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Support the establishment of European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International (ESCP-4i) - COSME-2016-CLUSTER-1A
Deadline: 23 May 2017   CALL EXPIRED

EU logo mono EC - EASME - COSME

 Clusters
 Entrepreneurship and SMEs
 COSME

Scope:

Strand 1.a 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. Applicants should propose preparatory actions that will contribute to establishing a "European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International"

Expected Impact:

The consortium members are expected to develop and submit 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. This way the cluster and business network collaboration will be intensified across European countries and also across sectoral boundaries and the establishment of European Strategic Cluster Partnerships will be supported in order 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.

 

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, hereinafter referred to as “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 partially the COSME Work Programme 2016 adopted on 18 January 20164 and amended on 14 July 20165.

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.

This action will contribute to fostering the development of 'European Strategic Cluster Partnerships – Going International' (ESCP-4i), i.e. European meta-clusters, with a view to help SMEs find easier access to global value chains and engage in long-term cooperation with strategic partners in third countries. This is a top priority for European actions as highlighted in the Commission Communication 'For a European Industrial Renaissance'6. This Communication identifies efforts to increase the internationalisation of SMEs and their integration into global value chains as a particular priority and acknowledges 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 Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change"7. 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 (...)".

This action contributes to implement the Cluster Internationalisation Programme for SMEs under COSME which 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 GROWTH). 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 the 2014 "Clusters Go International" call for proposals (COS-CLUSTER- 2014-3-03)8 that contributed to launch the first round of projects in January 2016 encouraging cluster organisations across Europe to establish '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. This 1st call for proposals has supported the establishment of up to 26 Partnerships (ESCP-4i)9 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, agrifood, 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.

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 

450 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 web- based platform 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 platform for their Partnership to be promoted and disseminated via the platform;

 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. Five international cluster matchmaking events10 were organised in 2016 including with third countries (e.g. USA at Hannover Messe, Taiwan at Computex and the European Innovation Week, Iran in the context of the EU Economic Mission led by the EU Commissioner Bienkowska, Mexico at Green Expo in Mexico City, Brazil at Pollutec in Lyon) and one European event in Brussels in conjunction with the 2016 European Cluster Conference11. Further cluster matchmaking events will be organised in

2017 and 2018 by the ECCP and Commission services. 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 a first Cooperation Arrangement on Clusters was signed between DG GROWTH and the US Department of Commerce (DOC) in April 2015 in Washington, D.C. in parallel to the 6th US-EU SME Workshop organised in the framework of the Transatlantic Economic Council. 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 current and forthcoming actions funded by the Partnership Instrument (FPI)12, 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 'Low Carbon Business Action in Brazil and Mexico' (LCBA)13.

The LCBA aims to establish Cooperation Partnerships Agreements between EU businesses and Brazilian and Mexican businesses to support commercially viable projects promoting the take-up of low carbon technologies. The implementation of LCBA phase 1 started in the second half of 2015, involved the participation of clusters and contributed to provide a mapping of the current situation in the green economy sector in Brazil and Mexico and to organise a series of businesses matchmaking events between Brazil/Mexican and European SMEs. This shall lead to signing Cooperation Partnership Agreements (CPAs) that should develop into concrete projects with

technical assistance provided by phase 2 of the LCBA. LCBA will thus effectively contribute to the exchange and uptake of low emission technology through industrial cooperation between companies in Brazil/Mexico and the European Union (EU) in the common effort to address the global challenge of climate change.

The general context above applies to all phases' and strands' applications. Furthermore Strand 1.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 1.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 programme14, 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.

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".15

According to the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC), more than 95% of the EU downstream sector is composed of SMEs16. 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 economy17. 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 traditional 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 Europe18 adopted on 26 October 2016 highlighted the Commission's intention to further support space business internationalisation by mobilising existing instruments to help European companies, particularly clusters and networks of SMEs, access international markets. Strand 1.b is intended to contribute to this objective.

 

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”19. 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 activities20.

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 request to the European Cluster

Collaboration Platform21 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, notably 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 applicant consortia that fulfil the ESCP-4i characteristics as defined above and express their interest and commitment in developing them by signing a "ESCP-4i" Charter22 which commits the Partnership members to comply with the above principles.

