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How do I obtain support for my research, innovation and entrepreneurial ideas? 

  • Are you a researcher with an idea for a research or innovation project?
  • Do you need to upgrade the skills or the capacity of your research organisation?
  • Are you an entrepreneur who would like to undertake research and innovation activities?
  • Are you already engaged in commercial innovation activities whether or not arising from research and development?
  • Are you a cluster manager who seeks to internationalise a cluster and make it more innovative?
  • Are you a regional innovation policy-maker, information officer or research programme manager and want to exchange good practices with your peers from other EU Member States?

There may well be funding opportunities available at EU level that can help you implement your plans. The objective of this guide is to explain how to get to relevant information on funding opportunities ("getting through the maze") and make the best use of the possibilities offered by individual instruments or their combination.

Framework for developing your ideas

Clearly, the first step is up to you. You need to think your ideas through and develop a clear outline of your proposal. Remember, it is better that the process is driven by your ideas rather than by the funding sources that happen to be available.

In general, your ideas will fall into three broad categories:

  1. You wish to build up or enhance the research capacity of your organisation, including through training, or you intend to undertake research to generate new knowledge.
  2. You are interested in innovation in the sense of technology transfer, access to venture capital or business and innovation support services. You wish to develop new or improved products and services or up-date your production processes/organisation/ marketing strategy.
  3. You wish to engage in enterprise development, for instance through setting-up an innovative company, the expansion or internationalisation of your existing business activities or the creation of new business and technology partnerships.

Framing your ideas in this way will help you to focus on your real needs and, the more clearly your needs are defined, the easier it is to identify the right instruments for you.

Instruments and Funding Options

When you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, you can proceed to consider whether the three main EU funding instruments – the 7th Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration activities and the 7th Euratom Framework Programme for Nuclear Research and Training Activities (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the Structural Funds (SF) – might offer the support that you need. Furthermore, support for innovative investments in agriculture, forestry, food industry in rural areas is provided by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD 1) , and in the field of fisheries by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF). Depending on the research/innovation activity to which your idea relates, one or more of these instruments may be available to you. In addition to funding, these instruments may also offer other types of benefits, such as possibilities for networking or making use of information and other services provided.

Research: 7th Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration activities and the 7th Euratom Framework Programme for Nuclear Research and Training Activities (FP7)

EC FP7 with a total budget of over €50 billion for the period 2007-2013 is the EU instrument specifically targeted at supporting research and development. It provides funding to co-finance research, technological development and demonstration projects based on competitive calls and independent peer review of project proposals. Support is available for collaborative and individual research projects as well as for the development of research skills and capacity. Since the 1980s, the successive Research Framework Programmes have played a lead role in multidisciplinary research and cooperative trans-national R&D activities in Europe and beyond. Euratom FP7 (2007-2011) has a dedicated budget of €2.75 billion for applied research and training activities in fusion energy and nuclear fission and radiation protection. Under the provisions of the Euratom Treaty, Euratom FPs are limited to a duration of five years, and therefore Euratom FP7 is being extended by two years in order to maintain parity with EU FP7.

Innovation: Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP)

The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme aims to foster the competitiveness of European enterprises and has a total budget of over € 3.6 billion for the period 2007-2013. Specific CIP programmes promote innovation (including eco-innovation); foster business support services in the regions and better access to finance, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the main target; encourage a better take-up and use of information and communications technologies (ICT); help to develop the information society and promote the increased use of renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Cohesion Policy: Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund (SF)

The purpose of the Structural Funds (European Regional Development Fund – ERDF and European Social Fund - ESF) and the Cohesion Fund3 is to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion by reducing disparities in the level of development among regions and Member States. Each region or MemberState has developed, in discussion with the Commission and in partnership with all relevant private and public stakeholders, operational programmes that cover the entire programming period 2007-2013. Many thematic areas are supported by the Structural Funds, including research, innovation and enterprise for which EU funding in the period 2007-2013 will be above €86 billion. The allocation of funds in a given MemberState or region varies according to its level of development. However, most regions will have some funding available from the Structural Funds in support of Research, Technological Development and Innovation (RTDI). Unlike FP7 and CIP, the management of the Structural Funds is shared between the different territorial levels of governance (partnership between the European Commission, the national and the regional authorities).

