Innovation uptake and digitalisation in the tourism sector

EU funding opportunities

The Executive Agency for SME (EASME) launched a call for proposals aimed at boosting the capacity of tourism SMEs in their digital transformation and uptake of innovation and new technologies, such as data management and artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), communications systems, cyber security.

The call for proposals aims to facilitate and reinforce transnational collaboration amongst target tourism SMEs and operators from different segments of the ecosystem (providers of travel technologies, companies providing data-processing and related services, research and education centres, professional associations, public actors). Relevant organisations providing business support to SMEs to scale-up (such as incubators, accelerators, labs, universities, innovation hubs, research centres and other relevant business support organisations) will play an important role in the project.


The action aims at:

  • reinforcing integration of tourism businesses and stakeholders in transnational and inter-regional innovation ecosystems to enable smart and sustainable growth of tourism SMEs;
  • fostering SMEs’ capacity and skills to improve their use of new digital technologies, resulting in new business models in tourism;
  • fostering innovative solutions for improving tourism management and the tourism offer through cooperation within the tourism ecosystem, including public-private partnerships.

Proposals should develop and put in place transnational and cross-ecosystem support schemes to build capacity for digital transformation, innovation and smart tourism solutions by SMEs in the tourism ecosystem.

The transnational support scheme shall focus on:

  • Boosting skills and knowledge transfer activities, through:
  • facilitating knowledge transfer between tourism companies lagging behind in terms of digitalisation and innovation, and those more advanced;
  • trainings and peer to peer learning for SMEs and start-ups in tourism;
  • technology and know-how transfer to SMEs in tourism.
  • Providing technical support activities related to incubation, acceleration and scaling-up of tourism SMEs to:
  • improve the digital, smart and innovative capacity of tourism SMEs;
  • foster innovative solutions for tourism management through enhancing cooperation in the tourism ecosystem (including in public-private partnerships) for the development of new, innovative and smart tourism products, services, skills and new business models;


3) Providing direct financial support for capacity building in digitalisation, innovation and smart tourism to selected tourism SMEs.

Eligible activities

Grant applicants must form transnational consortia, acting as a network of public and private stakeholders which may include business incubators, accelerators and business support organisations providing business support to SMEs and start-ups cooperating with providers of travel technologies, data processing and similar services, digital solutions, research and education institutes, professional associations. The consortium will act as an intermediary organising specific activities for tourism SMEs in different COSME countries. The consortium will organise and provide direct support to companies to build their capacities to develop and implement new, innovative approaches services and operations with the help of digital technologies but will also facilitate cross-border/transnational cooperation to foster peer to peer learning as well as to exchange knowledge and good practices in boosting the uptake of digitalisation, innovation and new technologies in tourism.

Each consortium/network will directly support (including financial support) in total a minimum of 60 tourism SMEs from a minimum of three eligible countries. The supported tourism SMEs can be established in the same country as a consortium member but may also be established in different eligible countries from those in which the partners forming the consortium are established. The consortium shall also support a balanced number of tourism SMEs per country.

Eligible applicants

Proposals may be submitted by the following applicants:

  • non-profit organisations (private or public);
  • non-governmental organisations;
  • business support organisations. Such business support organisations could include a business incubator/accelerator, lab, innovation hub, university or educational institution, research centres and any other relevant organisation with a proven capacity and experience in running business support activities directly to SMEs.
  • public authorities and public bodies at national, regional or local level and their networks or associations at European, international, national, regional and local level, or organisations acting on behalf of a public authority, responsible for or active in the fields of tourism, economic affairs, industry, business support or related fields;
  • international organisations;
  • private and profit-making entities including micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) active in tourism and business support;
  • chambers of commerce and industry;
  • training and educational institutions, including universities and research centres active in tourism and business support.


The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects is estimated at EUR 8 000 000. The maximum grant per project will be EUR 1 000 000. The Agency expects to fund 8 to 11 proposals. The grant is limited to a maximum reimbursement rate of 75 % of the total eligible costs.

Deadline for submission

The deadline for submitting application is on 11 February at 17:00 Brussels time.

Relevant documentation

Official documentation is available here

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