Clean Sky: an SME-friendly programme

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are a permanent and positive featured in the Clean Sky programme: almost 40% of all the beneficiaries from all calls for Proposals are SMEs. The so-called “mono-beneficiary” opportunity (i.e. the possibility for any entity to apply alone and join the Clean Sky scheme after the selection process) is, for many of them, a clear and cost effective route to participate with a specific technological and competence base well matched to the complex and integrated demonstrators. The “mono-beneficiary opportunity” does not rule out teaming up (in a small or large consortium) with a research centre or a University. In some cases, an SME applies for one project on its own and it a consortium for another project. The two are perfectly compatible and give SMEs the flexibility they need.

“The Clean Sky PPP demonstrates that the fruitful cooperation between private and public stakeholders and partnership between industrial leaders and SMEs can bring strong tangible and sustainable results. I am enthusiastic about this great partnership and think Clean Sky is a model for other sectors to facilitate cooperation and foster research and development.”

Othmar Karas
Vice-President of the European Parliament, and chair of SME intergroup

“We need to achieve the reindustrialisation of Europe in a good and sustainable way.”

Paul Rübig
MEP, Member of ITRE and SME intergroup and the European Parliament

“Working on high level demonstrators is a great opportunity for SMEs. To take the competence on board and to make it work, to make it fly!”

Axel Krein
Senior Vice-President in Research and Technology, Airbus


All the factors above make Clean Sky “an SME-friendly” programme.


Clean Sky actively encourages the participation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the programme in order to guarantee proper involvement of many different European countries. SMEs, if properly involved, bring key specific skills to the programme and contribute to successful technology demonstrations with more ambitious levels of innovation. Around 250 SMEs have already been involved at the levels of Member and Partner in the Clean Sky 1 programme. The goal is to continue to ensure the best possible level of participation of SMEs though Clean Sky 2.





SMEs statistics

SMEs are actively involved in Clean Sky mainly through Calls for Partners (CfPs). The following table summarises a few figures regarding SMEs participation:

sme 1


In contrast to FP7/H2020 research calls, Clean Sky Calls are published considering proposals for topics in line with the programme objectives set by the JU members (mainly leading industries). Topics are proposed by a ‘topic manager’ representing the member organisation. Under the supervision of the Clean Sky Project Officer, the topic manager is responsible for negotiating the technical scope with the successful consortium and then monitoring the progress to the meet the project’s technical goals.

A peculiarity of Clean Sky is that single entities can apply (mono-beneficiary derogation), allowing for an easier access to Calls, in particular for SMEs.

The Clean Sky 2015 SME survey revealed that a strong majority of participants (78%) comprise of firms with a range of up to 50 employees, meaning that Clean Sky is able to attract small businesses with potentially innovative ideas. 30% are micro-enterprises with a staff of fewer than 10 people; this does not necessarily mean start-ups, but to enterprises whose purpose is mainly innovation



SMEs have many specific skills and competences worth enhancing properly through the Clean Sky 2 programme. There is high potential for all phases of the product innovation process to benefit. In addition, SMEs tend to have a distinctive skill set including specialist knowledge, flexibility, creativity, self-motivation, short response time, and experience in various sectors.

All of this, if properly managed and directed, provides clear benefits in terms of industrial excellence, new partnerships, and EU supply chain structuring, and strongly contributes to job creation for Europe.

As our SMEs survey results showed, moving forward for future process improvement and as the Clean Sky 2 programme unfolds:



The JU is now considering some actions to guarantee a satisfactory level of participation and impact of SMEs in CS2:



SME case studies

SME case studies

  1. Sertec’s “PROUD”
  2. Anotec’s “ANCORA”
  3. 5 micro (German SME)


1. PROUD: A SERTEC Clean Sky project

SERTEC is 20 years experienced SME Company which has worked primarily in the aeronautical and defense industries worldwide, mainly developing engineering projects, tooling, testing, aircraft upgrades, tracking systems and simulators.


In the PROUD (precision outer wing assembly devices) of Clean Sky program SERTEC is working on two different parts:

  • High precision new concept tools for wings assembly and panels positioning with precisions of less than 0.1mm.
  • Robotic and automatic wing assembly of parts; the goal of this project is to be able to work in an aircraft wing assembly with anthropomorphic standard robots for the positioning, drilling, riveting, sealing and checking all the different parts of the assembly.

