EU FUNDING FOR SMES & STARTUPS | A 5-STEPS GUIDE TO GET IT!
FundingBox estimates that cascade funding from the EC is now worth 1 bn euros, with more than 5.000 scale ups expected to benefit by 2018. By the end of 2018, cascade funding, both from the EC, and also from national and regional governments is expected to reach the 2 bn euros threshold (more info in our post MAKING STATES MORE ENTREPRENEURIAL)
So ‘YES’, there is a lot of free money out there for your business, but the trick is learning where and how to ask for it. If you are looking for money for an existing or new enterprise, follow next steps:
Step 1. Do I have an innovative project?
Before you take a strategic decision to apply, make sure that you have 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 a potential investor on each and every one of these aspects. If you are not, you are not ready to apply for EU Funding as EC is looking for scale ups, that is SMEs or Startups in a development-stage business, specific to high-technology markets, presenting high growth potential in terms of market access, revenues, and number of employees.
Step 2. Which is the EU funding program that better fits my project?
Once validated that you have an innovative project, choosing the Programmes which better suit to your projects is a Key factor to be successful in your ‘EU Funding Strategy’. You should never try to get into a funding program in which you do not fit in. Do not apply for a grant because your business sort of, kind of fits it. Do not tailor what your business does to get the funding. Only apply for grants that look like they are specifically written for you, your business. If not, you will only waste a lot of time and energy.
It’s therefore very important to invest some time in finding the appropriate program. You can see the main public opportunities for startups here “10 Public Funding Opportunities for your Company” and if you want to keep up to date about them, we invite you to register in “FundingBox Open Calls”.
Step 3. Who should I partnering with?
Finding suitable partners is key to have a successful proposal and eventual project. If you are inexperienced in getting EU funding, you should collaborate with people who have that experience. Our advice is to work on building a curated and qualified network of potential partners for EU projects, which can invite you to participate in innovative projects, or which can partnering with you to build a proposal. The main ways to do so are:
- Via contacts during existing projects or previous projects (if you have some).
- Via your own technical/business contacts in Europe.
- Via participation in a related European industrial or trade association.
- Via contacts at Commission sponsored events, Information Days or National Contact Points (NCP)
- Via participation in a European Technology Platform activity
- Via public partner search such as our EU Projects Partner Search Space at FundingBox
Of course, in practice, most successful searches end up being a combination of several of the above.
Step 4. How to write a winning proposal?
Write the proposal to convince evaluators to invest in your business. Make sure the evaluators “gets it” and is excited about what is proposed. Your guide for what to include or not to include in your proposal is the “Guide for Applicants”. Give the funder exactly what they ask for, no more and no less.
Take time to think about a catchy title and to draft an attractive abstract. These two elements are very important, as they will be the first impression the evaluators will get from your project.
Bear in mind that form matters, take the time to review and polish the language. Do not hesitate to ask your colleagues and relatives to read and comment on your proposal.
Step 5. How to maximize the EU Funding?
Our advice is that you have to see EU Funding as your way to become venture ready. Chosen the proper Programs where participate, will increase your chances of getting additional impact. As already described in our post “The European Commission is pioneering a new wave of startup support through innovative funding mechanisms”, the Top 10 FundingBox supported start-ups raised an average of 2 million euros of private investment 18 months after receiving 100k euros equity free from the EC. That is a return rate of 20 mobilizing private investment through public funding. This is the kind of impact that startups can reach by participating in EU projects.
Follow this ‘5 steps guide’ and get the benefits of participating in EU Funding Programs!