Proximity and social economy industrial ecosystem: boosting the digital transition of social economy enterprises and SMEs

  • Action type: SMP-COSME-2023-SEED
  • Opening date: 14 September 2023
  • Closing time: 21 November 2023 17:00 (Europe/Brussels)
  • Budget per project: € 1 300 000 of total € 8 000 000
  • Project duration: 24 and 36 months
  • Official website


In view of achieving the objectives set out in the European Commission’s Communication 2030 Digital Compass – the European way for the Digital Decade and the Social Economy Action Plan (SEAP), as well as to deliver on the actions identified in the Transition Pathway for the proximity and social economy industrial ecosystem, this call for proposals aims at:

  • Strengthening the digital transition and capabilities of SMEs in the social economy fostering their economic, organisational and impact related performances through setting up capacity building activities, training, advisory, joint technology initiatives, etc..
  • Supporting knowledge transfer and transnational cooperation amongst different partners, such as businesses and ‘enabling organisations’.
  • Strengthening the digital capacity and offer of ‘enabling organisations’ in the social economy. In doing so, those organisations (e.g. European, national and regional business support organisations, incubators, membership federations,…) can multiply the effects of this call and support their members, clients and stakeholders in their digital transition as well as driving digital social innovations.
  • Strengthening the role of social economy as a driver for digital social innovation and consequent digital solutions and tools developed to answer social, societal and environmental challenges.

The call supports the implementation of the Transition Pathway for proximity and social economy. Applications need to address at least one of the seven action areas of the digital chapter in the transition pathway:

1. New business models – the platform economy

2. Data Maturity and data driven business models

3. Public and private tech partnerships and support

4. Data sharing, Data management & Code of Conduct

5. Supporting Digital Social Innovation & Tech for Good entrepreneurship

6. Access to technology

7. Boosting digital skills by – and in the social economy

The goals of the action should be achieved via mapping, training, coaching, capacity building, peer learning, awareness raising events and other activities in line with the primary objectives of the call.

The call for proposal targets the following outcomes:

  • Increased amount of digitally skilled workforce in the SMEs in the social economy.
  • Increased know-how on how digitalisation can support organisational efficiency and professionalisation.
  • Improved knowledge and capacity when it comes to digitisation within “enabling organisations” supporting SMEs in the social economy.
  • Increased use of new technologies and digital tools in social economy SMEs as well as overall increased digital maturity of social economy organisations.
  • Enhanced Digital Social Innovation (DSI) capacity in local, regional and national social economy ecosystems.
  • Increased amount of tech partnerships (physical or digital) making technology accessible affordable and adaptable through shared models supporting the development of Tech for Good.

A vibrant and varied ecosystem of social enterprises adopting social economy models enabled by digital networks and technologies.

Digitising the social economy

The call will support transnational partnerships to boost the digital capacity of actors in the proximity and social economy industrial ecosystem. The aim will be to enable social economy entities to turn digital challenges into opportunities, ensuring a digital transition that is fair and inclusive. In doing so the call also wants to strengthen the capacity of social economy ‘enabling organisations’ in supporting members, clients and stakeholders in their digital transition. Digitalisation can offer significant benefits, but many social economy entities still face barriers regarding the digitalisation of their production processes, services, operations impact models. Such barriers are mainly related to digital skills, know-how, access to technology, data management capacity and an enabling environment for digital business models rooted in the social economy. This call also offers the opportunity to promote Digital Social Innovation (DSI) as way to accelerate social, ecological and collective impact of actors in the social economy.


As a crucial element, linked to the primary objectives of this call for proposal applicants have to (i) identify and map the main digital needs and opportunities of the identified target group (related to identified challenges, opportunities and innovation potentials) and (ii) directly support SMEs in the social economy as well as their enabling organisations, by setting up capacity building activities addressing those needs.

To address the secondary objectives of this call for proposals, applicants can propose additional activities to support the use and uptake of digital social innovation.

Local capacity building activities must be at the centre of the proposal. Consequently, the majority of activities and resources of the proposal must focus on capacity building for (i) SMEs in the social economy and their (ii) enabling organisations.

Transnational activities within the consortia are to be organised in support of these local actions and activities and must promote learning effects between the partners of the consortia (e.g. peer learning, train the trainer). Applicants are therefore motivated to develop consortia composed of organisations with different degrees of maturity and consequently to facilitate knowledge transfer from front-runners to organisations that are less advanced. Transnational activities can thus be developed to support the mapping exercises, jointly develop the capacity building packages or design joint Digital Social Innovation (DSI) trajectories.

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