The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has set up the Central Innovation Programme to foster market-driven technology-based R&D work within German SMEs. The programme is designed to enhance companies' capacity to innovate and to strengthen their long-term competitiveness.
Under ZIM, companies and the research institutes they work with can be awarded grants for ambitious R&D projects. Funding is not restricted to any particular field of technology, nor to specific fields of application. Whether or not an application for a grant is approved depends on how innovative the R&D project is and how marketable the results are likely to be.
Applications for a grant are approved for about 4,500 research and development projects annually. ZIM is thus the most successful support programme for the promotion of innovative SMEs in Germany.
In November 2014, State Secretary Iris Gleicke handed over the 20,000th notification of award for a cooperation project.
Cooperation between companies and research institutes helps to establish networks between industry and science. The effect is a direct transfer of expertise, which translates new technological findings into marketable products, processes, and services.
When it comes to funding under ZIM, there are several options from which companies can choose the one that best suits their needs:
- ZIM cooperation projects - the programme provides funding for R&D work carried out jointly by two or more companies, or by one company and one or more research institutes.
- ZIM individual projects - the programme provides funding for individual companies doing their own in-house R&D work.
- ZIM cooperation networks - the programme provides funding for external network management work carried out by innovative networks that comprise at least six SMEs which jointly develop a common innovation.