insights from our partners 3 takeaways: Why should SMEs care about European projects and collaboration with universities?

European projects often get a bad reputation among businesses and universities at  least here in Finland, where many feel that the only outputs are reports or a follow-up project that helps to pay the salary of the project personnel without any impact. But when done right, projects can be a significant boost for your business or higher education institute. 

Here’s three takeaways from us at Crazy Town on why you as a growth-oriented SME or university researcher / expert should be interested in our upcoming UNITE4H training program. We are involved, because we want to help our member companies, Finnish and European businesses to grow.

1. Projects help to put the foot in the door and build credibility

Projects make it possible for innovative startups, SMEs and universities from the European periphery to collaborate with global industry giants.

” European project offers SMEs credibility and opportunity to commercialize their solution with leading European corporations.” – Finnish business expert

”Take for example Airbus and their inhouse R&D team with thousands of engineers and researchers. They have more innovation capacity than most of our universities put together. Startups and universities from Finland don’t simply contact them for collaboration. However, European projects can make it possible for us to work with them.” – Finnish University of Applied Sciences expert

For a small company that is aiming for international market, being able to demonstrate that solution or technology has been “validated by European project” or “created together with European partners” is important.

2. Projects build social capital, networks and university-business-cooperation

Social capital is one of the most prerequisites for any kind of business. International projects connect you with like-minded individuals and let you to try out how your chemistry works together. 

As one of our interviewed experts Tommi Pajala put it: “Even if your collaboration with an international university was originally about another matter entirely, once you have done a project with them they remain on your contacts. It’s easy to ask their help for other matters.”

Projects also provide SMEs and universities shared language and a reason to engage together in co-creation.

3. Projects help you to experiment, take risks and learn new things

We have all streamlined our organizations to the extreme. Whether you are a startup, SME or university representative, you rarely have time or money for anything extra. With a successfully funded project, you get that additional resource and purpose.

Projects act as intermediaries and vehicles for learning. Typically, an average SME collaborates very little with other businesses, not just universities. Companies participating projects peer-learn from each other.

But make no mistake, ”soft money” like project-funding is not the same thing as ”easy money”. Projects should never be applied for funding’s sake only. Only if there is a real-life need behind it.

>> Check out our upcoming UNITE4H training program >>

If you are an innovative growth company (startup, scaleup, startagain) or university researcher with big ideas for big impact, check out our upcoming UNITE4H training program in Finland (in Finnish) by clicking here.

With the training, you learn skills and tools to:

  • Scout for ideas and develop a winning proposal for Horizon Europe Europe 
  • Initiate and manage your Horizon Europe partnerships and turn them into strategic partnerships 
  • Navigate public funding opportunities within Horizon Europe for HEI – SME consortia 
  • Manage the financial- and administrative aspects and IP in Horizon Europe projects
  • Maximise the impact of your Horizon Europe project results 

Training program is organized as part of the UNITE4H project. Our European partners will organize a similar program in Cyprus, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and Spain. You can find the project website at:

Author: Toni Pienonen

Header photo by Crazy Town

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