ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION: EUROCLUSTER FOR FUTURE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
Supporting SMEs for innovation, internationalization and adoption of new technologies
Construction industry professionals and particularly SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) face unprecedented hurdles as a result of worldwide lockdown and major disruptions related to it, which intensified with the consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The last years revealed weaknesses and failures of the AEC industries (architecture, engineering, and construction) and this project aims at contributing to their resilient, digital, and low-carbon economic recovery.
Therefore, general objectives of the AEC EUROCLUSTER project:
- Form a EUROCLUSTER joint strategic initiative of clusters in AEC sectors across Europe and reach a critical mass of entities (firms, research and technology institutions, science and financial providers, non-profit organisations and public bodies) in order to boost collaboration, accelerate green as well as digital transformation and increase social and economic resilience in and beyond the fields of built environment.
- Contribute to both the New Industrial Strategy for Europe and the SME Strategy by detecting deeply entrenched dependencies in AEC sectors, by fostering industrial partnerships on international level that wouldn’t be established otherwise and by focusing specifically on upskilling and support for SMEs on their pathways to twin transition and better preparedness for crisis and other reasons for supply chain disruptions.
The project will start with a mapping of the ecosystem will disclose potential causes for the disruptions, show involved actors along the value chains and interlinkages between them. Building on elaborated business continuity plans that prepare for future challenges, a cluster-to-cluster learning will be initiated by which cluster managers enhance their skills on problem identification and risk-minimized product creation processes. They can put this know-how promptly into practice by enriching their service portfolio for business support. Moreover, companies can also benefit directly from upskilling activities by teaming up with certificated open innovation trainers and learn how to become aware of needs and deliver solutions in particular related to digital and transition.
For implementing market-demanded innovation projects with substantial transformation character, SMEs can receive voucher-based funding. The same applies to SMEs that uptake technologies from other sectors or adopt processes not fully exploited so far and integrating them into their own organisations and operations. Both activities have the same objective of helping to overcome vulnerabilities by improving towards digital performance or green entrepreneurship. Addressing the increased need of rebuilt international supply and collaboration, SMEs can cross borders within the project in order to establish business with non-European partners. Altogether, AEC EUROCLUSTER is designed to drive forward cross-cluster cooperation and promote eco-innovative and smart products for SMEs in construction and related industries. During a project duration of 2.5 years a total of 66 companies and business support organisations will benefit from the joined forces of 5 clusters located in the middle of Europe.
Transitioning to a more digital, green, circular economy requires changes throughout value chains, from product design to new business and market models, from new ways of turning waste into a resource to new models of consumer behavior. European construction companies have played a leading role in the development and implementation of energy-efficient, eco-innovative and smart solutions which are being upgraded to circular, sustainable and regenerative solutions as noted in European Bauhaus initiative. International competitiveness is of great importance for the long-term sustainability of the construction sector, especially if we consider that the European markets are predicted to be overall less dynamic than emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, and in Latin America.
Clusters as dynamic concentrations of interlinked companies and related actors are a significant part of the European industrial landscape and can play an essential role in economic recovery, sustainable transition an innovation.
Collaborate with existing business support networks as e.g. the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (all consortium partners are registered), the Enterprise Europe Network (one consortium partner is a local support office), national and European Digital Innovation Hubs (consortium partners already involved in Italian, Romanian and Austrian DIHs).
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR CLUSTER MEMBERS
AEC Eurocluster will set up the ground for drawing up a service portfolio and framework for the financial support to SMEs. The search for beneficiaries will be launched as single call package with 4 components: innovation and technology adoption projects, training and internationalization. The call documents published at call opening in M7 will contain the objectives, guidelines, evaluation criteria, timeline, application forms and annexes for each of the 4 components. There will be different deadlines for each of the 4 components but SMEs from the same sub-sectors will be eligible to apply for all vouchers as long as they fulfil SME definition of the European Union:
• BIM, Construction Robotics, Construction Project Management, Advanced Building Materials, Offsite Construction, Construction Worker Safety, Construction Monitoring, Green Building, 3D Printing, Connected Construction Site
• IT and related deep-tech sectors (AI, AR/VR, sensors, robotics, drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced materials, nanotechnology, photonics) if the project proposals will have an impact on the AEC sectors.
Thus, the call package will offer grants for:
a. Innovation training (WP4) is funded through vouchers of no more than EUR 5,000 per SME, eligibility criteria will be related to the type of training and the authorization of the provider. At least 10 SMEs will be supported with training focused on problem identification and solution development in the fields of digital and green transformation.
b. Internationalization (WP5) is funded through vouchers of no more than EUR 2,000 per SME and will be executed on the basis of simple applications for attending preselected fairs in third countries that are listed as eligible. Basis for funding will be documented expenses related to the participation and conditioned by signing of at least a memorandum of understanding with an international partner as result.
c. Innovation (WP3) is funded through grants of a maximum EUR 60,000 per SME on the basis of elaborated criteria ensuring not only the uniqueness and feasibility of the proposed product/service or technology but also its readiness for the market and market demand. This will be proved by means of signed agreements with potential future clients that are willing to adopt that particular technology (Letters of Interest, LOI). This component of the call will have a clear set deadline allowing SMEs at least 3 months the preparation of the application. The target for this component is to support at least 5 projects, however, more could be funded if applicants request smaller grants.
d. Adoption of new technologies (WP3) is funded through grants of a maximum of EUR 60,000, on the basis of a business plan indicating amongst others the expected impact of the adopted technology on business performance and financial projections. The target is a minimum of 11 grants and while the application deadline is similar to the deadline for innovation projects, the duration of the implementation is limited to a maximum of 6 months in order to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
Follow AEC EUROCLUSTER on https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/aeceurocluster/
- CS, CONSTRUCTION CLUSTER OF SLOVENIA (Slovenski gradbeni grozd – GIZ), SLOVENIA
- BIZUP; Furniture & Timber Construction Cluster at Business Upper Austria – OÖ Wirtschaftsagentur GmbH, AUSTRIA
- DID; Technological cluster on Interiors and Design, ITALY
- SECPHO; Southern European Cluster in Photonics and Optics, Spain
- TEC: ASOCIATIA CLUSTERULUI “TECHNOLOGY ENABLED CONSTRUCTION-TEC”, Romania
- BSEC; Black Sea Energy Cluster; Bulgaria: North-East, Bulgaria
The AEC EURCLUSTER call for Financial Support to Third Parties will be published on 24.4.2023. The call documents will be upladed here.
AEC eurocluster_leaflet – download