General Information

Why should I apply for SAE Funding

You are a European start-up, SME or mid-cap and would like to benefit from digital innovations to

  • Upgrade your products or services
  • Improve your processes or
  • Adapt your business model to the digital age

then you probably need technical and financial support for your digital innovation activities.

Open Calls of the Smart Anything Everywhere Initiative

  • Provide access to advanced digital technologies and competences
  • Offer funding through the Innovation Actions especially for SMEs, ranging typically from 20.000 to 100.000 EUR
  • Take funding decisions quickly (typically a few weeks)

Call for proposals in the areas (Innovation Action)

  • Customised Low Energy Computing powering Cyber-Physical Systems and IOT (SMART4ALL)
  • Cyber-Physical and Embedded Systems (DigiFed, DIH4CPS, HUBCAP)
  • Flexible and Wearable Electronics (SmartEEs)
  • Widening Digital Innovation Hubs (BOWI)

It is rather easy to apply for Funding when following the next steps:

  • Check the Open Calls of the technology area you are in and find a suitable Open Call (click here)
  • Follow the instructions given by the Innovation Action, they will also provide you with a proposal template and guidance through the application process
  • Submit a description of your project idea (in English): How do your products, processes or services become more competitive through the adoption of latest digital technologies
  • Submitted your project idea
  • Innovation Action ranks submitted ideas following certain selection criteria such as “Concept & Technology”, “Business Model”, “Expected Impact” and “Exploitation Plan”

If your project idea is selected, the Innovation Action usually provides you with

  • Digital technologies and competences to implement your idea
  • Infrastructure to test your digital innovation in an application environment
  • Financial support from the European Commission (Horizon2020)

Advantages for your as an SME

  • The financial support through the new scheme “Financial Support to Third Parties”:
  • This so-called “cascade funding” allows funds from the EU to be passed on to the SMEs directly by the Innovation Action, without entering into a complex contract with the European Commission
  • Your company signs a lean contract with a representative of the Innovation Action
  • Paper work is quite limited between 10 and 20  pages per application

Start-ups, SMEs as well as mid-caps can apply for the Open Calls if the fit into the given scheme.

What companies are able to participate in the Open Calls?
Tech (innovative companies) as well as non-tech companies (traditional companies) from various application domains are welcome to apply to the Open Calls e.g. Smart cities, smart transportation, smart health & well-being, smart agriculture, smart industry, smart energy, etc.


‘The category of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is made up of enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43 million.’
(Extract of Article 2 of the annex to Recommendation 2003/361/EC)

Click here to open the user guide to the SME definition

Commission recommendation of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises
(click here for the original recommendation)



From which countries are companies allowed to apply?

Legal entities established in the following countries and territories will be eligible to receive funding through Horizon 2020 grants:

  • The Member States (MS) of the European Union (EU), including their outermost regions; the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) linked to the Member States:
    Anguilla, Aruba, Bermuda, British Antartic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Territories , Greenland, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten), New Caledonia, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Barthélémy, Saint Helena, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Wallis and Futuna.
  • The associated countries (AC): Association to Horizon 2020 is governed by Article 7 of the Horizon 2020 Regulation. Legal entities from Associated Countries can participate under the same conditions as legal entities from the Member States. Association to Horizon 2020 takes place through the conclusion of an International Agreement.
    As of 01 January 2017, the following countries are associated to Horizon 2020 (see original document):
    Iceland, Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Israel, Moldova, Switzerland, Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Tunisia, Georgia, Armenia
  • The latest information on which countries are associated, or in the process of association to Horizon 2020 can be found in the online manual (check page3/39  pdf document)

Financial Support to Third Parties also known as “Cascade Funding”

This funding scheme aims at simplifying the administrative procedures, creating a light, SME-friendly application scheme and is used by all Innovation Actions aligned to the SAE initiative. It offers the following advantages for SMEs:

  • Funds from the EU passed on to the SMEs directly by the Innovation Action
  • SMEs are not entering into a complex contract with the European Commission but
  • Lean contract with a representative of the Innovation Action


Having completed phase 1 and phase 2 covering the years between 2015 and Q1 2020, it can be announced that

  • 208 projects have been supported and cascade funded with more than 18 M€
  • more than 25 countries were involved and
  • around 30 open call / cut-off date calls were organized during that time
  • with an average Success Rate of 20-25%

Overview of all competitive calls and calls for third parties

Click here to open the overview