Keywords: 2021 Funding programs, EIC Accelerator, EU grants, European funding, Funding opportunities, Grants, National grants, Public funding, Public Funding Estonia, Public Funding Finland, Public Funding Sweden
Author: Nishant Dixit
3 key steps to obtain public funding for your innovation
Is your company developing an innovation that solves a major technological or commercial problem and unlocks greater economic value? National and EU funding is available to help you turn your innovation into a market-leading solution. The range of available funding options can be confusing to a new applicant but Excedea can help. Read on for 3 important steps to get started in funding innovation.
Understand if your project is innovative
When considering innovation-focused public funding, it is important to understand what is defined as “innovation”. Generally, an innovation is a new or improved solution that unlocks sustainable economic growth. To ensure that your project is the right fit for innovation-focused public funding, have a look at what the funders say.
The European Innovation Council (EIC), the main funding body of the European Commission, defines innovation as something that:
– Is radically different from existing products, services, or business models.
– Is highly risky.
– Has the potential to scale up internationally.
The national funding agencies in Finland and Sweden additionally describe innovation as products and technologies that are sustainable and can compete in global markets. At both EU and national levels, funding strategies are shaped by the larger goal of developing and scaling European technology, products, and services to compete with products from other parts of the world.
Assess your innovation
If your innovation aligns with the broad definition funding agencies are looking for, it is time to assess your idea against several innovation criteria. Consider answering the following questions:
– Innovation stage/Technology readiness level: How far along in development is the innovation? Is it a concept or has it been prototyped, tested, and produced?
– Innovation level: How does the innovation compare to current state-of-the-art in the field?
– Market potential: Is the innovation targeted at a specific market? Is there a clear understanding of that market, its size and needs?
– Plans and budget: What are the next steps to advance the innovation? How much is that going to cost?
– Implementation: What capacity and competence is needed to advance this innovation? Are there critical partners (e.g. suppliers, complementary technology, users) needed for collaboration?
Understanding the answers to these questions will allow you to focus on the right types of funding opportunities.
Get to know your funding options
There is a wide mix of funding options available targeted at different innovation levels, markets, and goals. In general, earlier stage and smaller projects should consider local and national funding, while more developed and technically sophisticated projects may be competitive for EU funding. Below is a helpful overview of some of the most popular options for funding innovation.
National funding opportunities
Business Finland provides funding for various types of projects, including market research, R&D, and market expansion. Its two main funding tools are TEMPO and Young Innovative Company grants. Business Finland also offers specialized funding, such as Energy Aid which promotes innovations of low-carbon alternatives to existing technologies. Businesses can apply for Business Finland grants at any time of the year.
TEMPO is Business Finland’s most popular grant. It is geared towards companies that are looking to expand the international reach of their products and solutions in innovative ways. The grant gives out up to a maximum of 50 000 EUR, and it covers 75% of a project’s total budget.
Young Innovative Сompany is a grant for companies that have been operating for less than five years. This instrument mixes grants and loans, with a maximum of 500 000 EUR in grants and a maximum of 750 000 EUR in loans. Business Finland covers 75% of eligible costs.
Vinnova is Sweden’s innovation agency, and Innovation Projects in SMEs is one of Vinnova’s most popular funding calls. Companies with a maximum of 249 employees and at least 2 annual reports are eligible to apply. The grant gives out up to 197 000 EUR (2 million SEK) or covers up to 50% eligible costs. Activities that are eligible for funding are: prototyping, demonstration, testing, and validation. Calls for this grant will open at the end of 2021.
Companies that are younger than five years can also apply for Innovative Startups Step 1 and Innovative Startups Step 2. For both steps, companies need to be younger than five years and have annual sales lower than 197 000 EUR (2 million SEK). The maximum grant is 29 500 EUR (300 000 SEK) in Step 1, and 88 500 EUR (900 000 SEK) in Step 2. Eligible activities include prototype development, business model development, and formulating the IPR strategy.
Enterprise Estonia provides an Innovation Voucher for SMEs that cooperate with a higher education institution, lab, or IPR experts to develop innovative solutions. The funding is up to 6 000 EUR or 80% of the eligible costs of the project. Companies can also apply for a Development Voucher to support their research and development activities. That grant funds a maximum of 35 000 EUR or 70% of the project. Enterprise Estonia also provides an Enterprise Development grant of up to 500 000 EUR for SMEs and large enterprises for activities including product development, marketing, and purchase of equipment.
European funding opportunities
At the European level, there is a broad set of options. Two major innovation funding opportunities are Eurostars and the ones available through European Innovation Council.
Eurostars bridges European and national funding, i.e. it is co-funded by both European and national funding bodies. Eurostars funds SMEs that are actively conducting R&D for new technologies or products with the goal to commercialize the innovation. The program also prioritizes international cooperation, which means that to be eligible, companies must work with at least one partner from a separate Eurostars member country. The funding amount depends on rates set by each country’s national funding agency, although generally grants of 500 000 EUR are available for each partner, which means the project can receive 1 MEUR or more in funding. The duration of a project must be between 12-36 months. Eurostars is open to bottom-up calls, i.e. the company can decide the topic of the project.
Besides Eurostars, funding is also available through European Innovation Council under the Horizon Europe framework program. The EIC funds all stages of the innovation cycle including early-stage research, R&D, as well as scaling up of existing technologies and solutions. The most popular EIC grant is EIC Accelerator. It supports single SME applicants in the mid-/later stages of the development cycle. SMEs can apply for a 2.5 MEUR grant with a 70% funding rate and/or equity funding of up to 15 MEUR. The Accelerator is open to both bottom-up calls and challenge-driven specific calls. You can find our introduction to Horizon Europe here and a longer discussion on EIC Accelerator here.
How Excedea can help secure public funding for your innovation
Excedea is an expert in public funding and producing strong funding applications. We have for more than 15 years offered full cycle support in securing funding and investments, nationally and internationally, with 500+ successful funding applications. We have seen success with local and European level applications, winning millions of EUR for our clients. Our experience covers several industries such as life science, IT, manufacturing, and food. We help companies to:
– Find the right public funding: We transform your knowledge from a broad understanding of grants to concrete national and EU funding opportunities for your business development plan.
– Write a competitive application: We develop the project idea with you, support consortium management, craft convincing text tailored to your project and ensure the opportunity is optimized to get you the most funds available.
– Report: We ensure that progress and financial reports are delivered and reduce your administrative burden.
Do you have an innovative project in the pipeline and are interested in attaining public funding? Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about the available opportunities. R&D performing companies often have several projects eligible for public funding. For exploring public funding opportunities in your area, contact our regional experts:
Jaakko Ojanen, tel: +358 (0)40 557 6602
Henrik Dagmalm, tel: +46 7 0988 6667
Kai Krashevski, tel: +372 5647 7546