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How to Receive EU Funding for Your Innovation

A sum exceeding €1.2 trillion in EU funding has been earmarked for investment in the years spanning 2021 to 2027, targeting six comprehensive areas. The European Union allocates resources to foster research and development collaboration, advance product creation, facilitate scaling up, support commercialisation, and enhance market entry for innovation. This encompasses innovations from their earliest stages to the point where they are proven functional in operational settings.

In an interconnected world where collaboration and innovation drive progress, securing funding for projects is often a critical step toward success. For many organisations, entrepreneurs, and researchers, European Union (EU) funding presents a significant opportunity to bring their ideas to life, drive economic growth, and foster meaningful change. However, navigating the complexities of EU funding can be a daunting task.

In this article, We will discuss the variety of EU programmes and types of EU funding. Not only that, we will also provide a comprehensive guide to receiving EU funding for your projects.

What are the EU funding programmes?

The European Commission had proposed an EU budget of €185.6 billion for the year 2023. This budget would be enhanced by around €113.9 billion in grants from NextGenerationEU. The European Union offers a variety of funding programmes aimed at supporting various sectors, including research and innovation, education, entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, and more. 

Some of the most notable EU funding programmes include:

Horizon Europe

This Horizon Europe programme focuses on research and innovation, offering opportunities for researchers, businesses, and organisations to collaborate on cutting-edge projects that address societal challenges and promote scientific excellence. For research and innovation, there’s €13.6 billion available for 2023. Out of this, €12.3 billion is for Horizon Europe, the main EU research programme. Horizon Europe will also receive an extra €1.8 billion in grants from NextGenerationEU.

There are two different types of funding:

Direct funding

Direct funding is grants and contracts managed by the European Commission. We can find these direct funding opportunities on the Funding and Tenders portal or the European Institute of Innovation & Technology website.

Indirect funding

Handled by national and regional authorities, indirect funding constitutes nearly 80% of the EU budget. This is facilitated through the European Structural and Investment Funds or the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Erasmus+

Geared towards education, training, youth, and sports, Erasmus+ supports a wide range of activities, including student and staff mobility, partnerships between educational institutions, and initiatives that enhance skills and employability.

Cohesion Policy

Cohesion policy is also known as the Structural Funds, this policy aims to reduce economic disparities among EU regions. It supports projects related to infrastructure, economic development, job creation, and environmental sustainability.

Cohesion Policy is put into effect by means of distinct funds

  • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), focuses on enhancing the social and economic progress of every EU region and urban area.
  • The Cohesion Fund (CF), aims to support environmental and transportation initiatives in the European Union’s less economically developed countries.
  • The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), is designed to promote employment, foster fairness, and establish a socially inclusive society across EU nations.
  • The Just Transition Fund (JTF) is to provide assistance to the regions that are most impacted by the shift towards achieving climate neutrality.

Creative Europe

This Creative Europe programme supports the cultural and creative sectors, including the audiovisual industry, performing arts, visual arts, literature, and more. It provides funding for projects encouraging cross-border collaboration and the dissemination of European culture.

What are the types of EU funds?

Grants

When a project receives a grant, it will be co-financed between the EU and the beneficiary organisation. This co-financing approach not only provides crucial funding but also underscores the EU’s belief in your innovation’s potential. As partners in advancement, the EU’s contribution accelerates your project’s progress, while your organisation’s commitment ensures shared success in achieving innovation milestones and driving positive societal impact.

You also have the option to access EU grants by submitting applications through the appropriate regional or national entities (referred to as managing authorities) within the member state where you are officially registered.

Subsidies

Subsidies are managed directly by EU national governments. When it comes to subsidies, a distinct financial support mechanism, the management lies in the capable hands of the national governments of EU member states. This approach ensures that the allocation, distribution, and oversight of subsidies are undertaken by authorities who intimately understand their nation’s unique economic landscape, fostering a localized and targeted approach to driving innovation and development.

Loans, guarantees, and equity

In the Access to EU Finance section, you have the opportunity to seek loans and equity financing endorsed by the EU. When exploring financial avenues such as loans, guarantees, and equity supported by the EU, the funding process is channelled through local financial institutions such as banks, guarantee societies or equity investors. These institutions play a pivotal role in assessing your project’s viability and potential, ultimately determining the specific terms and conditions of the financing. This collaborative approach ensures that the funding aligns with your project’s unique requirements while fostering a dynamic partnership between your innovation and the financial sector.

