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Horizon 2020: INDUSTRIAL LEADERSHIP - Innovation In SMEs



Horizon 2020: INDUSTRIAL LEADERSHIP - Innovation In SMEs

Strategic Objectives: 

Specific objective

The specific objective is to stimulate sustainable economic growth by means of increasing the levels of innovation in SMEs, covering their different innovation needs over the whole innovation cycle for all types of innovation, thereby creating more fast-growing, internationally active SMEs.

Considering the central role of SMEs in Europe's economy, research and innovation in SMEs will play a crucial role in increasing competitiveness, boosting economic growth and job creation and thus in achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and notably its flagship initiative 'Innovation Union'.

However, SMEs have – despite their important economic and employment share and significant innovation potential – several types of problems to become more innovative and more competitive, including shortage of financial resources and access to finance, shortage in skills in innovation management, weaknesses in networking and cooperation with external parties, and insufficient use of public procurement to foster innovation in SMEs. Although Europe produces a similar number of start-up companies to the United States, European SMEs are finding it much harder to grow into large companies than their US counterparts. The internationalised business environment with increasingly interlinked value chains puts further pressure on them. SMEs need to enhance their research and innovation capacity. They need to generate, take up and commercialise new knowledge and business ideas faster and to a greater extent to compete successfully on fast evolving global markets. The challenge is to stimulate more innovation in SMEs, thereby enhancing their competitiveness, sustainability and growth.

The proposed actions aim to complement national and regional business innovation policies and programmes, to foster cooperation between SMEs, including transnational cooperation, clusters and other innovation-relevant actors in Europe, to bridge the gap between R&D and successful market uptake, to provide a more business innovation friendly environment, including demand-side measures and measures geared to boosting the transfer of knowledge, and to support taking into account the changing nature of innovation processes, new technologies, markets and business models.

Strong links with industry-specific Union policies, notably COSME and the Cohesion Policy Funds, will be established to ensure synergies and a coherent approach.

Rationale and Union added value

SMEs are key drivers of innovation due to their ability to quickly and efficiently transform new ideas in successful businesses. They serve as important conduits of knowledge spill-over bringing research results to the market. SMEs have a key role to play in technology and knowledge transfer processes, contributing to the market transfer of innovations stemming from the research carried out in universities, research bodies and research performing companies. The last twenty years have shown that entire sectors have been renewed and new industries created driven by innovative SMEs. Fast growing enterprises are crucial for the development of emerging industries and for the acceleration of the structural changes that Europe needs to become a knowledge-based and sustainable economy with sustained growth and high quality jobs.

SMEs can be found in all sectors of the economy. They form a more important part of the European economy than of other regions such as the United States. All types of SMEs can innovate. They need to be encouraged and supported to invest in research and innovation and to enhance their capacity to manage innovation processes. In doing so they should be able to draw on the full innovative potential of the internal market and the ERA so as to create new business opportunities in Europe and beyond and to contribute to find solutions to key societal challenges.

Participation in Union research and innovation strengthens the R&D and technology capability of SMEs, increases their capacity to generate, absorb and use new knowledge, enhances the economic exploitation of new solutions, boosts innovation in products, services and business models, promotes business activities in larger markets and internationalises the knowledge networks of SMEs. SMEs that have a good innovation management in place, thereby often relying on external expertise and skills, outperform others.

Cross-border collaborations are an important element in the innovation strategy of SMEs to overcome some of their size-related problems, such as access to technological and scientific competences and new markets. They contribute to turn ideas into profit and company growth and in return to increase private investment in research and innovation.

Regional and national programmes for research and innovation, often backed by European cohesion policy, play an essential role in promoting SMEs. In particular, Cohesion Policy Funds have a key role to play through building capacity and providing a stairway to excellence for SMEs in order to develop excellent projects that may compete for funding under Horizon 2020. Nevertheless, only a few national and regional programmes provide funding for transnational research and innovation activities carried out by SMEs, the Union-wide diffusion and uptake of innovative solutions or cross-border innovation support services. The challenge is to provide SMEs with thematically open support to realise international projects in line with companies' innovation strategies. Actions at Union level are therefore necessary to complement activities undertaken at national and regional level, to enhance their impact and to open up the research and innovation support systems.

Broad lines of the activities

(a) Mainstreaming SME support especially through a dedicated instrument

SMEs shall be supported across Horizon 2020. For this purpose, to participate in Horizon 2020, better conditions for SMEs shall be established. In addition, a dedicated SME instrument shall provide staged and seamless support covering the whole innovation cycle. The SME instrument shall be targeted at all types of innovative SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise. It shall be provided for all types of innovation, including service, non-technological and social innovations, given each activity has a clear European added value. The aim is to develop and capitalise on the innovation potential of SMEs by filling the gap in funding for early stage high-risk research and innovation, stimulating innovations and increasing private-sector commercialisation of research results.

The instrument will operate under a single centralised management system, light administrative regime and a single entry point. It shall be implemented primarily in a bottom-up manner through a continuously open call.

All of the specific objectives of the priority 'Societal challenges', and the specific objective 'Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies' will apply the dedicated SME instrument and allocate an amount for this.

(b) Support for research-intensive SMEs

The goal is to promote transnational market-oriented innovation of R&D performing SMEs. A specific action shall target research-intensive SMEs in any sectors that show the capability to commercially exploit the project results. This action will be built on the Eurostars Programme.

(c) Enhancing the innovation capacity of SMEs

Transnational activities assisting the implementation of and complementing the SME specific measures across Horizon 2020 shall be supported, notably to enhance the innovation capacity of SMEs. These activities shall be coordinated with similar national measures when appropriate. Close cooperation with the National Contact Point (NCP) Network and the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is envisaged.

