I4MS Open Calls: A mechanism to support SMEs in their digital transformation
What is an Open Call?
An open call is a transparent and fair system that distributes (mostly) public funding to beneficiaries which are, but not exclusively: start-ups, scale-ups, SMEs and mid-caps in order to help them test and uptake new technologies.
In the case of I4MS, these are sub-grants, which are managed and paid by a consortium of partners (Innovation Actions) that act as an intermediary between the European Commission and the grant recipients (third parties).
Open calls are light, quick and user-friendly application processes.
|These applications are no more than 10 pages in length and are designed in a way to make the funding application process as swift as possible.
|The experiment usually should be developed between 6 and 10 months.
|The support programme includes services which can be allocated to specific kinds of activities, from studies, to experiments, pilots, developments, etc.
I4MS phase 4 has a total of 8 Innovation Actions focused on different technologies, as shown in the figure below, and each one defines their own criteria for applicants as well as the launching and closing dates to submit their proposals.
These 8 Innovation Actions have launched a total of 9 Open Calls, having facilitated almost 7 million euros in direct financial support. Any manufacturing SMEs in Europe can fully benefit from digital innovations to upgrade their products, improve their processes and test new technologies.
In I4MS, proposals that receive support from Innovation Actions are called Application Experiments.
I4MS Innovation Actions have already provided numerous successes funding for over 390 Application Experiments, 280 implemented in Phase 1 & 2 [Source: I4MS Phase 2 Brochure, Sept.17] and 112 for Phase 3 [Source: I4MS Phase 3 Brochure, Sept.2019] and it is expected this number will reach an approximate of 600 by the end of Phase 4.
I4MS4Ts did a short survey among the phase 4 Innovation Action and a quick overview of the open calls shows that till September 2022, over 430 proposals were submitted and 120 were selected as Application Experiments. This proves that there is interest from small companies in EU funds.
In some cases, Application Experiments are performed by a consortium formed by combinations of manufacturing end users, tech providers, Digital Innovation Hub and artists, as is the case of BetterFactory.
The results of the survey show us a trend. Where the majority of applications come from Spain and Italy, while some of the underrepresented countries such as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Malta, Poland and Slovakia have a low percentage of participation.
Total number of applications submitted per country
Total number of applications selected per country
Low participation does not necessarily mean low interest, information may not even reach SMEs in these underrepresented countries. A key player here is the Digital Innovation Hub, which as a regional entity can “speak” the SMEs´ language and support and encourage them to participate in European Open Calls.
So far over 100 SMEs have received support in the first calls opened by I4MS and this number is expected to double by the end of Phase 4.
European Union-funded projects are about putting Europe in a leading position in innovation. It is about connecting the talent and capabilities across Europe to achieve this goal. Open calls are exactly for that.
I4MS will continue to support the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector in Europe and focus on reaching as many SMEs as possible.
Stay tuned and informed about all the funding opportunities right here.