Prizes

This is the reward to winners of contests from Horizon (which finances research projects). Within the framework of Horizon, the programme dedicated to financing research projects, prizes stand as a distinctive form of acknowledgement. These prizes are awarded to the victors of contests, serving as commendations that celebrate exceptional achievements and innovative breakthroughs within the research community.

  • Prizes for winners of Horizon Europe contests: Horizon Europe is the primary EU funding programme for research and innovation, and it has a budget of €95.5 billion. It is the research and innovation funding programme until 2027.

Who can benefit from the EU funding?

Researchers

For the researchers, the EU has a Research and innovation programme. The programme helps researchers work together and make their research more effective in helping the EU’s plans and dealing with worldwide problems. It helps share knowledge and technology, create more jobs, use the talents of people in the EU, grow the economy, and improve European research.

Farmers & rural businesses

Countries in the EU create their own plans for developing rural areas. These plans match their own national and regional requirements while also following the common goals set by the EU.

Small & medium-sized businesses

The European Union offers robust support to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) through a variety of means. Specifically designed funding programmes provide vital financial backing for SMEs, enabling them to fuel their growth, foster innovation, and expand operations.

  • Single Market Programme: The Single Market Programme aims to improve SMEs’ access to finance and markets. The Single Market Programme has a budget of €4.2 billion. 
  • SMEs can also receive funding through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme, which supports projects related to energy, transportation, and information and communication technology (ICT).

Young people

Erasmus+ is the European Union initiative designed to enhance the abilities and job opportunities of youth, encourage their participation and happiness in society, and stimulate enhancements in youth activities and policies on local, national, and international scales.

There are some programmes for young people such as:

  • Young entrepreneurs
  • Fellowships for researchers
  • Education, training, youth, and sport
  • Youth Guarantee 

How to register your organisation to the EU funding and tenders portal?

No matter if you’re applying alone, leading a group, or part of a team, you must sign up your organisation on the EU Funding and Tenders Portal. This will get you a Participant Identification Code (PIC) needed for your application. The PIC is your unique code that identifies your organisation throughout the application process. To register your organisation, follow these instructions:

  • Visit the EU Funding and Tenders Portal
  • Click the “Register” button in the upper right corner to sign up as a user
  • Provide the required details and follow the given directions
  • Log in and find “My organisation
  • Scroll down to the page’s bottom and select “Continue registration
  • Complete the provided information and follow the given instructions
  • Remember to save your PIC code

If you’re unsure of your PIC code, you can locate it by searching for your organisation in the partner search section.

What are the steps to secure EU funding?

Receiving EU funding involves a structured approach that requires careful planning, collaboration, and compliance with regulations. Here are simple steps to guide you through the process:

Identify Funding Opportunities

Research and identify the most suitable EU funding programme for your project. Study the programme’s objectives, eligibility criteria, and application deadlines. Make sure your project aligns with the programme’s goals. Visit the European Commission’s list of projects by topic or overview, identify a relevant call for proposals, and follow the specific guidelines on how to apply. 

The call text outlines things like what the project aims to do, who it’s for, what’s expected, who can apply, and how it’s judged. The goal is to make sure your project idea fits exactly with what’s asked for in the call. It’s even better if your proposal aligns even more than completely, like 110%, since there’s strong competition for EU funding and your project is up against other really impressive proposals.

Identifying Collaborative Partners

This is about expanding your horizon through EU Connections. In the pursuit of fostering collaboration, numerous projects engage with organisations from fellow EU countries or associated nations. To facilitate this partnership-building process, valuable resources such as partner search services are available, aiding in the discovery of like-minded entities that share your goals and aspirations.

Many EU programmes encourage collaboration between organisations from different countries. Identify potential partners with complementary expertise and resources. Collaborative projects often receive higher scores during evaluation.

Budget Planning

Before applying you need to have a comprehensive and Justified Financial Plan for your project. Construct a detailed budget encompassing all project-related costs – from personnel and equipment to travel and overhead expenses. It’s imperative that your budget is both realistic and substantiated.

Meeting Eligibility and Admissibility

This is guided by call criteria.  When applying, make sure to the eligibility and admissibility criteria specified in the call for proposals guidelines. Ensure your electronic submission is timely, complete, and concise, aligning with the outlined requirements. 

Develop a Solid Project Proposal

Craft a compelling project proposal that outlines the problem you’re addressing, your objectives, methodology, expected outcomes, and budget. Emphasise the project’s innovation, impact, and alignment with EU priorities. When crafting the proposal, remember to create your proposal following the provided guidelines, criteria, and requirements of the call you’re interested in. This ensures your submission is in line with what’s expected.

