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Critical infrastructure protection topic 7: SME instrument topic: Protection of Urban soft targets and critical infrastructures


Specific challenge:

The aim is to engage small and medium enterprises in security research and development and in particular to facilitate and accelerate the transition of their developed products/services to the market place.

The specific challenge of the actions and activities envisaged under this topic are related to protection of urban soft targets and urban critical infrastructures .

Specific consideration should be given to 'urban soft targets', which are exposed to increasing security threats which can be defined as urban areas into which large numbers of citizens are freely admitted, for usual activities or special events or routinely reside or gather. Among others, these include parks, squares and markets, shopping malls, train and bus stations, passenger terminals, hotels and tourist resorts, cultural, historical, religious and educational centres and banks.

The critical infrastructures sectors listed in the European Programme for Critical Infrastructures Protection (EPCIP)[1], including, among others, energy installations and networks, communications and information technology, finance (banking, securities and investment), water (dams, storage, treatment and networks), supply chain and government (e.g. critical services, facilities, information networks, assets and key national sites and monuments) are not only relevant at a national scale but they can be considered critical infrastructures in an urban context as well.

The objective is to carry out a small-scale demonstration of innovative technologies and tools.

Taking into consideration the results of past and on-going EU and international research in this field, they can cover any aspect of the urban critical infrastructure protection, such as, for example: designing buildings and urban areas; protection of energy/transport/communication grids; critical infrastructure surveillance solutions; protecting supply chains; avoiding cyber-attacks and developing cyber resilience systems for critical infrastructures.

The scope of this topic is focused to cover, for example:

- high throughput screening of people and their bags including the ability to screen them in reasonably real-time as people approach entrances to buildings or enter public transportation system;

- high throughput screening for vehicles to identify threats that warrant further inspection (as opposed to random searching);

- potential CBRN-E threats and the way in which these threats could be carried-out against soft targets and critical infrastructures;

- mitigation of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (IED), with a specific focus on vehicle-borne ones (e.g. in cases of parked vehicles, penetrative attacks, etc.).

The action is expected to proactively target the needs and requirements of users, such as national law enforcement agencies public and and private operators of critical infrastructures and networks.


The SME instrument consists of three separate phases and a coaching and mentoring service for beneficiaries. Participants can apply to phase 1 with a view to applying to phase 2 at a later date, or directly to phase 2.

In phase 1, a feasibility study shall be developed verifying the technological/practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies). The proposals could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management, innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept and the like to establish a solid high-potential innovation project aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during phase 1 and addressed during phase 2 to increase the return in investment in innovation activities. The proposal should contain an initial business plan based on the proposed idea/concept.

The proposal should give the specifications of the elaborated business plan, which is to be the outcome of the project and the criteria for success.

Funding will be provided in the form of a lump sum of EUR 50.000. Projects should last around 6 months.

In phase 2, innovation projects will be supported that address the specific challenge of protecting urban soft targets and critical infrastructures and that demonstrate high potential in terms of company competitiveness and growth underpinned by a strategic business plan. Activities should focus on innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, prototyping, piloting, scaling-up, miniaturisation, design, market replication and the like aiming to bring an innovation idea (product, process, service etc) to industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction, but may also include some research. For technological innovation a Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) of 6 or above (or similar for non-technological innovations) are envisaged; please see part G of the General Annexes.

Proposals shall be based on an elaborated business plan either developed through phase & or another means. Particular attention must be paid to IP protection and ownership; applicants will have to present convincing measures to ensure the possibility of commercial exploitation (‘freedom to operate’).

Proposals shall contain a specification for the outcome of the project, including a first commercialisation plan, and criteria for success.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 2.5 million would allow phase 2 to be addressed appropriately. Projects should last between 12 and 24 months.

In addition, in phase 3, if any, SMEs can benefit from indirect support measures and services as well as access to the financial facilities supported under Access to Risk Finance of this work programme.

Successful beneficiaries will be offered coaching and mentoring support during phase 1 and phase 2. This service will be accessible via the Enterprise Europe Network and delivered by a dedicated coach through consultation and signposting to the beneficiaries. The coaches will be recruited from a central database managed by the Commission and have all fulfilled stringent criteria with regards to business experience and competencies. Throughout the three phases of the instrument, the Network will complement the coaching support by providing access to its innovation and internationalisation service offering. This could include, for example, depending on the need of the SME, support in identifying growth potential, developing a growth plan and maximising it through internationalisation; strengthening the leadership and management skills of individuals in the senior management team and developing in-house coaching capacity; developing a marketing strategy or raising external finance.

Expected impact:

  • Enhancing profitability and growth performance of SMEs by combining and transferring new and existing knowledge into innovative, disruptive and competitive solutions seizing European and global business opportunities.
  • Market uptake and distribution of innovations tackling the specific challenge protecting urban soft targets in a sustainable way.
  • Increase of private investment in innovation, notably leverage of private co-investor and/or follow-up investments.
  • The expected impact should be clearly described in qualitative and quantitative terms (e.g. on turnover, employment, market seize, IP management, sales, return on investment and profit).

Type of action: SME instrument 70% funding

[1] COM(2006) 786 final – Official Journal C 126 of 7.6.2007