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Maritime clusters as an innovative enabler for a Sustainable Blue Economy in the Mediterranean

Available Funding:
€ 7 600 000

This topic is part of the call : "Regional flagships projects supporting sustainable blue economy in EU sea basins (EMFAF-2023-PIA-FLAGSHIP)" part of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) Programme


The overall objective of this topic is to foster an effective network of maritime clusters[1] across the Mediterranean in order to support medium, small and micro enterprises in the blue economy.

This topic aims at contributing to the Goal 2 “A smart and resilient blue economy” of the WestMED Initiative[1] (Priority 2.2. “Maritime Clusters Development”), by building up on clusters currently cooperating (e.g. WestMED Clusters Alliance) or similar co-operation agreements and actions in the region developed by EU networks for industrial policy, interregional collaboration and integration of SMEs into EU and global value chains.

The referred second UfM Ministerial Declaration on SBE also calls for the establishment of blue economy clusters - including transnational ones, the strengthening of existing clusters, and increased cooperation between national clusters in the Mediterranean.


This topic focuses on establishing new national maritime clusters and enhancing cooperation between Northern and Southern clusters across the Mediterranean and among clusters, SMEs, academia and research centres, institutional actors and financial institutions. It also aims to improve the involvement of maritime clusters in policy-making at the regional/national levels, in particular as regards the definition/upgrade of smart specialisation strategies.

Activities that can be funded:

Selected projects should carry out to the maximum extent possible the indicative (not exhaustive) activities listed below:

  • Benchmark against best practices and/or use cases to assess maritime clusters’ needs to achieve a critical mass and build sufficient capacity towards internationalisation, and a sustainable blue economy sectoral specialisation and improve cluster management;
  • Establish new national maritime cluster organisations across the Mediterranean and enhance cooperation between northern and southern Mediterranean maritime clusters;
  • Formulate recommendations to relevant public authorities to harness existing clusters’ practices for the benefit of coastal communities through greater regional cooperation in the Mediterranean;
  • Promote cooperation between key actors of maritime clusters (business, research, education and training institutes, public authorities), accelerators, incubators and financial intermediaries;
  • Undertake concrete joint activities, e.g. joint investment in research and innovation, developing cluster strategies and practices;
  • Strengthen cluster services to business, e.g. promoting start-ups through accelerators and business angel services, developing business services, facilitating access to finance;
  • Promote capacity-building and knowledge transfer activities, e.g. exchanging good practices, transferring capacity and enhancing mutual learning;
  • Improve the involvement of maritime clusters in the policy-making, including the definition/upgrade of smart specialisation strategies;
  • Support policymakers in dealing with cluster policy by creating synergies with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform and the European Network of Maritime Clusters.

Expected Impact:

Applicants will describe in their proposal the concrete and measurable results within the duration of the project and their expected impact, including indicators for the monitoring and measurement of progress.

Projects are expected to achieve the following impacts to the maximum extent possible in line with the proposed activities:

  • Strengthened competitiveness of the maritime clusters;
  • Enhanced cooperation among clusters and financial institutions, and between SMEs, academia and research centres;
  • Increased participation of coastal stakeholders (including public authorities) and their engagement into clusters activities, notably linked to market opportunities;
  • Improved governance structure of clusters and management of skills;
  • National maritime clusters established across the Mediterranean and enhanced cooperation between EU and partner countries;
  • Maritime clusters involved in the policy-making, including the upgrade of smart specialisation strategies;
  • Increased cooperation between the activities of WestMed Maritime Clusters Alliance[3] and/or other similar cooperation agreements/actions, WestMed National Hubs and clusters.

The above list of expected impacts is non-exhaustive and applicants may add others if deemed relevant to achieve the objectives of this topic.

[1]Study on maritime clusters in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea | Maritime Forum ( Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean (SWD(2017) 130 final)

[2]Study on maritime clusters in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea | Maritime Forum ( Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean (SWD(2017) 130 final)


Eligible Applicants:

In order to be eligible, the applicants (beneficiaries and affiliated entities) must:

  • be legal entities (public or private bodies)
  • be established in one of the eligible countries, i.e.:
    • EU Member States (including overseas countries and territories (OCTs);
    • non-EU countries that are part of the sea basin strategies and/or regional cooperation frameworks targeted in this call for proposals:
      • For Topic 2: Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey;
      • For Topic 3 and Topic 4: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Beneficiaries and affiliated entities must register in the Participant Register — before submitting the proposal — and will have to be validated by the Central Validation Service (REA Validation). For the validation, they will be requested to upload documents showing legal status and origin. Other entities may participate in other consortium roles, such as associated partners, subcontractors, third parties giving in-kind contributions, etc (see section 13).

Specific cases:

Exceptional funding — Entities from countries mentioned in the work programme (if any) are only exceptionally eligible, if the granting authority considers their participation essential for the implementation of the action.

Natural persons — Natural persons are NOT eligible (with the exception of selfemployed persons, i.e. sole traders, where the company does not have legal personality separate from that of the natural person).

International organisations — International organisations are eligible. The rules on eligible countries do not apply to them.

Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees for the protection of the EU financial interests equivalent to that offered by legal persons.

EU bodies — EU bodies (with the exception of the European Commission Joint Research Centre) can NOT be part of the consortium.

Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’. Please note that if the action will be implemented by the members, they should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible).

EU restrictive measures — Special rules apply for certain entities (e.g. entities subject to EU restrictive measures under Article 29 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) and Article 215 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU)34 and entities covered by Commission Guidelines No 2013/C 205/0535).

Such entities are not eligible to participate in any capacity, including as beneficiaries, affiliated entities, associated partners, subcontractors or recipients of financial support to third parties (if any). For more information, see Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment.

Project Length:

Projects should normally range between 12 and 36 months (extensions are possible, if duly justified and through an amendment).

Further Financing Information:

The available call budget is EUR 7 600 000. This budget might be increased by maximum 20%. Project budgets (maximum grant amount) are expected to range between EUR 400 000 and EUR 1 000 000 per project, but this does not preclude the submission/selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Hence, project budgets (maximum grant amount) per topic are expected to range between:

  • EUR 400 000 and EUR 1 000 000 per project - Topic 1: Diversification of fisheries activities in the Atlantic area
  • EUR 400 000 and EUR 600 000 per project - Topic 2: Harnessing preparedness and response to marine pollution in the Black Sea
  • EUR 400 000 and EUR 1 000 000 per project - Topic 3: Sustainable transport and ports in the Mediterranean
  • EUR 400 000 and EUR 1 000 000 per project - Topic 4: Maritime clusters as an innovative enabler for a Sustainable Blue Economy in the Mediterranean
  • EUR 400 000 and EUR 1 000 000 per project - Topic 5: Sustainable maritime and coastal tourism in the Outermost Regions
  • EUR 400 000 and EUR 600 000 per project - Topic 6: Regenerative ocean farming in the Baltic Sea Region
For more Information:

For more Information, please consult the funding details on the European Commission portal: Portal.