1. General Overview of the Call for Proposals 1.1 Introduction and background
European small and medium-sized enterprises (EU SMEs) are crucial to the European economy as they represent over 99 % of all European enterprises and provide 67 % of total employment in Europe. Innovation plays a key role in EU SMEs’ businesses, and intellectual property rights are a vital tool in promoting this innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the competitive position of SMEs across Europe. The vision of the EUIPO Strategic Plan, SP2025, focuses on making the IP system work for businesses, in particular SMEs, in alignment with the European Commission’s Industrial Strategy Policy.
To strengthen EU SMEs’ competitiveness in the EU market, the European Commission is carrying out a series of actions within the framework of the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME). In this framework, as approved by the EUIPO governing Bodies in November 2020, the EUIPO is implementing an action to help EU SMEs to manage their IP assets under the ‘Ideas powered for business SME FUND’, within the post-COVID-19 recovery action plan for EU SMEs. The SME Fund - IP vouchers has a budget of EUR 20 million jointly funded by the EUIPO and the European Commission and will be implemented in 2021 through the awarding of grants to SMEs.
1.2 Objectives and priorities
The objective of this action is to financially support EU SMEs that either wish to receive an IP pre-diagnostic service (‘IP scan’) through the European IP offices offering such a service or to directly protect their trade marks and designs, through the national, regional and/or EU IP systems.
Therefore, the SME Fund will co-finance two types of services: ➢ service 1: IP pre-diagnostic service (‘IP scan’);
➢ service 2: trade marks and designs basic application fees. The action is expected to have the following benefits:
economic support to SMEs during the COVID-19 pandemic;
increased awareness of Intellectual Property rights (IPR) benefits by EU SMEs;
competitive advantage due to better management of intangible assets, through
increased registration of intellectual property assets of EU SMEs;
promotion of national and EU IP registration systems;
promotion of the European Union’s objective of supporting the EU economic
Call for proposals GR/001/21
Guidelines for applicants Page 3 of 18
1.3 Targeted action
The targeted action covers the following services:
• Service 1 – IP pre-diagnostic services (‘IP scan’)
IP pre-diagnostic services are key in building SMEs’ IP strategy as a business. Intellectual property experts look at SMEs business model, products and/or services and growth plans to formulate a strategy with them.
This service can help SMEs to decide what IP rights to apply for, how to develop their IP portfolio if they already have registered rights, and how to plan their strategy for the future.
IP pre-diagnostic services under this scheme are only available through participating national and regional IP offices of the EU. Before applying, SMEs should check wether the service is offered in the Member State where they are established.
The IP pre-diagnostic service may consist of the following steps.
- Initial analysis: the EU SME will complete a self-assessment survey. The expert will analyse the competitive environment of the EU SME and their survey responses to gain an initial understanding of the beneficiary’s IP situation.
- Visit and interview: the expert will visit the EU SME and conduct an in-depth interview, using a questionnaire as a guide, which should last 2 to 4 hours. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online means of communication might be used.
- Final results: the expert will submit a report to the EU SME either in person or via video/teleconference.
• Service 2 – trade mark and design application fees
Trade marks and designs can be applied for at one of the national intellectual property offices of the EU (national level), in the Benelux Office of Intellectual Property (covering Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg; regional level), or with the EUIPO (covering all the Member States of the EU). This should be done preferably online.
The territorial level of protection chosen will obviously depend on the business strategy and the growth plans. Several trade marks and designs can be indicated in the request.
In the event that a trade mark and/or design is owned by two or more SMEs, only one of them may apply for a grant as an applicant and be reimbursed.
1.4 Available budget
The total budget available for the co-financing of actions under this call for proposals is estimated at EUR 20 000 000.
