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European SME innovation Associate - pilot
Deadline: Jun 30, 2016  

 Entrepreneurship and SMEs
 Capacity Building
 Horizon Europe
 Business Management

Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

The lack of access to skills, to latest knowledge and capacity to manage innovation processes effectively, have been identified as major barriers for innovation in SMEs. Individual SMEs are at a disadvantage to recruit specialised knowledge as they do not have the network Europe-wide and do not have as well-known brands as large enterprises. Enterprise-led mobility programmes, supporting enterprises in recruiting expertise, show a high level of satisfaction and return on investment. As this methodology is not currently used at European level, an enterprise-led approach is to be developed and tested through a pilot. This complements Marie Skłodowska Curie actions (MSCA) which focus on developing research careers, by providing additional work opportunities for experienced researchers in innovating SMEs.


This SME-led pilot is an innovation capacity building action to provide at European level a grant to visionary[[Vision: 'A statement about what the organisation wants to achieve in terms of innovation. The vision should set a direction and a challenge that can inspire persons to commit and work towards, be sufficiently ambitious and not constrained by the organisation's current abilities, provide a target against which progress can be measured.' See Innovation management standard CEN/TS 16555-1 (July 2013)]] SMEs which have experienced difficulty in recruiting the relevant skills nationally. SMEs are supported to employ a highly-skilled experienced researcher e.g an 'associate' for one year from September 2017. With their associate, these SMEs will explore for one year the potential of their innovative idea and turn it into an innovation project.

The action will consist of:

  • SMEs are encouraged to publish a vacancy notice for highly specialised skills on the EURAXESS portal and other relevant platforms and media. This shall liaise them with interested specialist and be used to assess the attractiveness of the proposed package and help in fine-tuning their application to the pilot. SMEs would indicate in the vacancy notice their intention to apply for support under the pilot action[[On EURAXESS, such vacancy notice will be in the form of a ‘call for expression of interest’ and will be made available both at the ‘Jobs & Funding’ section of the EURAXESS portal and its ‘Partnering’ one, which promotes the matching between EURAXESS users’ offer and demand of collaboration (in multiple forms). It will outline clearly the type of contract, and the employment package (salary and conditions, relocation support).]] and an eventual conditionality of the job offer to the award of a grant. SMEs are free to recruit immediately interested specialists; this would however prevent them from receiving a grant under the pilot action.
  • The evaluation will focus on the demonstrated benefits of recruiting transnationally i.e. the impact for the SME to get access to skills not available on the national labour market; the excellence and impact of the innovative idea, as well as the coherence and effectiveness of the recruitment plan.
  • Once awarded the grant, successful SMEs will be able to advertise their vacancy on EURAXESS and other relevant platforms and media, with clear indication that the pilot grant was awarded..

SMEs will employ for 12 months an associate to identify the potential of their innovation idea and turn it, or not, into a research or innovation project and hopefully further employment.

During these 12 months of employment, every associate is requested to participate in a core training programme on industrial innovation and business management[[See in 'Other actions']]. Also during that period, SMEs get financial support to implement a training and development plan specifically for the associate, tailored to the needs of the associate and the enterprise to make the associate fully operational in the company.

In line with the orientation of the action and with the aim to accelerate the integration of the associate in the company's staff, the following costs shall be eligible for reimbursement under the grant: personnel costs of the associate and cost directly related to company's and the associates participation in the pilot action: in particular relocation costs of the associate, travel subsistence costs to the core training programme and costs, including travel and subsistence) for tailored training (as described in the personal development plan). Other costs like recruitment costs or travel costs to action specific workshops by the supervisor in the enterprise would have to be covered under indirect costs.

It is intended to support up to 90 assignments from the indicative budget.

The following criteria will have to be met by the associate: i) PhD holder, ii) an expertise in line with the job advertisement; iii) transnational mobility as defined in the mobility rule of the Marie Slodowska Curie Actions (MSCA). [[Reference to the MSCA mobility rule will be provided at call opening.]]

The execution of the action will start on the starting date of the associates' employment, in September 2017 (exact date to be determined during the grant preparation phase). In case of non-execution, the Commission reserves the right to terminate the grant agreement according to article 50.3.1.l.ii of the General mono-beneficiary grant agreement for the Horizon 2020 programme.

The associates are expected to be offered employment contracts or equivalent by the hosting SMEs. It is expected that the 'associate' will commit him/herself for a full-time position, for the full duration of the grant.

To promote the pilot, innovating SMEs experiencing skills shortages will be contacted by the Enterprise Europe Network innovation consultants and assisted in formulating a vacancy notice to address the identified skills' shortages.

An accompanying study[[See in 'Other Actions']] will evaluate the impact of the pilot action and the satisfaction levels of awarded SMEs and associates as well as of a sample of non-awarded SMEs.

Expected Impact:

Demonstrate that

  • An idea can be transformed into an innovation strategy and a subsequent research and innovation projects once SMEs have access to the right skills;
  • Public intervention at European level, can support innovating SMEs to overcome challenges in accessing scarce skills through a transnational mobility mechanism, increase their innovation potential;
  • Experienced researchers develop appealing career opportunities in SMEs

Public link:   Only for registered users

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