 12 proposals in Strand 2.a; 2 proposals in Strand 2.b.

    If there are no sufficient proposals passing the overall and individual thresholds of the award criteria in Strand 2.b, the budget available can be used to support proposals in reserve lists of Strand 1 or Strand 2.a.

    The grant is limited to a maximum reimbursement rate of 90% of eligible costs. EASME reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.

 

5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

The following requirements must be complied with:

  •   Applications must be submitted no later than the deadline for submitting applications referred to in section 3;

  •   Applications must be submitted in writing, using the electronic system specified in section 16;

  •   Applications must be drafted in one of the EU official languages;

  •   Applicant consortia both in Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b will have to submit with their proposal a complete description of their joint internationalisation strategy, ready to be implemented, including the Partnership Agreement, international strategy plan and implementation roadmap as described in section 2.2 of this call.

    Failure to comply with those requirements will lead to the rejection of the application.

    Incomplete applications may be considered inadmissible. This refers to the requested administrative data, the proposal description and requested grant amount, and any supporting documents specified in this call for proposals.

 

6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

6.1. Eligible applicants
Applicants must be legal entities forming a consortium:

 all registered or having submitted a registration on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) by the submission deadline of this Call and completed the relevant Annex 1 or 2 of the “Description of the Action” as following:

o For cluster organisation and business networks already registered at the at the European Cluster Collaboration Platform: a link to the completed cluster profile of the applicant registered on the Platform and information concerning their industrial focus (to be provided through annex 1 of the “Description of the Action”); or

o For cluster organisation and business networks not yet registered at the European Cluster Collaboration Platform: A declaration on their honour that they represent a cluster organisation or a business network organisation offering or channelling innovative support services to businesses (in compliance with the definition of 'innovation clusters' provided above), and that a cluster profile has been submitted to the ECCP for registration with the respective information included in the descriptive form (to be provided through annex 2 of the “Description of the Action”).

The applicant must be a legal entity with a legal personality. This may include both profit-making or non-for-profit legal entities as well as fully or partly public or private bodies. In the case of private bodies, they must be properly constituted and registered under national law.

Natural persons are not eligible to apply.

Linked third parties, i.e. legal entities having a legal or capital link with applicants, which is neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation, may take part in the action as applicants in order to declare eligible costs.

Only applications from legal entities established in the following countries are eligible:

 EU Member States;

 countries participating in the COSME programme pursuant to Article 6 of the COSME Regulation34.

6.2. Eligible consortia
Proposals must be submitted by consortia that is:

 composed of at least three different legal entities; and

 established in a minimum of three different countries participating in the COSME programme pursuant to Article 6 of the COSME Regulation, among which at least two must be from two different EU Member States.

Additional conditions:

It has to be noted that ESCP-4i in all Strands must not target cooperation activities with third countries that are subject to embargoes or sanctions imposed by the EU and/or its Member States. The activities of the ESCP-4i must be fully in line with the EU sanction policy and its restrictive measures in force . In particular, ESCP-4i must not target countries that are subject to arms/dual use items embargoes imposed by the EU and/or its Member States. The activities of the ESCP-4i must be fully in line with Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 on the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items.

Applicant consortia can apply for one Strand only, i.e. either Strand 1 or Strand 2a or Strand 2b.

Eligible organisations can be part of maximum one applicant consortium for each Strand.

Applicant consortia must verify that their individual members are not part of another application under the same Strand. If such a case is detected by the funding body, it will lead to the rejection of the organisation concerned from all proposals in the respective Strand. The respective consortia affected by the exclusion of (a) partner(s) must still fulfil the eligibility criteria as stipulated in sections 6.1 and 6.2 in order to be considered eligible.

34 The following groups of countries are eligible for participation in COSME according to Article 6 COSME Regulation:

  1. European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), in accordance with the conditions laid down in the EEA Agreement, and other European countries when agreements and procedures so allow;

  2. acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in the Union's programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements and Association Council Decisions, or similar arrangements;

  3. countries falling within the scope of the European neighbourhood policies, when agreements and procedures so allow and in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in the Union's programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements, Protocols to Association Agreements and Association Council Decisions.

The updated list of eligible third countries is available on the following webpage: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/cosme/index_en.htm. Proposals from applicants in Article 6 countries may be selected provided that, on the date of award, agreements have been signed setting out the arrangements for the participation of those countries in the programme.