The "ESCP-4i" label will be awarded to all eligible and successful consortia, including non-funded proposals put on the reserve list of this call for proposals after the evaluation. All currently labelled ESCP-4is, except those already funded under Strand 2 (implementation phase) of the 2014-2015  "Cluster Go International" call23, are invited to apply to this call for proposals to renew their label. Unsuccessful applicants (not funded or not put on a reserve list) which were previously labelled will lose their label.

The non-EU funded "ESCP-4is" will therefore still benefit from visibility and dissemination support about their activities and results through the European Cluster Collaboration Platform for a duration of two years. They will also be invited to participate in European events promoting learning and cross-fertilisation between the Partnerships. They will equally be invited to participate in international cluster matchmaking events organised in European and third countries by the European Commission services and EASME, with up to half of the seats available for these missions reserved for ESCP-4is members.

The present call for proposals is targeting actions for two phases, divided in three Strands.

Applicant consortia can submit proposals for one Strand only and applicant organisations can be part of maximum one consortium per Phase.

Preparatory phase

 Strand 1.a 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, except the one targeted in Strand 1.b.

˗ Strand 1.b will support the establishment of European Strategic Cluster Partnership – Going International (ESCP-4i) specifically for clusters involved in earth observation (EO) applications. Applicants under Strand 1.b are encouraged to build on the cross- sectorial dimension of the EO downstream market and on the diversity of application domains, in particular by involving different clusters and business network organisations engaged in the EO value-chain.

Implementation phase

˗ Strand 2 will support the initial implementation, testing and further development of European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International (ESCP-4i) including those labelled "ESCP-4i" through the previous 'Cluster Go International' call COS-Cluster-2014- 3-03 (except those already funded under the Strand 2 of the 2014 call 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.

Sustainability of Partnerships (ESCP-4i) names and acronyms: whereas the Partnerships' name and acronym used in the context of the Strand 1 (Preparatory phase) of the previous "Cluster Go International" action 2014-2015 can be re-used for external communication purposes in the development of actions under an 'Implementation phase' to ensure the continuity of the branding

and visibility strategy of the Partnerships, they will have to be slightly changed for application and grant management purposes. As regards the "Voluntary" Partnerships (ESCP-4i) not funded but labelled by DG GROWTH of the European Commission following the 2014 "Cluster Go International" call for proposals, they can re-use the same name and acronym for their proposal.

2.2. Description of the eligible activities

Preparatory phase (Strands 1.a and 1.b )

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' are:

  •   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)24. 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.

  •   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' can include the following (non-exhaustive list):

  • 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 trends25 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 (Strands 1.a and 1.b)

The consortium members are expected to develop and submit 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.

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 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 fostering a sustainable Partnership, notably beyond the lifetime of a possible project funded under COSME. In particular, it must indicate which additional public-private co-financing is envisaged to be mobilised for the development of the international plan during a possible project funded under COSME and beyond. It must 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 note 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 members26.

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)27 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 (incl. 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 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)

Strand 2 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 two third countries (i.e. non-COSME participating countries) or world regions and initiating business partnerships for European SMEs in each target market.

Mandatory actions under Strand 2 are:

  •  Development and signing of cooperation agreements both at intermediary organisations level and business level with international partners in each target market. This must include the signing of:
    • (a) cooperation agreements between the Partnership and international business and/or research intermediaries (incl. cluster or business network organisations, academia, technology centres and research or economic development organisations) in each target country and 
    • (b) business partnership 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, eventually leading to increase exports, investment opportunities and international ventures generating employment for European businesses;
  •   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)29. 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.
  •   Preparation of an exit strategy for the Partnership with a long-term cooperation agenda by involving the different relevant stakeholders (eg. local, regional or national public authorities) with the aim to foster the Partnership sustainability, notably beyond the lifetime of the project funded under COSME;
  •   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 Strand 2 (Implementation phase) 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 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 can allocate a budget, within the scope of Strand 2 projects and without relying on additional COSME funding, 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):

  •  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 partnership 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 partnership 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 'Preparatory phase' and the 'Implementation phase' will be assessed, as a minimum, against the following performance indicators:

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

  •   Number of Partnership agreements resulting from the supported actions;

  •   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 projects,

  •   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;

  •   Impact of the supported actions in terms of number of resulting cooperation projects between international cluster and business network partners.

    Projects must report on these indicators, but applicants should also propose further performance indicators to be integrated into their monitoring plan, which will be discussed and adjusted to each strand activities upon discussion with EASME and the Commission services at the beginning of the project.