Each candidate can request the co-financing of costs of services within the limits provided in the following table:
TYPE OF ACTION Service 1 – IPPD
SERVICE LIMITS PER SME
1 IP pre-diagnostic service
CO-FINANCING LIMIT PER ACTION
MAXIMUM GRANT PER SME
EUR 1 500
TYPE OF ACTION Service 2 – IPR
SERVICE LIMITS PER SME
1 request for one or several trade marks and/or designs
CO-FINANCING LIMIT PER ACTION
MAXIMUM GRANT PER SME
EUR 1 500
The total amount which can be granted to any single SME is limited to EUR 1 500, regardless of the type of actions requested.
The remaining 25 % and/or 50 % has to be co-funded by the applicants – for instance the SME’s own resources.
The Office reserves the right not to distribute all available funds.
Budget available per window
4 000 000
Deadline for submission of applications
An indicative budget to be awarded per window is indicated – if all the funds are not used for a specific window, these may be carried over to later windows.
On the other hand, if all the funds are used before the end of the deadline of a specific submissions window, the online application system will be closed for that window.
Applicants who find the system closed within a specific window, can make an application when the subsequent submissions window opens.
In the event that budget is still available at the end date of the last submissions window, the Office reserves the right to open an additional submissions window.
In any of the above scenarios, detailed information will be published on the SME FUND webpage to ensure that all applicants are treated fairly and have access to the same information.
1.6 Submission rules
An applicant may only submit one application in any given submissions window for service 1 or service 2 or combination of both. Applicants may only request each service once (for instance an applicant may not request a trade mark application as service 2, and then in a subsequent submissions window request a design application as service 2).
In case that more than one application is submitted by an applicant during a submissions window, only the first application that was submitted will be taken into consideration. All subsequent applications submitted in the same submissions window will automatically be considered non-admissible.
In a future submissions window, an applicant may only apply for the service not awarded in the previous submissions window (i.e. an applicant having be awarded service 1 in a window may only apply for service 2 in a subsequent window) otherwise the application will automatically be considered non-admissible.
Applicants rejected for a specific call for proposals submissions window may apply to a subsequent submissions window.
Applications which are submitted on time and fulfil the requirements presented in this call for proposals document do not necessarily entitle the applicant to be granted any of the support actions sought. All applications are subject to further review and to the overall availability of funds.
2. Procedure for the Selection of Proposals
The Office (EUIPO) is responsible for the evaluation and selection of proposals submitted under this call for proposals.
The evaluation process is based on the following key principles:
✓ equal treatment – all proposals are evaluated in the same manner against the same criteria, and;
✓ transparency – adequate feedback is provided to applicants on the outcome of the evaluation of their proposals.
Proposals must meet the admissibility requirements, as well as the eligibility, exclusion and selection criteria and will be evaluated on the basis of the award criteria defined below.
2.1 Admissibility requirements
Once a proposal is submitted, the applicant is informed by email that the proposal was successfully received. However, this acknowledgement of receipt does not mean that the proposal is admissible but only that the proposal was successfully submitted in the system.
All proposals submitted are first checked for compliance with these admissibility requirements:
only applications using the electronic application form (eForm) will be considered admissible;
only applications submitted within the submissions window deadline for submitting applications (as referred to in Section 5 – Timetable) will be considered admissible;
in case that more than one application is submitted by an applicant in a given submissions window, only the first application that was submitted will be taken into consideration and all subsequent applications submitted in the same submissions window will automatically be considered non-admissible;
in a future window, an applicant may only apply for the service not already awarded (i.e. an applicant having be awarded service 1 in a submissions window may only apply to service 2 in a subsequent submissions window) otherwise the application will automatically be considered non-admissible.
Proposals which do not meet any of the abovementioned requirements will be rejected and the concerned applicants will be duly informed about the ground(s) for rejection.
2.2 Eligibility, exclusion and selection criteria of the applicant Each admissible proposal is assessed against the following criteria.
2.2.1 Eligibility criteria
To be eligible, applicants must be small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as defined
in the EU recommendation 2003/361 established in the EU Member States.
The EU Taxation and Customs Union website will be consulted for each applicant in order
to check that the VAT number provided is valid for transactions within the EU.
2.2.2 Exclusion criteria
Applicants in certain situations will be excluded from the procedure (e.g. applicants that are bankrupt or are being wound up, or applicants guilty of grave professional misconduct etc.).