(d) Supporting market-driven innovation

Transnational market-driven innovation to improve the framework conditions for innovation shall be supported, and the specific barriers preventing, in particular, the growth of innovative SMEs shall be tackled.

Leading Institutions:

Type of funding:
Total Budget: 
€ 616.20 million
Number of projects:
Project Profiles:
  1. A disruptive innovation improving functionality, increasing product life span and removing the need for tyre change through a patented modular tyre system.
  2. A fast and powerful 3D cargo space usage optimization service for logistics industry
  3. A New Drive-by-Wire Technology for People with Disabilities and Industrial Applications
  4. A patent pending gearbox for ships that decrease fuel consumption with 25% (appr 500 ton fuel and 1500 ton carbon dioxide per ship and year)
  5. A personal electric mobility snow vehicle
  6. Advanced Solutions for Smart Energy storage and electric Transportation
  7. An autonomous, self-driven robot system to improve the mobility and integration of people, creating a more equal and accessible society
  8. BX Platform Converting real time data into more efficient trucking operations
  9. Changing the electric-vehicle paradigm with green, long-lasting and fast recharge liquid batteries
  10. Changing the world of urban mobility thanks to Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence
  11. Charging network optimized for Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs)
  12. Circular Economy applied to LI-ION batteries for smart electric mobility in cities
  13. Cloud based Vessel Allocation Decision Support System for Vessel Chartering
  14. COMPA 2GO Composite Repairs for Ships - Service Demonstration, Certification and Market Entry
  15. Compact hydro generator for electric vehicles charging stations (to serve as an energy lifebuoy)
  16. Compact, light, efficient and reliable turbo compressor for fuel cell vehicles
  17. Delivering next generation Transport Management System to European transport SMEs
  18. Developing the electric car that charges itself: Lightyear One
  19. Development of Polymer Halter for Oil Filters
  20. Disrupting the global e-mobility sector by production of application-specific rotors for the automotive industry with an innovative and unique vertical laminar squeeze-casting process
  21. Disruptive Bike Logistic Smart Trailer for efficient, painless and zero nuisance last mile delivery in cities
  22. Disruptive Radar Positioning System for trains
  23. Dual LIquid Vector for hydrogEn Refueling Station
  24. Electric Propulsion System for the Air Transportation of Tomorrow
  25. Electric Scalable Axle Module for e-Mobility
  26. End-to-end hardware implementation of Artificial Neural Networks for Edge Computing in Autonomous Vehicles
  27. Energy efficient and environmentally friendly multi-fuel power system with CHP capability, for stand-alone applications.
  28. Evolved Sky Patriot – Phase 1 Feasibility Study
  29. Extending the outdoor navigation experience to the indoors
  30. Fast Moving Containers Caming Solutions
  31. Fluidised Bed Heat Treatment Furnace for HPDC engine blocks and other transport components offering new opportunities for lightweight, cost competitiveness and energy saving
  33. Foot Transport for a Smart Mobility
  34. For cognitively-impaired or visually-impaired persons suffering from spatial disorientation, a smartphone-based navigation aid that is both reliable and safe for urban pedestrian mobility.
  36. Fully robotic system for swapping electric car batteries within 3 minutes.
  37. Ground-breaking two-phase cooling solution for Electrical and Hybrid Vehicles
  38. Impacting on the Emerging Connected Car VaLuE Chains
  39. Innovative Platform for horizontal collaboration in Road freight transportation
  40. INteractive CHarging
  41. INteractive CHarging (2)
  43. Long Autonomy E-bike through enhanced Regenerative Braking
  44. Making CO2-free city logistics a reality
  45. Market maturation of the first on-board autonomous biofouling cleaning system to keep ship’s hull clean at all times
  46. Matrix Charging: Novel, automated charging infrastructure for electric vehicles
  47. MoveWise-Research project
  48. Navigator and global interface applications for visually impaired people using Galileo satellite technologies
  49. Next generation bicycle lights. Be visible, understood and expected by other vehicles, whatever the weather, angle and situation.
  50. Next-generation navigation technologies for autonomous vehicles
  51. Novel electric stair climber to break barriers in transport of disabled people and goods through a safe, quick and comfortable movement
  52. NOx-Mitigation Technology for Retrofitting Diesel Engines
  53. Optimizing Container Load for Parcel and Pallet Transport Networks
  54. Optimizing Logistic Fleets with Machine Learning to Enable Sustainable On-Demand Deliveries in Cities
  55. Rare Earth Free Innovative Truck Traction
  56. Runway independent automatic launch and landing system for civil UAV based on GroLaS
  57. Safe, fast-charging long-life Sodium-ion batteries for vehicles and power storage
  58. Smart & Autonomous Guidance System for Citizen Security in Public Transport and large facilities
  59. Smart modular passive cool boxes for sustainable logistics
  60. SmartCharge: Smart integrated circuits for advanced battery management
  61. Technology for 2G biofuel and biosolvents production verified in a pilot plant
  62. The cleanest and lowest cost car ever!
  63. The definitive 100% energy autonomous, CO2-free and recyclable last mile solution
  64. The definitive solution to prevent fuel theft in road goods transport
  65. The mobility assistant for the blind and visually impaired
  66. The most accurate 3D scanner for boosting the uptake of automated guided vehicles (AGVs)
  67. The on-board railway track & vehicle monitoring system
  68. Turning manure into fuel: a container based LBG plant for small to medium scale farms
  69. VELLO BIKE+ Connected Multimodal Commuting for Greener Cities
  70. World's first real-time solution for controlling airplane operating costs
Contact Organisation: 

European Commission

Rue de la Loi 170
1040 Brussels