The University of Aberdeen has a strong interest in helping SMEs (Small to Medium-size Enterprises) on its radar to apply for funding for innovation projects from Horizon 2020, the new financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. The information below is directed to SMEs interested in reaching for this type of funding/projects.

What is H2020?

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract.

Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament have agreed that research is an investment in our future and so put it at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve this with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

Role of SMEs

The EU, aware that they constitute the backbone of the European economy and account for more than 98% of all enterprises, 67% of employment and 58% of gross value added (GVA), wants to support SMEs through H2020 by providing both direct financial support, and indirect support to increase their innovation capacity (see the report here). The objective of 'Innovation in SMEs' under the programme “Industrial leadership” is to create a bridge between the core of the framework programme—support to research, development and innovation projects—and the creation of a favourable ecosystem for SME innovation and growth. €616m have been assigned for this action (0.80% of the total Horizon 2020 budget, see here).

Horizon 2020 expects to attract SMEs which hitherto were not eligible for support partly through awareness-raising activities across Europe. The full work programme can be downloaded here.

Role of Universities

The H2020 Innovation Voucher Scheme is aimed at supporting Scottish based SMEs to explore the opportunities of H2020 funding and apply for particular schemes or calls under it, with the assistance of a Scottish Higher Education Institution (HEI). A successful engagement through an Innovation Voucher should lead to applications for H2020 funding that will benefit the business and the Scottish economy. In this sense the vouchers are seen as an initial step on the “journey of engagement” for the business to access H2020 funds.

The successful track record of Scotland’s HEI in applying for funding from previous European Framework Programmes anticipates that the business applicant will benefit from the experience of partner HEIs. Collaboration in the exploration and application process will result in greater participation by SMEs and encourage a longer, sustained relationship rather than just offsetting the costs of the business purchasing a service from a HEI.


How to apply?

Applications for H2020 Innovation Vouchers are managed in Scotland through Interface. They have produced a guidance document for SMEs.

You can download the application form here.


To manage the implementation of some of its funding programmes, the European Commission has set up an Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), which has started operating in January 2014 (see the EC resolution here). EASME builds on the current Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation, and will manage parts of the following programmes:

  • Programme for the Competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs (COSME)
  • The SME instrument within the Horizon 2020 programme (Industrial Leadership)
  • The Energy and Climate societal challenges within Horizon 2020
  • Programme for Environment and Climate action (LIFE)
  • European Maritime Fisheries Fund, including Integrated Maritime Policy

Dr Miguel Rey, Research & Innovation

Email: Miguel Rey

Tel: 01224 274157