While developing a proposal make sure of these things: 

  • Funding: Know how much money your project gets.
  • Funding Share: Some programmes need your company to pay a bit too, and they might link money to project goals.
  • Team: There might be rules about the number of partners and countries. Some non-EU countries can join too.
  • TRL (Technology Readiness Level): They might ask how ready your technology is.
  • Time: Shortest and longest time for your project.
  • Application: One step or two?
  • Due Dates: Know about the deadline when to fill out forms and send papers.

European Commission Funding

Proposal Submission

Submit your project proposal through the designated online platform before the deadline. You have to follow the application guidelines meticulously, ensuring all required documents are included. During the evaluation stage, every proposal undergoes a comprehensive analysis.

Evaluation Journey

Expert panels evaluate submitted proposals based on criteria such as innovation, impact, feasibility, and alignment with programme objectives. The evaluation process may involve several stages, including peer reviews and interviews.

Agreement and Grant Reception

You can call this the sealing of the deal for Progress.  If your project proposal is successful, you will receive a grant agreement outlining the conditions, funding amount, reporting requirements, and milestones. Review the agreement carefully before signing.

Once your proposal earns the stamp of approval, a significant milestone emerges on the horizon. The culmination of this achievement comes with the signing of the grant agreement, a pivotal act that solidifies your commitment to turning your vision into reality. This agreement not only symbolizes your project’s acceptance but also outlines the terms, conditions, and expectations of the collaboration between you and the EU, ensuring a harmonious and fruitful journey ahead.

Project Management

Upon receiving a grant, the stewardship of your project assumes centre stage. From initiation to fruition, a vigilant approach is paramount to ensure its successful execution. The European Commission stands ready to assist, offering templates and delineated deadlines to guide your journey. Adhering to these resources facilitates effective project oversight, fosters transparency, and fortifies the partnership between your innovation and EU support, paving the way for impactful outcomes.

This is about executing your project according to the agreed-upon plan. Keep detailed records of activities, expenses, and outcomes, as these will be essential for reporting.

Disbursement of Funds

Once your project is underway, funding becomes a pivotal factor in sustaining momentum. The disbursement of funds occurs in well-defined instalments, contingent upon the achievement of significant project milestones and your demonstrated progress. Your responsibility in this phase extends to maintaining accurate financial documentation, which acts as a vital conduit for the smooth flow of funds. By adhering to this practice, you not only facilitate efficient fund disbursement but also cultivate a robust foundation for your project’s growth, propelling it steadily toward its intended outcomes.

Reporting and Monitoring

Within the framework of your grant agreement, reporting becomes a cornerstone of transparency and collaboration. Uphold your commitment by fulfilling reporting obligations meticulously, as outlined in the agreement. This entails providing regular updates to EU authorities and showcasing the journey of your project. These updates encompass vital aspects such as progress milestones, financial expenditures, and noteworthy accomplishments. Through consistent communication, you not only meet your responsibilities but also forge an environment of trust, fostering a symbiotic relationship that underpins the success of your project.

Securing EU funding can significantly accelerate your project’s development, foster international collaboration, and contribute to positive societal change. By understanding the various EU funding programmes, meticulously preparing your project proposal, and adhering to the application and reporting requirements, you can increase your chances of successfully receiving EU funding. Remember that the process may be competitive, but with determination, innovation, and a clear sense of purpose, you can unlock the resources needed to turn your ideas into reality and contribute to the advancement of Europe and beyond.

How to Secure Funding for Your Startup: A Comprehensive Guide

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About the author

Shraddha Pant

Shraddha Pant is a development researcher and writer who graduated in English literature. She has completed her LLB from Nepal Law Campus (Tribhuvan University). As a student of legislative law, rural development, and sociology she is keen on working in the development sector and is now focused on working for capacity building of grassroots NGOs that work as change agents and development of women.

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Justus Lavi Mungau Mwololo

We are Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum KESSFF a registered grassroots village based membership network of Small Scale Farmers SSFs operating in 75% of the Republic of Kenya and part of a similar larger regional network for East Central and South African Countries ESAFF Born out of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development WSSD02 in Johannesburg South Africa,. We bring together SSFs through empowering them with capacities to articulate issues affecting them namely domestic and global policies domestic and international market access and availability of SSFs friendly credit this is in our efforts to participate in the implementation of… Read more »

Nakazibwe fatuma
Nakazibwe fatuma
9 months ago

Inquiry: Can these grants be asked for by local Non governmental organizations in East Africa like Uganda ?

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