After 3 years in the current programming period, about 1/3 of this €86 billion has been allocated to selected projects. Almost 2/3 is still available. The impact of this remaining amount must be optimised by selecting innovative projects in line with the Europe 2020 strategic priorities.

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

The EU rural development policy (2nd Pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy) aims at increasing the competitiveness of EU agriculture, food processing industries and forestry; at the establishment of sustainable land management and agri-environmental practices and at boosting the socio-economic development of rural areas. With its total budget of more than €96 billion, the EAFRD offers a wide range of funding possibilities for entrepreneurs and companies operating in its fields of intervention. The EU rural development policy offers a flexible approach, based on the principles of subsidiarity and partnership. When designing rural development programmes (RDPs), Member States have a significant degree of flexibility in finding a balance between the sectoral dimension (e.g., agricultural restructuring) and the territorial dimension (e.g., land management and the socio-economic development of rural areas). From a menu of more than 40 support measures, Member States select those best suited to address the specific strengths and weaknesses of individual programming areas. Each MemberState submits a national strategy plan ensuring that its proposals for using Community aid for rural development is consistent with the Community strategic guidelines and that Community, national and regional priorities are coherent. Programmes are built around three thematic axes: economic concerns (competitiveness), the environment and the countryside (biodiversity, climate change, sustainable resource use in agriculture and forests) and social aspects (quality of life, income diversification and rural employment). These are complemented by a horizontal axis: the ‘LEADER approach’ which acts as a bottom-up way of implementing the rural development policy. Both MemberStates and the Commission closely monitor and evaluate the results of strategies and programmes. More information is provided in Annex 4;

European Fisheries Fund (EFF)

The European Fisheries Fund (EFF) aims to support the common fisheries policy. Funding is available for all sectors of the industry – sea and inland fishing, aquaculture (the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants), and processing and marketing of fisheries products. Particular attention is given to fishing communities most affected by recent changes in the industry. The EFF has a budget of €4.3 billion for 2007-2013. In this framework, a limited number of projects can include research and innovation. More information is available in Annex 5.

More detailed information on each of these funding sources can be found in Annexes 1 to 3 respectively. Depending on your level of knowledge of the funds, it may be helpful to study the information in the annexes first, before proceeding to read the rest of this guide.

The candidate countries are fully fledged members of FP7 and the CIP-EIP.4 Researchers and companies established in these countries can apply for any call published under these programmes. With regard to Structural Funds, candidate countries follow a very similar pattern of work to Member States when using their pre-accession assistance to support regional development, human resources and rural development. Annex 11 of this Guide offers a complete presentation of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).

Sources of advice

First step: our websites

Before seeking advice, you may find it useful to have a look at the main communication tools of the three programmes: their specific websites (see internet addresses in Annex 4). There you can get an overview of the different activities funded, examples of projects, etc.

Information centres

You can often get advice in information centres near you. There are two big networks of centres providing information in your own languages that can be found in the whole territory of the European Union and beyond: (a) the Enterprise Europe Network and (b) the National Contact Points. In addition, the Managing Authorities of the Structural Funds in Member States (c) can advise you on questions related to Cohesion Policy funding.

  • To identify the innovation potential and business needs of your company and for advice on how to develop project ideas, the Enterprise Europe Network may help you. The Network centres are able to review your technology and business status, identify needs and explore technology transfer opportunities. They can also provide personalised advice and information to help apply for EU research funding, exploit technology opportunities or find business partners.

Consult the Enterprise Europe Network homepage to learn more about the assistance that it can provide and to find your local Enterprise Europe partner

  • The National Contact Points (NCPs) are national structures established and financed by governments of the 27 EU Member States and the states associated to FP7 and the CIP. In the case of the CIP, the NCPs deal only with some parts of the programme: there are NCPs for Intelligent Energy in Europe (IEE), NCPs for Information and Communication Technologies - