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ZIM Overview

The Central Innovation Programme for SMEs

ZIM (Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand) is a funding programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with business operations in Germany which want to develop new or significantly improve existing products, processes or technical services. Public and private non-profit research and technology organisations (RTO) acting as a cooperation partner of a SME are also eligible for ZIM-funding.

The programme is open to all branches and technological sectors. ZIM provides a reliable source of support for innovation efforts since 2008. The redefined ZIM guidelines have been published on 15 April 2015 and applications can be submitted continuously until 31 December 2019. All German applicants have to file their own ZIM application in German language.

The aim of ZIM is to sustainably increase the innovative capacity and competitiveness of SMEs including craft businesses and independent professions. Thus the programme contributes to economic growth and the generation of new jobs. All German SMEs up to 499 employees are eligible for funding.

» Guidelines (Richtlinie)

ZIM offers

  • Multiple funding variants for custom-fit funding
  • Possibility for continuous application
  • Easy application and quick decision processes

» Further information is available in the English ZIM programme brochure

Funding options in ZIM

Funding is also provided for services and consultation related to the market launch of the project results (e.g. market research, quality labelling, testing and certification, etc.). Companies are eligible if their ZIM individual or cooperative project has been approved for funding.
» Further information on applications for Services for Market Introduction

Types of ZIM cooperation projects

Within ZIM cooperation projects there are several ways to set up a cooperation which need to be submitted in the application form “Antrag für Kooperationsprojekte”:

  • Cooperation R&D projects between at least two companies
  • Cooperation R&D projects between at least one company and at least one RTO

including the possibility for companies within their subproject to award a R&D contract to a research partner (min. 30% and max. 70% of the eligible person-months) and for companies and RTO to involve a subcontractor for external services (max. 25% of the eligible project budget).


Transnational Cooperation for joint projects

Within ZIM there are different possibilities to cooperate with transnational partners. 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%.

Appearance of transnational partners of eligible German companies:

  • As a subcontractor or by being awarded a R&D contract (but without the bonus for the German companies)
  • As a "not applying partner" in cooperation projects. Transnational partners need to arrange financing for the subproject through local funding programmes or by own financial recourses.
    Necessary documents from "not applying partners":
    • Description of the subproject
    • Working plan with person-months
    • Short portrait of business and technical experience of the partner
    • Letter of intent with signature
    • Cooperation agreement including all partners (draft)
  • As a partner in cooperation networks for the development of a network concept and the implementation of common R&D projects (participation of foreign partners is possible if the minimum requirement of six German SME partners is fulfilled).

» Further information is in the English ZIM programme brochure

Network IraSME for transnational projects

The funding programme ZIM participates in IraSME, a network of ministries and funding agencies which are owners or managers of national and regional funding programmes for cooperative research projects between small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). Also research and technology organisations (RTO) are invited to participate as a cooperation partner of an involved SME.

Twice a year IraSME issues joint calls for proposals for transnational cooperative research projects between SMEs and RTOs with the objective to develop innovative products, processes or technical services. Currently, the network connects Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, the region Nord-Pas de Calais and Russia. Additional countries and regions are planned.

» Further information on IraSME and open calls

Bilateral Agreements connected to ZIM

As service for German applicants, several bilateral agreements with other countries facilitate synchronized funding with foreign national programmes, because ZIM can only apply to finance the German partners. Current bilateral agreements are effective with Alberta (Canada), Israel, Finland, South Korea and Vietnam. At least once a year joint calls for proposals for transnational cooperative research 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.

» Further information on bilateral agreements and open calls

Contact person for International Cooperation

Please contact us for any further consulting!

AiF Projekt GmbH
Christian Fichtner | Georg Nagel | Felix Richter
030 48163-493 |