The EU is proposing to make several billion Euros available for companies with easier access for smaller companies alongside separate funding from established European VCs and investment banks from January 2014
The grant scheme is a new part of the new EC Horizon 2020 programme which starts in 2014 and replaces FP7 and CIP. Crucially, a part of this support is aimed at entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs because these are seen as providing the engine for the economic recovery as, being nimble and fast, they can bring these new innovative technologies to market quickly.
However the details of how the grant scheme will be dispersed have not yet been fully decided or how SMEs can apply.
"The EC recognises that these small to medium sized companies are the champions of tomorrow and we want to help them grow and be successful," said Pierre Marro, Policy Officer at the European Commission. "Currently, EC programmes and projects required several companies from a minimum of three different countries to co-operate. The new EC Horizon 2020 is being finalised at the moment. This is being designed to add a completely new package with simplified procedures and without these constraints of co-operations to specifically provide new technologies holders with help in starting and running companies right through to finance help. Lack of finance has been a stumbling block in the past due to the economic crisis, so a key new service in Horizon 2020 will be dedicated to providing access to finance with new instruments dedicated to SMEs and access to risk financing that will really help companies grow quickly and create new jobs and economic wealth."
In the meantime up to 20 European VCs are looking at 50 technology projects from the COWIN smart systems ‘match-making’ programme. The COWIN Investment Place will co-ordinate VC firms and companies that are seeking finance this summer ahead of the EC grant scheme.
"In mid 2012, we started match-making advanced technologies that we have selected to companies who approached us looking for solutions to their technology challenges," said Geraldine Andrieux-Gustin, the COWIN coordinator. "We are now in active discussion with over 300 European companies with more contacting us every day. Part of our service is to mentor entrepreneurs and small companies with a whole range of advice from help with business plans to devising a strong position in the competitive landscape. COWIN is also mentoring over 20 start-up companies to support their growth strategies and business development."
"The VCs are really keen to be involved," she said. "because the risk element is greatly reduced because all the technologies have proved themselves to be commercially ready. It is now a question of making successful businesses based on them. The VCs and the COWIN team can provide the expertise and finance to help companies make that happen so that these innovative technologies can be quickly commercialized and start generating jobs and money in the EU."