NUTIKAS – Applied research in smart specialisation growth areas




The conditions for the activity ‘Support for applied research in smart specialisation growth areas’ were approved by the Minister of Education and Research with Regulation No. 40 on 21 August 2015.

The support aims to contribute to growth in the research-intensity of the Estonian economy, supporting collaboration between R&D institutions and companies. Furthermore, the support will help to raise the capabilities of R&D institutions to carry out applied research needed for business in smart specialisation growth areas.

The funding supports companies in commissioning necessary applied research or product development projects from universities or research institutions.

The maximum funding per project is 2 million euros, whereas the minimum amount is 20 thousand euros.

Grants will be distributed through open calls for proposals organised by the Archimedes Foundation. The Estonian Research Council assists the process by a steering committee that evaluates applications and oversees the support measure overall.

The materials of the open call for proposals are available on the Archimedes website.

Contact details of Estonian research institutions can be found here.

For whom is the support intended?

The funding is intended for a company registered in the Estonian commercial register, for the benefit of which a study or product development project in the smart specialisation growth area will be carried out by a research institution. The company contributes to the study with its own financing depending on the size of the company, and whether product development or an applied study is involved.

The company may also involve other business partners in the pool of project participants with which to utilise the new information obtained from an applied study or a product development project.

Smart specialisation growth areas are fields of activity where the companies should have above-average development opportunities and where the allocation of resources to R&D would enable them to achieve a competitive advantage. The current R&D&I strategy ‘Knowledge-based Estonia’ sets out three growth areas:

  • information and communication technologies (ICT) related to other areas of economy (e. g. cybersecurity, software development or the use of ICT for automating industrial processes);
  • health technologies and services (e. g. the use of biotechnology or IT for the development of medical services or products);
  • more effective use of resources (valuation of resources) (e. g. materials science and/or industry, innovative construction options, more effective utilisation of oil shale in the chemical industry).

What can the support be used for?

Support may be sought for commissioning an applied study or product development project in a smart specialisation growth area from an Estonian R&D institution.

Applied research is original research that helps to identify solutions to practical problems in a relatively short period of time. These include research or critical research for obtaining new knowledge or skills that could be used for the development of new products, processes or services. Furthermore, these may be of benefit in the improvement of the already existing products, processes or services.

This also includes the creation of components for comprehensive systems needed for an applied study. This may also include designing of prototypes at a lab or in an environment simulating the existing systems, as well as pilot production.

Product development is the acquisition, combination, shaping and utilisation of existing scientific, technological, business and other relevant knowledge and skills for the development of new or improved products, processes or services.

This may also include activities aiming to conceptually define, plan or document new products, processes or services.

  • Product development may encompass the creation, demonstration, piloting, testing or validation of a new or improved product, process or service prototypes in an environment matching their actual active mode. In this respect it is important that the technical improvement of an unfinished product, process or service is not involved.
  • Product development also includes the development of commercially employed prototypes and pilot projects. This is subject to the condition that the prototype should be a commercial final product and that its production solely for the purposes of demonstration or validation would be too costly.
  • Product development does not include routine or periodical changes made to existing products, product lines, manufacturing processes, services or other activities, even if these changes amount to improvements.

Detailed clarification and examples of what research and development is and is not, are available in the OECD Frascati Manual (pp. 43 to 79).

What is the amount of the support?

The amount of funding per project ranges from 20 000 to 2 million euros. In order to receive funding, the company itself also has to contribute financing, the amount of which depends on the size of the company and whether the support is being sought for commissioning product development or applied research.


Small enterprise definition and support rate
Medium-sized enterprise definition and support rate
Large enterprise definition and support rate
Number of employees Less than 50 employees 50 – 250 employees More than 250 employees
Annual turnover and balance sheet total The annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed 10 million euros. The annual turnover is between 10 – 50 million euros and/or the annual balance sheet total is between 10 – 43 million euros. The annual turnover exceeds 50 million euros and/or the annual balance sheet total exceeds 43 million euros.
Applied research 70% 60% 50%
Product development 45% 35% 25%

What costs may be covered by the support?

  • Costs related to research, technical information or outsourced or licensed patent services necessary for applied research or product development and commissioned from public R&D institutions. This component has to make up at least 60% of the eligible costs.
  • Costs of the use of equipment, infrastructure and other operating costs of the applicant and partner(s) directly linked to the project (e.g. costs of materials, supply) and costs for staff working on the project. These costs may account for up to 40% of the eligible costs.

How long is the support period ?

Supported projects must not have commenced before the submission of an application.
The duration of supported projects is up to three years.
Supported projects must be finished by 31 August 2022 at the latest.


Viktor Muuli
Manager of Smart Specialisation
+372 7 300 325