These criteria are in Article 136(1) a to h of the Financial Regulation and are described in the declaration in annex of the present guidelines. Applicants need to certify in the eForm that they are not in one of the situations of exclusion referred therein.
The EU’s Early Detection and Exclusion System may be consulted for each applicant.
2.2.3 Selection criteria
Applicants must have the capacity to complete the proposed action(s) and to maintain their activity throughout the duration of the grant.
The above criteria (eligibility, exclusion and selection) will be checked on the basis of a self-declaration and appropriate supporting documentation as follows.
Applicants will be requested to declare that they have read the declaration of honour annexed to the call for proposals and certify that:
- the applicant is fully eligible and has the capacity in accordance with the criteria set out in the call for proposals;
- the applicant is not in one of the situations of exclusion set out therein.
In addition, applicants will be requested to provide a recent VAT certificate issued by their competent national authority demonstrating the legal existence of their company.
The Office reserves the right to request further documentation to prove the veracity of this declaration. Administrative sanctions may be imposed on applicants if any of the declarations or information provided as a condition for participating in this procedure proves to be false.
In case any further clarifications are needed, applicants may be contacted during the evaluation process.
Proposals which do not meet the eligibility, exclusion and selection criteria laid down in the call for proposals will be rejected, and applicants will be duly informed about the ground(s) for rejection.
2.3 Eligibility of the action(s)
Only the action(s) below as described in section 3 (targeted actions) are eligible:
➢ service1: IP pre-diagnostic (‘IP scan’);
➢ service 2: trade marks and designs basic application fees to be applied for before
the EUIPO, the Benelux IP Office and/or in the IP office of any Member State of the EU.
Further eligibility criteria in relation to the implementation period are set as follows.
− Action(s) will run starting on the first day following the date of its notification (grant decision signed by the Office) to the selected applicants (‘the starting date’). Action(s) already requested or completed before the starting date will be considered ineligible.
− Action(s) will be considered eligible only if the service(s) are requested within 30 calendar days following the starting date of the action (notification of the grant decision signed by the Office). Action(s) requested outside this period will be considered ineligible.
− Action(s) will end on 31/12/2021 (‘the ending date’). Service(s) must be requested and implemented at the latest by that date. Service(s) not implemented before this date will be considered ineligible.
2.4 Award criteria and final checks on applications
During the final selection process, the following aspects will be first checked.
Any identified/identifiable risks of double-funding from other National or Union sources.
This requirement is fulfilled only if applicants tick the appropriate boxes in the online application form (eForm) indicating they have not applied for or received any national or EU funding for the same services or part of the services requested in this form. If double funding is detected, the proposal will be rejected.
Acceptance of an application by the Office does not constitute an undertaking to award a grant equal to the amount requested by the applicant. Under no circumstances may the amount requested exceed the maximum amount of EUR 1 500.
In the event of separate applications, the amount requested will be checked against the amount already awarded for the previous service to ensure the maximum amount of EUR 1 500 is not exceeded.
Then applications will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria.
2.5 First come, first served basis.
The proposed action(s) must conform to the set objectives and priorities of the call, and applications received first will be given priority, as recognition of the motivation and speed of purpose of the applicants. Please note that the budget for each window is limited. Proposals will be funded in chronological order based on the time of application (registration number) until the budget is exhausted.
Final Selection Process
A committee composed of representatives from the EUIPO will assess the outcome of the evaluation and draw up lists of proposals recommended for funding and not recommended for funding.
The selection decision is then adopted, listing all proposals selected for funding, the respective maximum amounts of funding per action(s) and the beneficiaries of the grant.
Applicants whose proposals are selected for funding will receive a grant decision signed by the Office. The model grant decision is published on the Ideas powered for business SME FUND webpage.
The model grant decision is not negotiable. Applicants are requested to carefully read the model, especially the general conditions, before submitting a proposal.
Applicants rejected for a specific call for proposals window for submissions can apply to a subsequent submissions window, until there are no more submission windows left.