80 billion Euros for innovators

The EU is increasingly focusing its research funding on SMEs. The Horizon 2020 program will provide €80 billion in grants between 2014 and 2020.

The Participant Portal is the first step towards receiving funding. Here you will find all the tenders of the EU research framework program Horizon 2020 and this is also the only place that applicants can submit project proposals. Experts recommend that interested parties register as early as possible. The application is too complex to leave it until the last minute. But it is mandatory: Consultants are no longer permitted to submit applications—the procedure was recently changed so that the project coordinator, as the contractual partner, must now submit them.

The effort can be worthwhile: Horizon 2020 is the world’s biggest research and innovation program, with a budget of €80 billion. The idea behind it is to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry and encourage cross-country cooperation agreements. The program is built around three pillars: “Excellent Science”, “Industrial Leadership” and “Societal Challenges”.

In the pillars “Industrial Leadership” and “Societal Challenges”, a fifth of the funding (€8 billion) is reserved for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Funding is provided for feasibility studies (up to €50,000) and prototypes and demonstrators (€0.5–2.5 million). There are also various support measures available to launch innovations on the market.

The focus is on six key technologies, including photonics, micro / nanoelectronics and innovative production technologies (e.g. 3D printing). However, interested parties from these areas should factor in some time to find tenders—the typical lot of the enabler technologies. But for research innovation actions, the applicants could receive up to 100 percent funding and for innovation actions up to 70 percent funding. Based on the work programs for 2016 and 2017, approximately €300 million has been earmarked for projects with a reference to photonics. It is likely that this budget will increase considerably in the following years.

Successful application—how to go about it

At least three independent companies / institutes from three EU countries or associated countries must participate. SMEs can also apply for individual funding, but they have to explain how their project benefits Europe. Companies looking for project partners and advice can contact the advisory offices of the enterprise europe network, which can be found in more than 30 cities in Germany and also throughout Europe.

Here are a few tips to increase the chances of an application being successful:

  • Write the application like a business plan. It should explain why the planned product is relevant for Europe, describe its market potential, list potential partners in the supply chain and explain the milestones that are to be achieved until the market launch.

  • The EU tenders distinguish between nine technology readiness levels—in other words, the stages between basic research and the market launch phase. Applicants must classify their projects in these levels realistically. Applications that do not fit the tender exactly, are sorted out immediately and conclusively.

  • Care is needed. On average, assessors have just 1.5 hours to read applications that can be up to 70 pages. Clean structuring, tables, diagrams, pictures and complex subjects broken down into questions and answers help the assessors—and, ultimately, also the applicants. Search engine optimization is also advisable.

  • Successful project applications live from convincing consortia. Partners should complement each others’ expertise and, if possible, should also cover different areas of the supply chain.

  • Well-informed applicants have better chances of success. The tender committees are open. Cooperation is helpful to obtain information about tenders at an early stage. Changing sides can also help. The EU Commission is constantly looking for expert assessors to examine the applications.

  • Depending on the industrial focus, the success rate for the applications fluctuates between two and ten percent. Or to put it another way, nine out of ten applications are unsuccessful. Therefore, applicants must weigh up whether their idea is worth the effort of submitting the application.

  • Funded projects must be published. Applications must already indicate which publications, websites, conferences, etc. are planned. Just remember: Be realistic, clarify responsibilities and communication channels beforehand and, don't forget to document your work continuously in pictures, sound and writing.

More information at www.horizont2020.de

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