Empower SME clusters to bring SMEs ‘across the valley of death’ Identify possible systems for enabling SME clusters to set up a platform where SME entrepreneurs in the bio-based industry and investors can exchange expertise and business opportunities that could lead to successful cooperation.The scope includes the necessary steps to ‘train the trainers’ as well as practical steps SMEs can use when preparing and presenting projects with a high level of investment readiness.The scope also includes building the capacity of SME clusters to build links with investors.Proposals should consider: (i) the disparity across Europe of the investment activities; and (ii) the required skills for the trainers, so as to best assist the SME clusters and the different types of investors. The clusters should aim at becoming self-supporting in this respect after the project runtime with a clear plan to achieve this.Proposals should devise a framework that can be used to select the best projects through a competition in which investors evaluate and select winning SME proposals at regional level. If the winner’s reward is a cash prize, its value is not an eligible cost in the framework of the grant agreement.Proposals should also set the basis for a European final of regional winners, and hence, proposers should link up with relevant and interested regional authorities.Proposals could build on the experience of the European Bio-Economy Venture Forum held on 6-7 June in Viborg, Denmark2.The Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) will set up an industry and market expert group from among its members to provide expertise on the implementation and follow-up of the different tasks and help organise meetings. This expert group is not to be a part of the proposal, but will be offered to the project consortium to assist as needed. This expert group therefore should have an advisory role in the project but would not be a beneficiary in the consortium.INDICATIVE FUNDING: It is considered that proposals requesting a maximum of EUR 1.5 million and a planned duration of not more than three years would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts or durations.2 See description on BIC website: https://biconsortium.eu/events/european-bio-economy-venture-forum The Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) sees as one of its major task as helping its members in obtaining investments for excellent projects. See for example BIC’s report to increase awareness about the European financial instruments to support the development and growth of the bio-based economy and demonstrate how to use them1 .In addition to project scalability and investment readiness, seeking investment from any source also involves preparing and presenting the project and its potential benefits for society and investors in an effective way. BIC is therefore seeking opportunities to train industry actors, in particular SMEs, to be successful in securing investment for excellent projects. The opportunity BIC would like to pursue is through empowering interested SME clusters at regional level (BIC members as well as non BIC members) to train their SME members and to reward them for excellent performance through a competition, with the regional winners moving on to a European final. SME clusters therefore need to be empowered to train their SME members and to adequately run the competition.The specific challenge is to design the appropriate tools and system to build the capacity of SME clusters so that they can train SMEs to devise excellent projects that are scalable, investment ready and which convey these qualities to potential investors.1 A 2017 report ‘Access to EU financial instruments suitable for the implementation of large Bio-based industry investments’ on BIC website: https://biconsortium.eu/library/bic-documents foster an increase of private investments into the bio-based sector through an effective cooperation between SMEs and potential investors;improve the involvement and the role of SME clusters as a reference point for SMEs to cooperate, exchange expertise and meet potential business opportunities to implement successful bio-based projects. NUMBER OF PROJECTS: a maximum of one project will be funded under this topic.Type of action: Coordination and support action.