Graphenea announces the success of its application for an “SME Instrument” project from the European Commission. The company will receive EUR 50,000 over the next six months for a project feasibility assessment. The award is the first phase of the potentially three-phased support scheme with funding up to EUR 2,5 million. Personalized business coaching is included in the package.
For this first call, only 155 out of 2,662 submitted proposals were selected for funding. Out of those 155, only 14 projects were nanotechnology related. 39 of the successful proposals were from Spain, putting the country in first place ahead of the UK (26), Italy (20), Germany (11) and Ireland (10). It is expected that the EU executive finances about 645 projects this year and 670 in 2015.
In the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument scheme, successful candidates may subsequently opt for a much more substantial additional subsidy of between EUR 500,000 and 2,5 million, as part of the second phase of the program. While the first phase of funding provides financial support for exploring and assessing the technical feasibility and commercial potential of a breakthrough innovation that a company wants to exploit and commercialize, the second phase unlocks funds that may be used for prototyping, miniaturization, scaling-up, design, performance verification, testing, demonstration, development of pilot lines, validation for market replication, including other activities aimed at bringing innovation to investment readiness and maturity for market take-up. The current, first phase, funds activities such as risk assessment, design or market studies, and intellectual property exploration, with the ultimate goal of placing a new product, service or process on the market.
After one or two years of second phase evolution, the most successful projects enter the third and final commercialization phase. Activities in the third phase can include support for further developing investment readiness, linking with private investors and customers through brokerage activities, assistance in applying for further EU risk finance, and a range of other innovation support activities and services offered via the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
The grants are part of the Horizon 2020 program, which allocated over the next seven years EUR 3,000 million to finance innovative projects among SMEs, which account for over 99% of the European industrial base. In addition, the Commission and the European Investment Bank have joined forces with banks and financial institutions providing to innovative companies, through other financial instruments, up to EUR 24,000 million in the coming years.
This support is part of a comprehensive strategy driven from Brussels to place more emphasis on innovation, an essential element in global productivity competitiveness. According to a report on competitiveness in Europe, companies that develop innovative products tend to create more jobs than those that do not.