 

 

3. TIMETABLE

a) Deadline for submitting applications

23/05/2017, 17:00 h Brussels time

 

b) Evaluation period*

June and July 2017

 

c) Information to applicants*

July-August 2017

 

d) Signature of grant agreements*

November 2017

 

e) Starting date of the action*

November-December 2017

 

4. BUDGET AVAILABLE AND FUNDING OF PROJECTS

The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects is estimated at EUR 5.790.000 divided as follows:

  •   For Strand 1.b: EUR 400,000 and

  •   For Strands 1.a and 2: EUR 5,390,000.
    The maximum grant per project will be EUR 200,000 per project for Strands 1.a and 1.b. The

    maximum grant per project for Strand 2 will be EUR 448,750.

    EASME expects to fund two proposals for Strand 1.b, nine proposals for Strand 1.a and eight proposals for Strand 2.

    If there are no sufficient proposals passing the overall and individual thresholds of the award criteria in Strand 1.b, the budget allocated can be used to fund proposals in reserve lists in Strand 1.a or Strand 2. EASME also reserves the right to readjust the estimated budget between Strands 1.a and 2.

    The grant is limited to a maximum reimbursement rate of 75% 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.
    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:

 Established in EU Member States and countries participating in the COSME programme pursuant Article 6 of the COSME Regulation30, according to the specific provisions applicable to each Strand as described in section 6.2;

 forming a consortium;

 all representing a cluster organisation or a business network organisation involved in supporting the enhancement of collaboration, networking and learning in innovation clusters and providing or channelling specialised and customised businesses support services to stimulate innovation activities, especially in SMEs, in compliance with the coverage of innovation clusters given in the section 1.2 (e), 1.3 (s) and Annex I in the “EU Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation” 31;

 registered or planned to be registered on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP).

Applicant organisations must be independent legal entities. They can be fully or partly public or private bodies; private bodies must be properly constituted and registered under national law.

Affiliated entities, 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.

In addition, for Stand 1:

 Eligible applicants under Strand 1.b are cluster and business network organisations involved in the development and provision of downstream applications and services building on earth observation (EO) data, such as geo-information services, value-added

applications based partly or fully on earth observation data and information, or relevant information and communication technologies and applications. Applicant consortia may also include cluster organisations or business network organisations from specific application domains (e.g. agriculture, energy, environment, transport, health, insurance, tourism, etc.)32.

For the purpose of assessing their eligibility, applicants have to submit:

  1. A description of each cluster organisation or business network organisation involved as a partner in the project demonstrating that it is involved in supporting the enhancement of collaboration, networking and learning in innovation clusters and providing or channelling specialised and customised businesses support services to stimulate innovation activities, especially in SMEs, in compliance with the coverage of innovation clusters given in the section 1.2 (e), 1.3 (s) and Annex I in the “EU Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation” 33;
  2. A link to the complete cluster profile of each applicant registered on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP)34 or a declaration on their honour that a cluster profile has been submitted to the ECCP for those planned to be registered on it.

6.2. Eligible consortia

Applicant organisations must form consortia composed of at least three different cluster or business network organisations.

For all Strands consortia must be composed of at least three legal entities established in three different COSME participating countries, among which at least two EU Members States.

6.3 Implementation period
The project duration must be between 12 and 24 months.

Applications for projects scheduled to run for less than 12 months will not be accepted.

Applications for projects under the 'Preparatory phase' scheduled to run for more than 24 months will not be accepted.

Applications for projects under the 'Implementation phase' scheduled to run for a longer period than 24 months can be considered based on duly justified arguments.

6.4 Other conditions

Applicant consortia in Strand 2 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.

It has to be noted that ESCP-4is 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-4is must be fully in line with the EU sanction policy and its restrictive

measures in force35. In particular, ESCP-4is 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-4is 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. only strand 1.a, 1.b or 2, and eligible organisations can be part of maximum one applicant consortium for each phase.

Applicant consortia eligible to apply under strand 1.b are not eligible to apply to strand 1.a.

Applicant consortia must verify that their members are not part of another application under the same phase and not part of more than one application under the other phase.

Applicant consortia currently funded under Strand 2 (Implementation phase) of the 2014 call for proposal 'Cluster Go International' (COS-CLUSTER-2014-3-03) pursuing the same or related objectives are not eligible to this call.

