Credit: Nick Shepherd

How to get funding from the EU

CRASH COURSE: The referendum campaign has offered a timely reminder of the billions of euros in EU grants available for business.

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 04 Apr 2016

It may be last orders for wonga from Brussels but what does it take to get your hands on some of the folding stuff?

Find out what’s available. The EU has some 400 different grants and funding streams and although information is all online, you might want some help to navigate. ‘We would carry out a detailed personalised scoping study and funding strategy, which would take about 12 days for an experienced consultant,’ says Richard Jones of specialists RDJ Consultants. Social networks can also be a useful source of advice.

Follow the money. Almost €80bn is available under the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation between 2014 and 2020, with €2.25bn for Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs and €1.47bn for Creative Europe. Grants have no requirement to pay back or exchange equity, and there’s nothing to stop you applying for more than one pot of funding. ‘The European Commission has come up with a policy shift whereby it wants 20% of the Horizon 2020 funding to go to SMEs,’ says Dayne Hodgson, director of European funding specialist RedKnight Consultancy.

Read the small print. ‘You really need to be patient and read all the materials,’ says Megan Kenna, whose Brussels-based Grantup writes grant bids for start-ups. ‘A lot is driven by rumour and companies often think they can’t apply for a particular grant when they can.’

Explain in full. A typical application for grants under the SME Instrument should be around 6,000-7,000 words, estimates Kenna. ‘This is an open programme covering a wide range of industries so you need to describe your business as fully as you can. Imagine you are explaining it to your grandmother.’

Compete to win. EASME – the Executive Agency for SMEs – advises those applying for the SME Instrument: ‘You need a disruptive innovation, a clear ambition to grow at EU level, a demonstrated knowledge of your target market and a convincing commercialisation plan. It is crucial that you are ready to convince on each and every one of these aspects.’

Points means prizes. ‘Under Horizon 2020, you are scored out of five on three sections: Excellence, Impact and Implementation,’ says Hodgson. ‘There’s a threshold score you have to pass for your application to go back to the Commission, so it’s important to get a high score on each section.’

Extend your horizon. ‘A European dimension will definitely help,’ says Kenna. ‘It shows that your mentality is to think beyond borders.’

Time your move. Keep an eye out for calls for funding. A phase I SME feasibility study will pay the first tranche within three months; phase II demonstration within five months. "If you are in a fast-moving sector such as IT, that could be critical," says Hodgson.

No need to panic. The UK is signed up to major grant programmes until 2020, and nobody is expecting the tap to be switched off immediately if we vote for Brexit.

Do say 

‘We are applying for this EU grant to help us launch an innovation, which will benefit consumers around Europe and create jobs.’

Don’t say

‘It’s about time we had a hand-out from Brussels – before we quit.’

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