Applicant consortia in Strand 2.a and Strand 2.b that have been funded under the previous 'Cluster Go International' calls COS-CLUSTER-2014-3-03 or COS-CLUSINT-2016-03-01 are not eligible to this call (neither for Strand 1 nor Strand 2).

Applicant consortia in Strand 1 that have been funded under the previous 'Cluster Go International' calls COS-CLUSTER-2014-3-03 or COS-CLUSINT-2016-03-01 or COS-CLUSINT-2017-03-6 are not eligible to the Strand 1 of this call.

6.3. For British applicants

Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article 34.3.1(b) of the grant agreement.

6.4 Implementation period

The project's duration should be between 18 months and 24 months, taking into account the following specifications:

- For Strand 1 and Strand 2, applications for projects scheduled to run for less than 18 months will not be accepted.

- For Strand 1, applications for projects scheduled to run for more than 24 months will not be accepted.

- For Strand 2, applications for projects scheduled to run for more than 24 months may be considered if duly justified by the applicant.

 

7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA

7.1. Exclusion

The authorising officer shall exclude an applicant from participating in call for proposals procedures where:

  1. (a)  the applicant is bankrupt, subject to insolvency or winding-up procedures, its assets are being administered by a liquidator or by a court, it is in an arrangement with creditors, its business activities are suspended, or it is in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for under EU or national laws or regulations;

  2. (b)  it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is in breach of its obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the applicable law;

  3. (c)  it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is guilty of grave professional misconduct by having violated applicable laws or regulations or ethical standards of the profession to which the applicant belongs, or by having engaged in any wrongful intent or gross negligence, including, in particular, any of the following:

    1. (i)  fraudulently or negligently misrepresenting information required for the verification of the absence of grounds for exclusion or the fulfilment of eligibility or selection criteria or in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision;

    2. (ii)  entering into agreement with other applicants with the aim of distorting competition;

    3. (iii)  violating intellectual property rights;

  4. (iv)  attempting to influence the decision-making process of the Agency during the award procedure;

  5. (v)  attempting to obtain confidential information that may confer upon it undue advantages in the award procedure;

  6. (d)  it has been established by a final judgment that the applicant is guilty of any of the following:

    1. (i)  fraud, within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Article 1 of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 July 1995;

    2. (ii)  corruption, as defined in Article 4(2) of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 or Article 3 of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 May 1997, or conduct referred to in Article 2(1) of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA, or corruption as defined in the applicable law;

    3. (iii)  conduct related to a criminal organisation, as referred to in Article 2 of Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA;

    4. (iv)  money laundering or terrorist financing within the meaning of Article 1(3), (4) and (5) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council;

    5. (v)  terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, as defined in Articles 1 and 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, respectively, or inciting, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit such offences, as referred to in Article 4 of that Decision;

    6. (vi)  child labour or other offences concerning trafficking in human beings as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council;

  7. (e)  the applicant has shown significant deficiencies in complying with main obligations in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision financed by the Union's budget, which has led to its early termination or to the application of liquidated damages or other contractual penalties, or which has been discovered following checks, audits or investigations by an authorising officer, OLAF or the Court of Auditors;

  8. (f)  it has been established by a final judgment or final administrative decision that the applicant has committed an irregularity within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95;

  9. (g)  It has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that the applicant has created an entity in a different jurisdiction with the intent to circumvent fiscal, social or any other legal obligations of mandatory application in the jurisdiction of its registered office, central administration or principal place of business;

  10. (h)  it has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that an entity has been created with the intent referred to in point (g);

  11. (i)  for the situations referred to in points (c) to (h) above, the applicant is subject to:

    1. (i)  facts established in the context of audits or investigations carried out by European Public Prosecutor's Office after its establishment, the Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office or the internal auditor, or any other check, audit or control performed under the responsibility of an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body;

    2. (ii)  non-final judgments or non-final administrative decisions which may include disciplinary measures taken by the competent supervisory body responsible for the verification of the application of standards of professional ethics;

  12. (iii)  facts referred to in decisions of persons or entities being entrusted with EU budget implementation tasks;

  13. (iv)  information transmitted by Member States implementing Union funds;

  14. (v)  decisions of the Commission relating to the infringement of Union competition law or of a national competent authority relating to the infringement of Union or national competition law; or

  15. (vi)  decisions of exclusion by an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body.

 

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