The Central Innovation Programme for SMEs – ZIM for short – is the most important funding instrument for SMEs in Germany. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, which is responsible for the programme, wants to use this funding instrument to strengthen the innovative power and competitiveness of SMEs.

What funding opportunities are there in the ZIM programme?

The program is accessible nationwide and open to all technologies and industries! Thus, eligible companies from the entire Federal Republic of Germany can receive funding for their research and development projects. These projects can be carried out by individual companies or in cooperation with companies and/or research institutions.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and, since a few years, also other medium-sized enterprises (<500 employees) are eligible to apply. In addition, other medium-sized companies (<1000 employees) can also receive funding if they cooperate with at least one SME. Research institutions are also eligible for funding if they are cooperation partners of an applicant company.

Funding is provided for personnel expenses, a flat-rate overhead allowance and, to a limited extent, contracts with third parties. Thus, up to €450,000 per company is eligible for funding for cooperation projects and up to €550,000 for individual projects. The funding rate then depends on a number of factors (e.g. company location, company size, form of cooperation, etc.) and ranges from 25% to 60%, so that the maximum grant is between €112,500 and €270,000. As a rule, the subsidy is paid out every 3 months.

For all those who cannot wait with their innovation, ZIM also brings a special extra: You are allowed to start with the project at your own risk when you submit your application! If the project is then approved at a later date, you can subsequently settle the work performed.

Number of approvals and project duration for ZIM

With ZIM, two approvals are possible within 12 months. The project duration of a ZIM-funded research and development project is usually set at 2 years. This means that companies can carry out up to four subsidised projects in parallel. The same applies to feasibility studies. In this special ZIM project form, technical and non-technical preliminary studies in preparation for a research and development project are subsidised by up to 70%. The project costs are capped at €100,000 per company, with a maximum project duration of 8 months.

ZIM funding for market launch

The ministry has also recognized that it is not only the development that involves a lot of effort, but also the market launch. In ZIM, services for market introduction can be funded for companies, which are provided by external third parties and which serve the economic exploitation of the results achieved in the funded R&D project. These external costs are then subsidized at 50%, up to a maximum of €30,000 in funding.

You can find more information on the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) and our funding advice on our further pages.

Author: Tobias Kübler

Updated in February 2024

Tobias Kübler

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Tobias Kübler

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