New concept tooling:

With respect to the high precision tooling, the project has achieved innovative solutions for the design and manufacturing of the tooling of two different kinds of configuration for the outer wings. The tools main requirement was based on a high dimensional stability and tight geometrical tolerances to compliance with surface quality for the natural laminar flow condition for the BLADE test. Stability control and manufacturing precision have been the two main characteristics that have been taken in account by the skilled and qualified aeronautical tooling designers and manufacturing engineering team involved in the project jointly with our main partner AERNNOVA and their high experienced wing assembly team.

Two Main Jigs  (12 meter length by 4 meters high by 4 meters wide) have been already manufactured and measured under diverse conditions and the goal to be able to manufacture such big structures with precisions under 0,1mm have been achieved.



On top of these massive and precise structures is still left the assembly of mechanical locators to be able to install the different parts of the wing. Those locators are in the process of being manufactured with new innovative assembly technologies to assure the tight tolerance gap we maintain for this type of project.

Robotic and automatic wing assembly:

Huge structures and aeronautical products are already assembled in an automatic manner. But, in small parts or limited assemblies, the human based assembly process remains as the only way to go, forcing subcontractors to move to lower cost countries to achieve costs reductions in the process. SERTEC has developed a new way, using intelligent systems and high precision robots to accomplish small parts assembly automatically (or with low human interaction).

We have designed and built a one-of-its-kind technological demonstrator, in order to test new systems, and to achieve the full automatic assembly stage. Our goal is to obtain the "best fit" position of several wing parts (ribs and spars) of a 1:1 scale dummy.

Thanks to high accuracy robots and to flexible grippers, combined with high accuracy computer vision feedback systems, we have achieved the goal of best fit automatic assembly. Then, we will move forward from assembly to other operations like drilling or riveting.

Also, we are using the same computer vision systems, with new augmented reality goggles, to control the workflow in real time, and to provide the operators quality inspection data on-line. The project is leading us to introduce and modify the standard aeronautical factory, and moving fast to reach the "factory of the future" designation: a delightful concept, marked as a strategic goal on the program.


Eduardo Cano is SERTEC Business Manager since 1997 and actually is coordinating two Clean Sky projects; PROUD (Precision Outer Wing Assembly Devices) and WISDOM (Wing Structural Test Development Method).

SERTEC is a Spanish SME company with high level of R&D developments and offices in Spain, USA and Chile with more than 45 high experienced and skilled engineers in Europe.


2. “ANCORA” - The SME perspective - Simplified rotorcraft noise models

One of the objectives of the GRC5 project within the Clean Sky Green Rotorcraft ITD is to implement a tool to minimise noise impact on the ground that is capable of being executed on-board “on-the-fly”, providing flights directives to the Flight Management System of the helicopter. The semi-empirical model to be used for this purpose requires information to be derived from experimental data. For this purpose noise measurements have to be made simultaneously on the outside of the helicopter (i.e. close to the noise sources) and on the ground.

The main objective of the ANCORA project was to develop and validate the measure systems and methodologies required to derive the transfer functions between on-board and ground-based microphones.

Until now microphones on the outside of helicopters have mainly been used to measure the influence of e.g. the boundary layer noise on interior cabin noise or as error signal sensors in active rotor noise control systems in these applications, the requirements regarding the microphone type and its location are not particularly stringent. The application in the ANCORA project, however, requires the accurate measurement of the absolute noise levels on-board, which requires the appropriate selection of the microphone location on the helicopter exterior.

As a first step, the feasibility of the application of surface microphones on the helicopter fuselage was demonstrated with specific flight tests on the AW139 prototype, during which the best position for the surface microphones on the helicopter was selected and their use for the purpose of the project validated.

The main challenge for the development of the ground-based measurement system was to provide a robot and reliable noise measuring system, comprised of 31 microphones, quickly deployable in the field over a wide area, at a reasonable cost. After investigating a variety of options, a solution was found based on the latest generation of sound levels meters, adapted by the manufacturer (Svantek) for the specific use of ANCORA.

An advanced methodology to determine the transfer function between the noise measure-on board the helicopter and the noise measured on the ground was developed.

