In order to respond to individual research and development (R&D) needs of German small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), AiF Projekt GmbH manages the Cooperation Projects of the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). ZIM is a country-wide funding programme which provides grants and is open to all technologies and sectors. It is geared to the needs of SMEs and collaborating public and private non-profit research and technology organisations (RTO) which want to develop new or significantly improve existing products, processes or technical services.
The aim of the programme is to sustainably increase the innovative capacity and competitiveness of SMEs. ZIM comprises different support measures: Cooperation Projects, Cooperation Networks and Single Projects.
ZIM Cooperation Projects is the biggest and most popular module of the programme, promoting R&D cooperation projects between SMEs or SMEs and RTOs. Until 31st December 2020 about 34,600 R&D Cooperation Projects with a funding volume of more than 5 billion euros have been initiated.
Cooperation with foreign partners – ZIM International Cooperation
ZIM also provides the possibility to cooperate with foreign partners. To facilitate the international projects within ZIM Cooperation Projects, AiF Projekt GmbH with financial support of BMWi, coordinates several bilateral agreements and a network of ministries and funding agencies from different countries and regions, called IraSME.
Currently bilateral agreements exist with Alberta (Canada), Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Catalonia (Spain), Finland, France, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan and Vietnam. At least once a year joint calls for proposals for transnational cooperative R&D projects are published for SMEs and RTOs with the objective to develop innovative products, processes or technical services. Additional bilateral agreements with other countries are planned.
German companies working with foreign partners in a ZIM project receive a bonus of 10% on top of the regular funding rates, but max. 55%.