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Tomasz Kowcun Tomasz Kowcun | 04.03.2023

How to obtain funds for innovation from the EU

Horizon Europe 2021-2027 - the largest programme of support
for innovation

Today, innovation has become a key factor that determines the success and long-term development of companies. One of the most important aspects for success in this respect is the raising of appropriate funding from external bodies. To this end, SMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) can benefit from programmes funded by the European Union, in cooperation with Polish government agencies. In this article, we will take a look at what programmes are currently available and what basic conditions need to be met in order to be able to apply for these funds, for innovation-related purposes.

Among the EU-funded programmes for SME companies, there are many initiatives that focus on different aspects of business development. The overall support project, which is also the European Union's latest financial perspective, is Horizon Europe 2021 -2027, which is the successor to Horizon, which runs until 2020. This is Europe's largest research and innovation programme, which aims to create an innovative knowledge economy. The programme provides the opportunity to apply for grants for, among other things, scientific research, innovative projects and technology development.

The main objectives of the project include:

  • Increasing the competitiveness of SMEs
  • Increasing research and innovation capacity and the use of advanced technologies
  • Transformation of the economy towards Industry 4.0 and green technologies
  • Developing skills for smart specialisations, industrial transformation and entrepreneurship

The conditions that have to be met in order to receive grants under this programme are quite extensive, but this is due to the amount of funds that are available. The entire programme envisages the transfer of nearly 96 billion euros!

The most important conditions to be met in order to participate in the funds include the obligation to have a defined development strategy for the following years of operation. Some of the Horizon Europe projects will be implemented in consortia, which should consist of at least three independent entities based in a minimum of three Member or Associated States. Horizon Europe is open to all entities with legal personality - academic institutions, companies, foundations of various kinds, government administrations, local authorities, international organisations, etc.

FENG - European Funds for a Modern Economy

The new European perspective from 2021 to 2027 will provide a project called FENG
(European Funds for the Modern Economy). The programme has partially kicked off, and it
is also already possible to apply for R&D (research and development) funding. Under the
auspices of the FENG, it is envisaged to support innovative ideas in the areas of green
technology, digitalisation, accessibility, research infrastructure development or first industrial
implementations and artificial intelligence, among others. These will be: SMART Fast Track,
IPCEI and IPCEI hydrogen, TEF AI activity and Seal of Excellence.

SMART Fast Track

Of particular note here is the SMART Fast Track programme, which targets research
organisations, NGOs (non-governmental organisations), companies from SMEs to large
entities, and their consortia. The level of support from the European Commission stands at
up to 80%. The programme is designed for areas such as: R&D, innovation deployment,
R&D infrastructure, digitalisation, greening of businesses, internationalisation or
development of staff competences. You need to hurry, as the programme is already active,
with the call for applications set from 21.02.2023 to 12.04.2023.

How to make an application? Once you have familiarised yourself with the call documents
and the rules for allocating funding, you will need to prepare a financial model to accompany
your online grant application. The applicant submits the application via this LSI

It will also be good for entrepreneurs to look for programmes with mandatory international
cooperation, so that business owners can also open their operations to foreign markets.

Eurostars programme

A programme from such an area that is worth mentioning is Eurostars. It is a programme
aimed at companies in the SME sector that carry out research and development activities, in
the field of science and technology. The programme aims to support innovative projects of
an international nature.

The conditions that need to be met in order to receive grants under the Eurostars
programme include meeting the definition of an SME and carrying out research and
development as part of an international project. The project must be innovative and have a
high potential for commercialisation.

More information can be found here: Eurostars 2023.

Low-interest loans as an alternative to grants

In addition to typical EU-funded programmes, as an entrepreneur you can apply for a low-
interest loan

Various types of loans on preferential terms are also available to entrepreneurs. Low-interest
loans are a slightly easier and faster alternative to grant funding. The highest single loan is
for an amount of PLN 2.5 million.

Summary - Value of EU funding for SMEs

The above programmes are just a few examples of possible sources of funding for
innovative projects for SME companies. It is worth noting that the funds obtained can be
used in collaboration with an external R&D department, which can create an innovative
solution for the company raising the funds, which can then be monetised.

In summary, working to secure EU funding for innovation can be extremely beneficial for
SME companies, especially those that “do not 'suffer” from an excess of investment funds. It
is worth following active programmes and taking advantage of funding opportunities.

All necessary information on EU-funded programmes can be found on the European
Commission's website - EC Programmes and directly on specific programmes: European

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