EC invests €77m into I4MS initiative to boost 200 hi-tech SMEs

7 June 2013

The European Commission is launching a new €77 million fund from its 7th R&D Framework Programme (FP7) to  help high-tech SMEs exploit the potential of ICTs to boost their businesses.

The I4MS initiative (ICT for Manufacturing SMEs) aims to support  200 SMEs across Europe, who are either attempting to use advanced technology, or developing innovative products for market.

I4MS will be officially launched in July 2013 and will involve more than 150 innovation experiments over the next three years. In particular, it targets suppliers and users of ICT solutions and covers innovation in four areas:

  • advanced robot solutions;
  • high performance cloud-based simulation services;
  • intelligent sensor-based equipment; and
  • innovative laser applications.

I4MS aims at the wider and faster adoption of ICT to modernise Europe's manufacturing capabilities. It supports the crossing of the "valley of death" – also called the chasm – in the technology adoption process: For ICT users, the aim is to reduce the risk in being an early adopter of advanced technology bringing a clear competitive advantage; for suppliers, the aim is to help them open up new markets with innovative solutions and establish or broaden the relevant customer base.

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said, "Europe's research community must be at the forefront of ICT research in the manufacturing sector. And it is even more important to translate this research leadership into productivity gains and increased competitiveness of our products and industrial actors. By stimulating targeted innovation and investing in our biggest assets in that sector, namely SMEs, I4MS is bridging this gap."

This initiative is part of the Commission's wider efforts to strengthen industry and the EU's manufacturing sector. It aims to provide direct financial support to improve their products or manufacturing processes, acquiring new technologies and knowledge and by giving access to new markets and partners outside their local ecosystem.

These experiments will be implemented with the help of pan-European networks of competence centres, providing the knowledge and support for partnering beyond national borders. SMEs will be able to apply for funding through Calls for Experiments in 2014 and 2015, launched by the pan-European networks of competence centres involved in the conduct of the experiments.  

Further information

I4MS is part of the Public Private Partnership 'Factories of the Future' (PPP FoF) launched in November 2008 within the European Economic Recovery Plan to respond to the global economic crisis. This partnership aims at helping EU manufacturing enterprises, in particular SMEs, to adapt to global competitive pressure by improving the technological base of manufacturing across a broad range of sectors. The I4MS initiative is a first pilot project for wider integration of research and innovation under the  Horizon 2020 programme.

I4MS will receive €77 million in EU public funding. 40% is likely to go to SMEs, the rest split between large industries, and competence centres. Industrial partners will contribute either 25% (for SMEs) or 50% (large industries) of their overall cost. The EU contribution of €77 million amounts to around 13% of the total budget of €600 million of the PPP FoF.

The initial set of SMEs in I4MS originates from 12 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK) and 5 Associated Countries (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Israel, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey). Participation across Europe is expected to increase with the Calls for Experiments to be launched in 2014 and 2015.

ICT Innovation in FoF PPP:

Factories of the Future:

Overview of EU support for innovation


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