Technology Stimulation Measures for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

How to prepare and write a CRAFT proposal

2.1 Summary
When preparing a CRAFT proposal:

  • verify that the project is in line with the intentions and rules of CRAFT

  • verify that the area of research is in line with the general objectives and priorities of the thematic programmes.

  • verify the novelty of the project and the potential market.

  • if necessary, make preliminary laboratory tests etc.

  • write a short project outline.

  • consult with expert organisations, search for partners.

  • start writing the proposal!

2.2 The proposal procedure - optional in two stages

When a CRAFT proposal is submitted, most details of the intended project have to be ready. The consortium must be established, the market potential evaluated, the project management selected, etc. To get help with these preparations it is possible to apply for an Exploratory Award. The Exploratory Award gives funding for preparing a CRAFT proposal. However, it should be noted that with this support it might take a longer time to launch the CRAFT Project.

Applying for an Exploratory Award is optional; SMEs may submit a complete proposal directly. CRAFT proposals submitted directly are evaluated without taking into account whether or not the proposer earlier applied for an Exploratory Award. The following figure shows the different possibilities.

Proposals may be submitted at any time. However, evaluations are carried out in batches at least three times a year.

The optional Exploratory Award

  1. To receive this Award, SMEs must submit a proposal, outlining the planned CRAFT Project (nine pages are sufficient). If the proposal is selected by the Commission an award is granted to cover part of the cost for preparing a CRAFT Project proposal. The preparatory activities can be search for additional partners, literature survey, market analysis, economic impact assessment, novelty verification, detailed project planning, writing of the CRAFT Proposal etc. The maximum EU contribution is 22 500 euro, which should cover 75% of the total cost (thus giving a total budget of 30 000 euro).

The conditions for receiving an Exploratory Award are as follows:

  • Participants should be at least two eligible SMEs from two EU Member States (or one Member State and a country associated with the programme). An SME can only receive one Exploratory Award during the Fifth Framework programme.

  • For certain research areas, a proposal may be submitted by a single SME and an end user. The end user does not have to be an SME but can be instead, for example, a large industry or a municipal company.

  • For the CRAFT Project the proposing SMEs have little or no research capacities of their own. They will be the main users of the intended project results (which must be focused on their requirements).

  • For other types of research projects than CRAFT (such as EU shared-cost projects) the proposing SMEs shall have appropriate research facilities. They shall play a leading role in the research work and in the exploitation of the results.

  • The European Commission's financial support is limited to 75 % of the total costs up to 30 000 euro (thus the funding given is 22 500 euro).

  • The maximum duration of the Exploratory Award is twelve (12) months.

How to verify the eligibility of a CRAFT project

Before starting the preparations for a project, it is important to know all the conditions and criteria for participating in CRAFT. Apart from reading this toolbox, you can also consult in the Information Package. The "Eligibility check-list" in the Information Package is very useful. The proposal will be considered non-eligible, if one of the criteria enumerated is not fulfilled.

Some of the basic conditions for participation in a CRAFT Project are as follows:

  • The SME Proposers are at least three (3) eligible SMEs with little or no research capacities of their own and based in two (2) EU Member States (or one Member State and a country associated with the programme).

  • The RTD Performers can be universities, research centres, industrial laboratories, technical centres, etc.

  • The total project cost is 0.3 - 2 million euro, of which at least 40 % must be for the work carried out by the RTD Performers.

  • The research area mentioned in the proposal must correspond to one of the four thematic programmes. The different themes are listed in chapter 1.2, and they can be downloaded from the CORDIS home page (

2.3 How to form a consortium

Forming a consortium is one of the most important activities when preparing a CRAFT Project. The partners must be complementary to each other, they must be strongly committed, and they must have the necessary skills for carrying out the project and exploiting the results. The most important partner in a project is usually an end user, since this partner will put the right demands on the results from the beginning of the project.

International Balance

A CRAFT Project has to include partners from two or several Member States or Associated States of the European Union. In order not to make one country or partner too dominating, rules are set up regarding their contribution to the project:

  • A maximum of 60 % of all SME Proposers' contribution from a single country.

  • A maximum of 40 % of all SME Proposers' contribution can be from a single partner or affiliates.

Types of partners

There are two types of obligatory partners for forming a CRAFT consortium:

  • SMEs are the participants who will generally own and benefit from the project results.

  • RTD Performers are organisations needed by the SMEs to carry out most of the research and development work in the project.

Partnership roles

The project participants have different formal roles in the project:

  • SME Proposers: SME Proposers are all the eligible SMEs that form the consortium together with the RTD Performers. They are the owners of the project results.

  • SME Co-ordinator: One of the SME Proposers is nominated to be the SME Co-ordinator. The Co-ordinator signs the contract with the EC on behalf of the SME Proposers and the RTD performers and is responsible for the project management, contacts with the Commission etc. If the SME Co-ordinator does not have the right skills for this work, it can be subcontracted to a third party but not to an RTD performer in the project.

  • RTD Performers: An RTD Performer conducts R&D work on behalf of the SMEs and is fully paid by the Commission for this work. An RTD Performer should have:

  • research and development capacity and expertise in the required field

  • capability to transfer the results of the project to the SME Proposers.

