October 19, 2021

Joint Cluster Initiatives (Euroclusters) For Europe's Recovery - SMP-COSME-2021-CLUSTER-01

Main purpose: The EU aims to enhance the resilience of the European single market. One strategy it utilises to achieve this, is by connecting all industrial players active in a certain industrial ecosystem by means of cluster organisations that function as bridge-builders, change agents and multipliers between the various actors in the industry, and aim to develop and implement supporting measures for organisations in and beyond the respective industrial ecosystems.

This EU funding opportunity offers grants to establish cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and trans-European strategic partnerships between such cluster organisations and related organisations, such as the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, the Enterprise Europe Network, the European Digital Innovation Hubs and other types of organisations and networks supporting the green and digital transition and building social and economic resilience. The EU, and thus this call for proposals, refers to these partnerships as “Euroclusters”.

Because the European single market is characterised by 14 different industrial ecosystems, this funding opportunity is dived into strands. One of these strands explicitly covers the industrial ecosystem of the “proximity & social economy” and is therefore relevant to the EVPA community.

Proposals must aim to achieve all of the following objectives, and focus on at least one objective:

  1. Network for resilience to improve the resilience of the EU industrial ecosystems by developing value chains interlinkages in the EU Single Market;
  2. Innovate for strategic autonomy to build capacity in the most critical supplies and technologies of their ecosystems;
  3. Adopt processes and technologies to reinforce transformation into a greener and more digital economy;
  4. Train to foster up- and re-skilling of the workforce whilst attracting talents;
  5. Go international to boost access to global supply and value chains.

etails of what is expected under each of these objectives is provided on pages 10 to 12 of the Call document.

To implement the above objectives, the following actions are mandatory:

  1. Design and build new collaboration models between European cluster organisations and other key actors facilitating value chain interlinkages along and across different industrial ecosystems with a view of having resilience preparedness/business continuity plans.
  2. Identify product innovations to reduce dependency on critical inputs and technologies in the Euroclusters’ value chains with a view to introducing new-to-firm products or services.
  3. Foster the implementation of business process innovations tied to the adoption of technologies that help SMEs meet requirements for their successful green and digital transitions.
  4. Build up the cluster managers’ skills to offer better services for up / re-skilling and attracting talents.
  5. Establish joint services for SMEs (e.g. trainings, courses, recruitment, job facilitation, etc.) for up / reskilling the workforce and talent management.
  6. Establish services that support international trade, investment and partnering opportunities for European SMEs to facilitate the signature of cooperation agreements between European entities (intermediaries and/or businesses) and entities in third countries.
  7. Communicate effectively about the work and results of the Eurocluster.

Suggested actions relating to each of the objectives are outlined on pages 13 to 18 of the Call document. Applicants are expected to implement several of these in addition to the 7 mandatory actions listed above.

At least 75% of the grant must be directed to SMEs to finance services in support of their greater resilience and green and digital transformation. For instance through vouchers for support services, prizes, boot camps, customized trainings, coaching, mentoring, investor pitching events, matchmaking, innovation clubs, peer-to-peer evaluation, dedicated business mentors with public and private capital expertise, organising online training courses, webinars, virtual matchmaking platforms and marketplaces, market replication, proof of concept, first client search, placement of post-graduate students, in-service training support, innovation management support, etc.

The remaining 25% of the grant shall be directed to joint activities between cluster organisations and other Eurocluster partners, to finance for instance, the design of support measures for SMEs, the coordination of actions and joint communication.

The Call document can be found here.

Programme: Single Market Programme

Institution: European Innovation Council & SMEs Executive Agency

Deadline: November 30, 2021

Budget: EUR 42,000,000 (Around 30 projects are expected to be funded and projects should last maximumly 36 months, but duly justified extensions are possible).

Financing type: Action grant

Who is eligible: Cluster organisations of representatives thereof, Single Market Programme (SMP) cluster networks, and other types of organisations that support the green and digital transitions and build EU resilience.

For the purpose of this call, cluster organisations have to be understood as the legal entities that support the strengthening of collaboration, networking and learning in innovation clusters and act as innovation support providers by providing or channelling specialised and customised business support services to stimulate innovation activities, especially in SMEs. They are usually the actors that facilitate strategic partnering across clusters.

Associations and interest groupings composed of members may participate as “sole beneficiaries” or “beneficiaries without legal personality”. All other entities must apply in consortia of at least 3 cluster organisations/networks, stemming from 3 different member-states. Moreover, the consortium must include at least one partner established in a less advanced region of an EU Member-state.

Other entities may participate in other consortium-roles, such as associated partners, subcontractors, third parties giving in-kind contributions, etc.

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