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Cascade Funding & new opportunities for businesses across Europe to innovate

Cascade financing is a mechanism of the European Commission to distribute public funds to support start-up SMEs or mid-cap companies primarily through the development of digital innovation. At  ZABALA we organize and manage several cascade funding projects which are opening several opportunities to innovate your business beyond the ordinary Horizon 2020 calls.

Among the many different types of funding that one can find under European Calls, cascade funding, also known as Financial Support to third parties (FSFTP), is certainly among the most famous ones. The main objective of this financing method is to simplify administrative procedures with SMEs, thus allowing some projects financed by the EU to issue, in turn, open calls to obtain more funding. In other words, Cascade funding is a simplified public funding opportunity designed for small scale businesses.

Why Cascade funding?

Being an innovative start-up, SME or a mid-cap often means facing several budgetary problems that will need to be addressed. Looking for funding under Horizon 2020 calls is the next step but the process of finding partners and submitting a proposal, hoping that it will get approved is a longshot that many companies are not able to take. In most cases, direct Horizon2020 calls might not even be able to finance businesses in ways that businesses would want.

This is where cascade funding comes in. Horizon 2020 allocates almost € 800 million in cascade financing calls. In practice this means, instead of going directly to the source which in this case is Horizon 2020, Start-ups and SME owners can seek funding as third parties through an open call of an ongoing project.

Support is usually given in the form of funding complemented with technical assistance from industry experts who can support applicants in their proposal preparation as well as project execution. Mainly aimed at SMEs and startups, these calls provide funding ranging from € 50,000 to € 150,000 in equity-free funding. As the calls are less-known than the standard ones, the possibilities of successful proposals increase and open the gateway to the European innovative ecosystem.

The cascade funding opportunities managed by ZABALA: 

At ZABALA we organize and manage several open calls. Currently, we open new opportunities on cascade funding beyond ordinary calls through 5 programmes, each with their own open calls for funding and/or services directed at small scale businesses and local authorities. These programmes are initiatives fostering entrepreneurship and startups across Europe in different sectors, with a preponderance for ICT applied to different verticals such as Industry, Energy, Big Data, Logistics, Environment, Health, Media, Smart Cities, etc.

Which are these programmes? 


MediaFutures, is a new data innovation hub bringing together startups, SMEs and artists to solve challenges in the Media industry. It supports innovative solutions that help people engage with quality journalism, science education and democratic processes. MediaFutures will support 51 startups and SMEs, and 43 artists across three Open Calls for applications, distributing a total amount of €2.5 million.

It has recently announced its first accelerator and residency programmes Open Call. Startups and artists can now apply for equity-free funding of up to €80,000 to tackle misinformation about COVID-19 using data.


DAPSI is a programme focused on funding initiatives that support the right to data portability, one of the priorities of the European Commission.  SMEs, startups, research centers, universities and individuals are eligible. It will support projects through a 9-month supporting programme where experts in diverse fields will provide a successful working methodology, access to top infrastructure, training in business and data related topics, coaching, mentoring, and a vibrant ecosystem. On top of that, each DAPSI project can receive grants up to €150k.

The Data Portability and Services Incubator (DAPSI) recently launched its second Open Call to distribute €2.1 million to internet innovators, empowering them to develop new solutions in the Data Portability field.


There is a widespread lack of awareness of the potential benefits of data-driven innovation, particularly among SMEs.  REACH aims to launch a sustainable European-wide second-generation incubator for data-driven start-ups & SMEs aiming to develop innovative experiments within data value chains. REACH will not only connect data corporations with European innovators, but it will also engage Digital Innovation Hubs in the conception of high potential data value-chains and value-added services. Join the REACH Incubator to get up to €120K, and opportunity to work with leading corporations and their proprietary data.

The REACH Incubator has a €3.5 Million fund to foster the creation of data value chains across Europe and is looking for 30 promising big data startups and SMEs to take part in its first round of incubation. The call is now open.


DigiFed paves the way to a new era of digitising European industry by engaging regional authorities to insure a full support to SME towards digital transformation provided by a complete innovation ecosystem (RTOs, large groups, clusters, innovation experts, universities and public bodies). Operating within the framework of the Smart Anything Everywhere InitiativeDigiFed seeks to boost the adoption of advanced digital technologies, or cyber-physical systems (CPS), by EU SMEs with a focus on non-digital businesses.

Through its second open call, DigiFed offers grants of up to € 55k as well as technical and business support to start-ups, SMEs or Mid-Caps for the development of smart applications in Europe. This call will close soon on 15th December 2020!


A key challenge for local authorities and legal private entities on islands is to transform their overall long-term ambitions into a credible set of plans and project outlines as many do not have the expertise to concretely launch investments, access finance and kick-start their projects. For this reason, the European Islands Facility NESOI aims to support successful energy transition projects on EU islands, mobilising more than €100M of investment and significantly reducing CO2 and GHG emissions through a hands-on approach allowing local authorities and legal private entities to get the necessary technical and financial capacity for the effective implementation of islands’ energy transition plans.

The first open call from the European Island Facility NESOI offers grants of up to € 60K per proposal as well as up to € 60K worth of Technical Assistance to help local European islands reach their energy transition ambitions. This call will close soon on 18th December 2020!


The European federation of Data Driven Innovation Hubs aims to support companies on their way to digitisation by bringing them closer to all smart data-driven technologies. It will be the European reference for data driven innovation and experimentation, fostering collaboration between data driven initiatives, federating solutions in a global common catalogue of data services, and sharing data in a cross-border and cross-sector basis. With the establishment of the Common European Data Spaces, the federation is initially composed of 12 DIHs, covering 10 countries and 12 different regions, and plans to increase the geographical coverage by incorporating other relevant initiatives in the upcoming months.

The first open call offers up to 60,000 euros of financial support per experiment, in addition to access to the latest advances in Data Analysis and advanced assets in Big Data, technical and business training and continuous monitoring support by the Digital Innovation Centres (DIH) valued at up to 70,000 euros per experiment. The call will be open until 8th of February 2021.

What’s in them for me?

Benefits of each programme and the call deadlines are summarised in the table below:



Call for

up to €80,000 per project to tackle misinformation about COVID-19 using data.

up to €150k per project + training in business and data related topics, coaching, mentoring, and a vibrant ecosystem. For initiatives that support the right to data portability.

up to €120K per project to foster the creation of data value chains across Europe

up to € 55k + technical and business support to start-ups, SMEs or Mid-Caps for the development of smart applications in Europe.

up to € 60K per proposal as well as up to € 60K worth of Technical Assistance to help local European islands reach their energy transition ambitions.


Open call deadline

Startups, SMEs and artists have until 28 January 2021 to apply

Deadline to apply for the 2nd Open Call is on 20 January 2021, 12:00 (noon) CET

February 15th, 2021 at 12:00 (noon) CET

15th December 2020

18th December 2020


Media / Creative industries / ICT



Smart applications / Digitalisation



Big Data

Big Data

Big Data

Cyber physical systems

Energy efficient technologies / Renewable Energy


SMEs/startups working with data/artists

SMEs, startups, research centers, universities and individuals


Startups, SMEs, and mid-caps, Digital Innovation Hubs

Local island authorities / private entities on islands





Apply now link

More info 



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