Strategic alliances for the uptake of advanced technologies by SMEs on the economic recovery
Date de clôture : 2 févr. 2021  
- 16 jours

 Entrepreneuriat et PME
 Transfert de technologie
 Économie numérique
 Gestion d'entreprise
 Développement des affaires

This call for proposals aims to contribute to the European Commission’s recovery package via the establishment of strategic alliances between tech-savvy SMEs and the traditional SMEs facing the need to adapt to the post-crisis economic environment, focusing on the benefits of adopting advanced technologies. The final objective of this call for proposals is to contribute to a wider spreading and diffusion of advanced technologies across SMEs in Europe and boost economic recovery.

The specific objective of the action is to launch two pilot projects focused on building alliances among traditional and tech-savvy SMEs through industrial cluster organisations in order to promote SME collaboration and technology adoption within specific industrial ecosystems. 

For the purpose of this call, traditional and tech-savvy SMEs are defined as follows:

a) Traditional SMEs are those SMEs that have not yet adopted new technologies and need to adapt to changed value-chains and demand. In this project, we aim to focus on those traditional SMEs that are part of a cluster organisation and intent to improve their business competitiveness by adopting new technologies.
b) Tech-savvy SMEs are EU companies with innovative business models that develop, produce and commercialise advanced technology products and applications. Their business solutions inject high-tech power and smart, evidence-based business management to more traditional SMEs, thus providing them significant competitive advantages. (An example of a potential list of tech-savvy SMEs can be found on the report "Artificial Intelligence. Critical industrial applications: report on a market analysis of prioritised value chains, the most critical AI applications and the conditions for AI rollout")

The projects shall specifically contribute to: 

  • Explore concrete collaboration opportunities between different type of EU businesses, particularly tech-savvy SMEs and traditional SMEs. These collaborations should improve industrial competences, increase resilience and add value to existing industrial sectors and value chains;
  • Increase the adoption of advanced technologies in traditional SMEs and help EU tech-savvy SMEs that developed critical technology applications to expand their market potential in the EU; 
  • Exploit the strong potential of dynamic collaboration between the cluster organisations and their technology centres with a view to boosting the technological uptake and development of EU SMEs;
  • Develop businesses collaboration between different clusters from the same industrial ecosystem and create partnerships with other relevant industrial ecosystems.


Types of activities

Proposals are invited to:

- Ensure a broad geographical coverage with regard to the EU regions to which they provide their services (A region is meant here as the economic territory defined at NUTS-2 level. See

- Foresee strategies to establish and remain open to synergies during the whole project duration. 

The present call for proposals includes three types of activities:

a) Preparatory mandatory activities
Applicants are requested to propose preparatory activities they consider relevant for the building of SME alliances and businesses adoption of new technologies. It is essential that all preparatory activities are clearly related to the objective set out by this call for proposals and duly justified.

b) Core mandatory activities
The proposed preparatory activities shall lead to and be complemented by the following mandatory activities:

  • Build strategic alliances between traditional SMEs facing similar challenges for the uptake of advanced technologies in their industrial ecosystem, first within individual clusters and then pooling them across clusters within each ecosystem;
  • Support the established strategic alliances in bridging with EU tech-savvy SMEs, which can provide solutions, both directly and via hackathons;
  • Organise and manage at least one virtual match-making event following and complementing each hackathon;
  • Organise technical assistance, provided by technology centres, for the uptake of the selected technologies by the traditional SMEs benefiting from the project;
  • Provide business support for the adaptation of the technologies to the SMEs in their cluster; provide support on access to public and private funding for the adoption of these technologies;
  • Identify opportunities and threats SMEs face while they intend to adopt advanced technologies and provide appropriate industrial policy recommendations;
  • Organise the necessary communication and dissemination activities to first mobilise EU traditional and tech-savvy SMEs, and then share best practices with other cluster organisations and technology centres.

c) Complementary mandatory activities

  • Map critical technological companies, both within the participating clusters and outside them;
  • Draft and promote a "guidelines and lessons learned" report on how clusters and technology centres could provide better technical assistance and business support to those SMEs aiming to adopt advanced technologies;
  • Draft and promote a report on a series of policy recommendations to the EU Member States and regions on strategic technological autonomy;
  • Organise at least two peer review meetings to share experiences, learnings and results.


Implementation period

Taking into consideration the mandatory activities of this call for proposals, the Agency considers that the reasonable duration of the projects shall be 24 months. 
Applications with different duration might also be considered, provided that the duration is coherent with the objectives of this call for proposals and realistic for the proposed mandatory activities.


Eligible applicants

Applicants must be legal entities and shall be representatives of industry, research community, and technology providers. A non-exhaustive list of potential applicants includes, for instance:

  • cluster organisations 
  • technology centres 
  • SMEs

The different clusters in the consortia applying for this call for proposals may represent groups of SMEs from the same industrial segment or related industrial sectors that offer scope for cross-fertilisation. 
Should technology centres not be formal beneficiaries of the proposed project, applicants shall demonstrate in their application how they intend to ensure their collaboration during the project.

Natural persons are not eligible. 

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 Regulation.


Eligible consortia

Proposals must be submitted by consortia composed by eligible legal entities established in a minimum of three different EU Member States



The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects is estimated at EUR 5 000 000. 

The maximum grant per project will be between EUR 2 000 000 and EUR 3 000 000. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.


Submission of proposals

The deadline for electronic submission is 2 February 2021, 17:00 (Brussels time).
Please refer to the Call for Proposals and Guide for Applicants before commencing the electronic submission.
The link to the submission system is available on the Funding and Tenders Portal. 


Partner search

If you are looking for partners to apply to this call or you are looking for organisations active in the same domain as you, you may wish to visit the website of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP), the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), the Knowledge Innovation Communities (KIC).


Questions and Answers

Potential applicants should address questions related to the content of this call by e-mail to
Only questions sent to this functional mailbox will be answered. Answers will only be published periodically and within a reasonable period of time on this page. Last questions to be answered are those submitted at least 7 calendar days prior to the closing date of this call.

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