Five success factors for winning innovation funding in the EU


Category: All Public funding

Keywords: EU Funding, EU grants, Innovation funding, Public Funding Case, SME grants


Five success factors for winning innovation funding in the EU

The process of applying for innovation funding can be a bit daunting. But worry not, as Excedea’s funding consultants share some experiences to make it easier to orient through the funding jungle. Companies chose to apply for public funding as the funds offered often are comparable with private equity investments, while the price is much lower as no shares in the company shift ownership. Hence, the written material’s quality needs to be comparable with an investment memorandum or investment prospectus.

1. A long journey starts with a single step

Receiving 50% or more of the costs for your development projects is great, but first, your company needs to define and prioritize your projects. To be of interest to the funding agencies your project needs to be clear in terms of purpose, goal, and resources. Discuss your project ideas and estimate how much time and money your company needs to achieve the project goal. Now is the time to think about what external competence you need to contract, be it a software consultant or a hospital to clinically verify your new technology.

2. Strive for excellence

In the European Commission’s funding program Horizon Europe, the subprograms such as Eurostars are looking to fund projects that move state of the art in your chosen field forward. This can be done by developing new technology in your field, or by using an existing technology in a new and innovative way, i.e. developing products and services that have not entered your market. Product updates are generally not seen as innovative. Think about all the dimensions of your project idea. Can you improve processes, save time and money for your customers or contribute to an improved environment? Does your product meet any of the needs of the EU or the UN:’s development goals?

Another subprogram belonging to the Horizon Europe is the EIC Accelerator – the most interesting funding program for profit-driven enterprises which seeks to support SME applicants in the mid-/later stages of the development cycle, or TRL 6-9. Apply either for grant first (2.5 MEUR), Equity only (up to 15 MEUR) or blended finance (2.5 + 15 MEUR).

3. Impact – what would the investors think?

When defining an innovation project, it is easy to focus only on the technical innovation and the technical challenges of the project. But what will happen if you achieve your development goals? Will your company grow into new markets? What is the market value of your innovation, and what is the growth expectancy of the market? Do you have a sales budget and ROI timeline for the first five years? The EU funding programs such as EIC Accelerator require you to present a thorough business case. Think about what potential investors in your company would look for – for them, the business case is the most important part of an innovation project.

4. Is your innovation trendy enough?

As in all markets, the market for innovation funding follows trends. In the innovation funding market, the trends are set by the governments contributing to the funding budgets. They are looking to fund innovation projects that meet the challenges that are on the horizon. Horizon Europe is committed to solving important challenges like fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, keeping our oceans safe, living in climate-neutral and smart cities and ensuring soil health and food. As an example, artificial intelligence and cancer treatments have been “the new black” for the last years, making innovation projects that develop or incorporate these technologies extremely competitive in the competition for innovation funding. Of course, your company should not change the plan to fit a specific program. But when defining a project idea, think about what technologies and/or services the project result incorporates.

There might be several factors that make your innovation more attractive if you highlight these so that the funding agencies can see the whole picture and predict the impact of the project’s result, in your market, for your company, and for society.

5. Start in time!

Producing a competitive application to the EU’s advanced funding programs is not to be taken lightly. Having the time to produce, review, and re-write any or all parts of the application to achieve a competitive application will take time and resources from your organization. Allowing your team to contribute with their knowledge and ideas alongside the day-to-day operations, without increasing the workload too much will set you up to increase your chances. Stressing close to the deadline will not. The potential evaluation points for an application, which are used to rank applications against each other, are likely to decrease the later your work with the application starts. This means that your company’s application may be outranked by other applications even if your application meets all the evaluation requirements.

For EIC Accelerator, Excedea recommends that you decide if your company should participate no later than three months before any of the step 2 Full application deadlines as the short proposal step has to be submitted and approved first.
For Eurostars a decision to participate shall be taken at least 2 months prior to application deadline.
 For the larger funding programs, Excedea often has to turn down clients’ requests for help close to deadlines, as we won’t be able to achieve an application with the quality expected from our clients. Regardless if you are looking to use a consultant for the application or not, starting your application process in time is the key factor to achieve success in innovation funding.

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