During a flight test campaign with a small turboprop in Trebujena (Spain), simultaneous noise measurements were made on-board and on the ground with the earlier developed system to obtain a comprehensive database for a variety of operating conditions and flight procedures. The data obtained was used to test and validate the algorithms developed.

Based on the research performed in ANCORA it can be concluded that it is feasible to derive transfer functions between the noise measure on-board the helicopter and the noise measured on the ground.

The developed systems will now be applied during a new flight test campaign with the AW139 prototype to derive the transfer functions for this helicopter, for its further use in GRC5.

A spin-off of ANCORA is the availability to the EU aircraft industry of a robot and reliable mobile noise measurement systems, easily scalable and optimised for minimum deployment time, at a cost substantially lower than that of systems currently used. Having such a ststem readily available for flights test anywhere, greatly enhances the possibility of its use in research projects with relatively limit budget, thus allowing for a significantly increased knowledge of rotorcraft (and also fixed wing aircraft) noise, one of the main objectives of Clean Sky










Nico van Oosten
Anotec Engineering (Spain)


3. 5micron GmbH: how big R&D projects can benefit from Start-Ups and vice versa



For big or small industrial companies, funded R&D projects are often the basis on their strategic journey to bring a new method or technology to a first step of technical readiness level. Therefore such undertakings can be an enabler for future products and processes the companies may establish them in the future.

It was the end of 2014 when the European Commission gave its positive decision that our newly founded Start-Up 5micron GmbH from Berlin – Adlershoft shall overtake an important of the SFWA ITD project (Smart fixed wing aircraft – integrated technology demonstrator): the inflight measurement of deviations of the surface of the new wings up to a few micrometres. Our method is ‘reflectometry’ – calculating the wing surface as mirror from the reflection. We felt honoured and at the same time were fully aware about this leap of trust of all participants. But we knew that we have a highly motivated team with the best expertise in this field and fresh ideas to comply with the expectations of our project partner Airbus SAS. We knew that we had achieved a good reputation in former collaborations in other constellations so our impression was that both sides felt prepared for the challenges of this project integrating a Start-up into the team.

In this final phase of the project (the flight test campaign is scheduled to start in summer 2017) the new manufactured laminar wings will be integrated onto an A340 aircraft together with all specialised measurements systems and of course – our reflectometry system. So the moment is close when the reality shows if all theoretical assumptions, requirements and pre tests performed on beforehand on the developed system will show the expected performance.

Our task – to deliver the complete measurement system to monitor and to measure deviations of the wing surface occurring during flight (changing environmental conditions such as temperature, pressure or even little insects influencing the wing topography during the climb flight) – is a high responsibility to cope with. Wing topography deviations up to a few micrometres shall be acquired and analysed from our optical measurements system during flight. The developed system consists of hardware components which we had to be tested acc to the strong aircraft design standards DO 160, even if it has limited operation time for flight test only. Our software has been developed to acquire the data, transfer and store in and finally analyse the data to provide the results to the ‘customer’ – the aerodynamics from Airbus. As a small team we could react very flexibly to adapt our system to needs appearing when the project is getting mature. On the other hand Airbus had to deal with a very small company, which is an exception from the normal supply chain that they are usually dealing with. Special challenges for us as a very small company (so called ‘micro company’) are the immersive administrative and reporting effort to the partners and the EC. The support of the EC – Clean Sky team was at some points unconventionally but at any time very supportive to shorten and ease the processes on the official side.

The goal and the first results of this Cfp16 project have mainly influenced and defined one man strategic objective for our young company 5micron GmbH: Our 7 team members develop special optical measuring methods and solutions for non-standard applications in the fields of:

  • Highly precise measurements on large or faraway objects
  • Geometric measurement of inaccessible surfaces
  • Geometric measurements in harsh environments

The methods we have established for surface topography measure are:

  • Deflectometry (geometric measurements of dimensions such as length, torsion, toughness etc.) Resolution: mm
  • Shadow method (defects inspections (OK/ NOK decisions)). Resolution: 20 mm
  • Pattern projection (analysis of surface structure/topography) resolution: 5mm

Our reflectometry system is about to completed before end of 2017 and we are excited to see the system flying soon.



If you wish to participate in the Clean Sky programme, we encourage you to follow the  dedicated Calls for Proposals area in  You will find all the information regarding when the Calls will open and close, along with any other queries you have regarding participation.

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