  • capacity for dissemination of project results.

Example of a CRAFT consortium

SME Proposers



Activities in the project



EU funding (euro)

Producer of chemicals


Supplier of materials, testing of prototype

80 000


Machine builder


Building of prototype

60 000


Supplier of equipment


Supplier of equipment for prototype

50 000


Supplier of control equipment


Developing new control


90 000


Chemical selling company

The Netherlands

SME Co-ordinator and testing of products

140 000

70 000

Total costs = 420 000 euro

Total contribution from the EU to the SME Co-ordinator = 70 000 euro

RTD Performers




Costs (euro)

EU funding (euro)

Research institute


Software programming

160 000

160 000


The Netherlands

Research on chemicals

120 000

120 000

Total costs = 280 000 euro

Total contribution from the EU = 280 000 euro

Remember also to follow the rules of international balance presented earlier in this section.

Finding partners

Consider the following in evaluating a potential partner:

  • Good partners offer complementary assets without creating conflicts of interest.

  • For CRAFT projects to work, good personal relations are necessary. Pay attention to managers' feelings about potential partners. Big differences in management style, values and priorities can be problematic.

  • Good partners typically have experience of other similar ventures. Here, industry reputation is an important indicator. Study their track record (CORDIS can help you with this).

  • Good partners are enthusiastic and committed. However, to overcome fears and hesitations regarding joint ventures, an active "selling effort" may be required to convince them of the potential benefits of a co-operation.

  • Good partners will allocate sufficient authority to the venture management, giving it the autonomy and flexibility needed for efficient implementation.

  • If a potential partner is too dissimilar from your own company, maybe a looser form of co-operation is preferable.

To find SME partners it is considered best to:

  • Use your existing relationships and networks. It is easier to co-operate with someone you already know.

  • Contact other organisations who offer services in partner search.

  • Search in databases or attend partnering events, seminars and conferences.

To find R&D partners it is considered best to make a selection based on their competencies, experience of SMEs and how much they charge. They can be selected from institutes, research facilities, and universities offering technological services to industrial companies.

Clear objectives and plans for the project as well as agreements on exploitation and ownership of the results (IPR) should be set up between the partners. For further information, see chapter 5.

2.4 How to write the proposal

Writing a proposal to the European Commission is not as difficult as it may seem. The Commission gives exact instructions about the contents and a large part of them are very useful for the future running of the project. To make sure that a good proposal is submitted, it might be worth using external help

When writing the text, remember the following:

  • The evaluator might not have English as his/her first language; he/she is short of time and follows exact check-lists and instructions.

  • Quantify! Since the members of the Commission have a limited budget, they want to establish which projects give the best value for their money. Quantifying is also a sign of having made thorough preparations.

  • Write simply and use the expressions and headings of the Information Package. This makes it easier for the evaluators to check that the criteria are fulfilled.

  • Be realistic when setting the budget, estimating the market potential, and describing technical features. This gives the proposal a serious impression.

  • Graphical descriptions are very important as they can make a complex context more comprehensible.

What the proposal has to explain

There are five (5) main evaluation criteria which a proposal has to conform to. None may be neglected in the description or left out. Otherwise, the proposal is considered incomplete. The criteria are:

  • Scientific/Technical (S & T) quality and innovation

  • Community added value and contribution to EU policies

  • Contribution to Community social objectives

  • Economic development and Scientific/Technical prospects

  • Management, partnership and resources

The evaluation criteria are further described in the Information Package. To demonstrate that you fulfil the criteria, make sure to follow the "proposal description", also outlined in the Information Package.

Guidelines for writing the proposal

At the end of this Toolbox SMEs are provided with Guidelines how to use a structured approach in developing their CRAFT proposal, and how to draft and present it in the proper format.

The right hand column of the Guidelines is to be completed by the proposers. (Prompts in "italics" are given to explain how each row must be completed.) The advantage of completing the Guidelines is that they focus on the key elements necessary for the proposal. The application can now be written with ease in the format required by the European Commission.

Submitting the proposal

All details on how the proposal should be submitted to the European Commission can be found in the Information Package. It is necessary to follow these instructions exactly. You can choose to send your application by post or electronically by using Pro Tool. Submitting it in good time before the date of evaluation increases the chance of achieving an eligible proposal, as the Commission has time to get back to the Co-ordinator and advise on changes, if necessary. Incomplete proposals will not be evaluated.

2.5 Where to find more information

There are several ways to find more information about CRAFT Projects. It is advisable, however, to start by contacting your National Contact Point (NCP). For downloading application forms or for a look at previous European RTD projects, the SME Co-ordination Unit and CORDIS database are very useful.

  • The National Contact Point. Each country has a contact point with expertise on CRAFT. Contact details are found on the following home page:

  • The SME Helpdesk: All relevant documents needed for an application can be downloaded together with plenty of other useful information. Contact details are found on the following home page:

  • The CORDIS database: Here it is possible to check whether there are similar ongoing European projects. It is also possible to search for completed projects and possible partners. The home page address is: