H2020 MINE.THE.GAP project, led and coordinated by ICAMCyL Foundation, has a total budget of € 5 million, € 4 million of which will go to directly finance innovation projects in the raw materials and mining sectors with the support of technology providers from other sectors. This funding will be channeled through 9 European industrial clusters, one of them being the Iberian Sustainable Mining Cluster (ISMC), also part of the project’s Consortium.

ISMC has achieved its first European project within the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. MINE.THE.GAP belongs to the call H2020 INNOSUP, whose main objective is to provide technical and financial support to SMEs through industrial clusters. The project will have a decisive impact on the raw materials and mining sectors, since most of its budget (around € 4 million) must be dedicated to directly finance innovation projects and services in SMEs of these sectors.

During this three-year project, at least two open calls will be held for SMEs to carry out innovation projects in the mining sector. These projects will include an SME from the raw materials and mining sector and two technology providers in the fields of ICT, circular economy, advanced manufacturing, or resource efficiency. At least 30 projects will be financed, benefiting up to 90 SMEs from the sectors involved.

In addition to these funding rounds, MINE.THE.GAP will offer free services to SMEs in the participating sectors in the areas of internationalization, technology watch, technology transfer, training, partners’ search and exchange programs. These services are expected to give a decisive boost to the modernization of the European mining sector, one of the most affected in terms of productivity and employment in the recent decades.

A decisive support for economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis

This project comes at a critical moment for our local economies, severely affected by the lockdown due to COVID-19. Santiago Cuesta, ISMC’s cluster manager, has noted: “MINE.THE.GAP entails a unique opportunity for mining SMEs to use European financing to stimulate the return to activity after the recent lockdown.” Santiago Cuesta has also added that the European Commission is examining the possibility of creating an urgent call specifically aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID crisis on SMEs in the sectors of interest in the project.

Interregional and intersectoral impact at European level

11 European partners participate in MINE.THE.GAP project, 9 of them being industrial clusters representing more than 1,000 members and up to 529 SMEs. The participating countries (Germany, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain) represent more than 50% of all SMEs in the mining sector in Europe, which gives a good idea of ​​the potential impact on the sector in terms of competitiveness and economic growth.

MINE.THE.GAP will be strongly focused on promoting interregional and intersectoral collaboration at European level, meaning that those projects that involve synergies not only between different sectors but also between the different participating European regions will be prioritized.

Both ICAMCyL Foundation and the Iberian Sustainable Mining Cluster believe that this project will strongly contribute to the modernization and increase of competitiveness of the national mining SMEs, having a great impact in productivity and sustainability in the longer term.

The project will kick off in September and a first urgent open call is expected to be released as soon as possible, hopefully before the end of the year. These calls will be addressed to all SMEs in the mining sector willing to present novel ideas for the modernization of their processes and services in collaboration will technology provider companies. In this respect, the Iberian Sustainable Mining Cluster (ISMC) will make a big effort to communicate and prepare the SMEs belonging to the association to present innovative and competitive projects.

Santiago Cuesta López highlights the huge impact that this project will have for SMEs in the raw materials and mining sectors: ‘MINE.THE.GAP is a unique opportunity for the mining sector to embrace new technologies and follow the trends of sustainability and circularity worldwide‘. He also points out the relevance of the role of ICAMCyL and the ISMC within the project: ‘ICAMCyL has managed to attract millions of euros in direct funding for SMEs in the mining sector. This will be key for our mining territories at the regional and national level. Moreover, the presence of the ISMC cluster guarantees the impact of this project in our territory.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 873149.