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Horizon 2020 SME Innovation Associate

  • Posted on: 23.02.2016
  • Abbreviation: H2020 SME Innovation Associate

Website: Link

The H2020 SME Innovation Associate is a new pilot action under the EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme 'Horizon 2020' supporting European SMEs and Start-ups to recruit post-doctoral research associates from other countries to explore an innovation business idea. 


The action aims at overcoming barriers for EU SMEs and Start-ups to the recruitment of highly qualified specialists (PhD or equivalent) that are not available on the national job market (either because the required skills are not available or because they are not affordable), but whose knowledge would be crucial to open up opportunities for innovation and significant growth for the enterprise. 


Innovation in SMEs is often hampered by a lack of access to specialised skills and knowledge. At the same time, many companies find it difficult to manage innovation processes effectively and struggle to recruit specialised knowledge as they don't tend to have extensive international Networks or the well-known brand names of large enterprises. 
The H2020 SME Innovation Associate Programme is a first step to change this and to develop an enterprise-led mobility programme in the EU, helping European SMEs recruit expertise and get better access to scientific excellence. This call is an experiment to test the feasibility of an European measure to increase access to talent for SMEs and Start-ups by encouraging mobility. Because of this experimental nature it applies a fixed period for the recruitment of the researcher aligned to Academic year in most European countries. This allows the European Commission to organise training in industrial innovation management to the group of innovation associates and to monitor better recruitment success, employment conditions and impact. These feed the evaluation and eventual scale-up of the action. 2 

Key points 

  • Early stage support 
  • EU Grant covering the salary of the researcher for a period of one year 
  • Training Package for Enterprises and Researchers 
  • "Light" application 
  • Internationalisation, mobility, innovation, excellence. 



a) The Enterprise
Only SMEs (including start-up companies) established in the EU Member States and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) or countries associated1 to Horizon 2020 are eligible.  (Enterprises established in Switzerland are excluded from this call ).
Applicants must complete the SME self-assessment questionnaire in the Beneficiary Register of the Research and Innovation Participant Portal to apply for a grant under this programme. Organisations will only be eligible to participate if this self-assessment confirms their status as small and medium-sized enterprise (The status of SME is defined in the EU recommendation 2003/361).

b) The Associate
The required profile to be recruited must at least have reached R2 level in the European Framework for Research Careers. This means he or she must: 

  • Hold a PhD (or equivalent); 
  • Have demonstrated expertise in line with the job advertisement; 
  • Comply with the Transnational mobility criteria: the researcher must come from a different country than the place of employment (irrespective of his/her nationality). This means that at the time of recruitment (September 2017), researchers must have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country where the company is established for no more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date (from 01/09/2014 until 31/08/2017). Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account. 

Support provided by the European Union under this call 

1. International Visibility
All applicants, whether successful or not, will have the possibility to benefit, free of charge, from the EU's researcher mobility portal EURAXESS, thus making the job vacancy visible to researchers all around Europe and beyond. 

2. Financial Support
Successful applicants (recruiting SMEs) will furthermore receive an individual grant covering salary and related costs of employing a post-doctoral research associates recruited in the context of the programme from a country other than the home country of the company. The following costs are eligible under this programme: 

  • The salary of the researcher for a period of one year (the salary must be reasonable – i.e. a competitive salary for the position at normal local labour market conditions). Proposals where the suggested salary package is evidently excessive or insufficient will be rejected. 
  • Relocation cost for the researcher (at the beginning and at the end of the 12 month assignment under this programme), up to a maximum total of €5000. 
  • Travel and subsistence costs related to the training 

3. Training package
To increase and maximise the outcomes but also to accelerate the integration of the associate in the company's staff, a full training package is foreseen under this action for both the associate and his/her supervisor in the enterprise. The training package is composed by two parallel programmes: 

  • Core training programme is made available for all researchers participating in the programme as Innovation Associate. This training programme is managed and organised under the responsibility of the European Commission and will address the general needs/requirements of Innovation Associates. 
  • Tailored training programme organised by the enterprise as a personal training and development plan for the Innovation Associate intended to maximise the potential of the recruitment and multiply its effects while assuring a smooth integration of the researcher in the structure and cultural environment of the enterprise.

The first call of this Programme opens on 11th february 2016 and will close on 30th June 2016. The start date of the position is 1st September 2017. For more information on programme phases, application and selection criteria please refer to the official webpages

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