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If, for an SME, participating in a European project call for tenders under the Horizon 2020 programme also means having to deal with European bureaucratic machinery, there is another simpler and more attractive mechanism for companies, set up by the European Commission: the cascading grants.

Concretely, these are sub-grants, which are managed and paid by the beneficiaries of the initial funding. Thus, calls for proposals and funding decisions are no longer the responsibility of the European Commission, but of the academic and industrial organisations leading the project.

It is up to them to publish their own calls for proposals, commonly known as “Open Calls”, in order to attract specific groups of potential beneficiaries, in particular start-ups and SMEs. The amount of grants awarded then ranges from 50,000 to 200,000 euros for each of the selected third parties.

Simplified application form

“This mechanism is not necessarily known by companies, but it is nevertheless interesting, because it allows small structures to be integrated into projects that are basically too big for them,”

summarizes Géraud Guilloud, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation.

The advantage of these calls for applications is that they are less voluminous (about ten pages on average) and evaluation times are shorter. “A start-up or an SME that wants to respond to such calls has its risk-taking financed,” says Mr Guilloud.

The vast majority of this cascade grant covers digital themes – particularly around Industry 4.0 – and nanomaterials.

Grouped initiatives

GeraudGuilloudOne of the major difficulties for companies is to keep themselves informed of the publication of these calls, which all have different eligibility conditions and timetables on all digital areas (HPC, AI, cloud, software, hardware, AR/VR, 5G…). There is a platform that identifies them, but it is not necessarily easy to find your way around. The European funding team at Luxinnovation can help you find your way through this complex ecosystem.

However, many calls are grouped into separate initiatives: I4MS (ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SME) for the digitalisation of manufacturing processes; NGI (Next Generation Internet) for Internet and software developments or SAE (Sart Everything Everywhere) for embedded digital technologies.

For example, we have the case of the “CloudiFacturing” project, developed by a consortium of companies and research institutes, on the provision of computation and modelling capabilities for an HPC supercomputer. This is aimed at manufacturing companies that are looking to add significant value to their data,” explains Géraud Guilloud.

Once the infrastructure was in place, this consortium launched a series of small calls for projects to allow smaller structures to use these infrastructures and validate a number of parameters so that all these technologies could be integrated”.

The philosophy of the Horizon 2020 programme and even more so that of its successor, Horizon Europe, which will enter into force in 2021, emphasises structuring initiatives and the creation of real ecosystems. “Such a system of cascading projects makes this approach easier,” concludes Mr. Guilloud.

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