 

7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA

7.1. Exclusion from participation:

Applicants will be excluded from participating in the call for proposals procedure if they are in any of the following situations:

  1. (a)  they are bankrupt or being wound up, are having their affairs administered by the courts, have entered into an arrangement with creditors, have suspended business activities, are the subject of proceedings concerning those matters, or are in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for in national legislation or regulations;

  2. (b)  they or persons having powers of representation, decision making or control over them have been convicted of an offence concerning their professional conduct by a judgment of a competent authority of a Member State which has the force of res judicata;

  3. (c)  they have been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authority can justify including by decisions of the EIB and international organisations;

  4. (d)  they are not in compliance with their obligations relating to the payment of social security contributions or the payment of taxes in accordance with the legal provisions of the country in which they are established or with those of the country of the RAO or those of the country where the grant agreement is to be performed;

  5. (e)  they or persons having powers of representation, decision making or control over them have been the subject of a judgment which has the force of res judicata for fraud, corruption, involvement in a criminal organisation, money laundering or any other illegal activity, where such an illegal activity is detrimental to the Union's financial interests;

  6. (f)  they are currently subject to an administrative penalty referred to in Article 109(1) of the Financial Regulation.

 

7.2. Exclusion from award:

Applicants will not be granted financial assistance if, in the course of the grant award procedure, they:

  1. (a)  are subject to a conflict of interest;

  2. (b)  are guilty of misrepresentation in supplying the information required by the Commission as a condition of participation in the grant award procedure or fail to supply this information;

  3. (c)  find themselves in one of the situations of exclusion, referred to in section 7.1.

The same exclusion criteria apply to affiliated entities.

Administrative and financial penalties may be imposed on applicants, or affiliated entities where applicable, who are guilty of misrepresentation.

7.3. Supporting documents

When submitting an application the coordinator will sign a declaration on honour stating that the applicants are not in one of the situations of exclusion mentioned in Article 106(1) and 107 of the Financial Regulation detailed in the application form.

 

8. SELECTION CRITERIA

8.1. Financial capacity

Applicants must have stable and sufficient sources of funding to maintain their activity throughout the period during which the action is being carried out or the year for which the grant is awarded and to participate in its funding. The applicants' financial capacity will be assessed on the basis of the following supporting documents:

  1. a)  Low value grants (≤ EUR 60 000): - a declaration on their honour.

  2. b)  Grants ≥ EUR 60 000:
    - a declaration on their honour and, EITHER

     the profit and loss account, the balance sheet for the last financial year for which the accounts were closed;

     for newly created entities, the business plan might replace the above documents. OR

     the table provided for in the application form, filled in with the relevant statutory accounting figures, in order to calculate the ratios as detailed in the form.

In the event of an application grouping several applicants (consortium), the above thresholds apply by applicants.

The above-listed documents will have to be provided at later stage, via the electronic submission tool and only upon request of EASME.

 

On the basis of the documents submitted, if the RAO considers that financial capacity is not satisfactory, he may:

  1. request further information;
  2. propose a grant agreement without pre-financing;
  3. propose a grant agreement with a pre-financing paid in instalments;
  4. propose a grant agreement with a pre-financing covered by a bank guarantee (see section 12.4 below);
  5. where applicable, require the joint and several financial liability of all the co-beneficiaries;
  6. reject the application.

8.2.Operational capacity

Applicants must have the professional competencies as well as appropriate qualifications necessary to complete the proposed action.

In this respect, applicants have to submit the following supporting documents:

  •   a declaration on their honour accompanying the proposal as an annex per partner where they can confirm their involvement in supporting the enhancement of collaboration, networking and learning in innovation clusters and providing or channelling specialised and customised businesses support services to stimulate innovation activities, especially in SMEs, in compliance with the coverage of innovation clusters given in the section 1.2 (e), 1.3 (s) and Annex I in the “EU Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation”37.

  •   a list containing the description of previous projects and activities performed in the cluster area and connected to the policy field of the strand to which the consortium applies, aimed notably at promoting cluster cooperation within or beyond Europe or to the actions to be carried out, including projects and activities supported under COSME or through European regional or research funding as, for instance, under the European Territorial Cooperation Regulation (INTERREG) and the European Structural and Cohesion Fund and the Horizon 2020 or 7th Research and Innovation Framework Programme (FP7).

Consortia must assign to the project at least three highly qualified experts primarily responsible for managing and implementing the proposed action with at least three years of experience each in running cluster or business networks activities. The curricula vitae of the three persons must be submitted with the application.

 

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