Brussels, 7 March – Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, has re-emphasised the importance of SMEs in achieving EU priorities for tackling societal challenges and ensuring sustainable growth and jobs under the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation. Speaking at a networking event in Düsseldorf, the Commissioner took part in an in-depth discussion on how Horizon will support SMEs which make up 99% of EU companies and create 85% of all new jobs.
Horizon is expected to give 15% of its combined budget from the ‘Tackling societal challenges’ and ‘Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies’ pillars to SMEs. SMEs will also be encouraged to take part in Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Actions and a number of activities will be funded from a €619million budget of the specific objective, ‘Innovation in SMEs’:
– A specific action for research intensive SMEs building on the Eurostars joint programme;
– Measures to enhance innovation capacity of SMEs through new and experimental types of SME innovation support;
– Support for market driven innovation, for example, through procurement networks.
It is also expected that the role and innovation services of the Enterprise Europe Network (under the COSME Programme) will be strengthened.
The key change from previous framework programmes is the creation of a dedicated SME instrument which it is hoped will fill gaps in funding for close-to-market innovation. The programme will integrate R&I related support that is currently spread across several programmes and initiatives (such as in FP7 and CIP) and target innovative SMEs with strong ambitions to grow and internationalise, regardless of whether they are high-tech and research-driven, non-research conducting, social or service companies. SMEs can decide how best to organise the project and how to collaborate, though single company support will also be provided.
Horizon will also provide equity and debt instruments to leverage private research and innovation investments, including venture capital investments for innovative high-end companies. The Commission budgeted €3.5billion for such facilities and accompanying measures, but this total will be subject to negotiations (with a third dedicated to SMEs). The instruments will be implemented via a mandate to, or partnership with, the European Investment Bank Group and/or other international financial institutions and intermediaries.
These Horizon 2020 facilities will be operated in conjunction with the financial instrument facilities of COSME, the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs, where €1.4 billion has been allocated to debt and equity financing in support of SMEs.
To learn more, see the Commission’s press release.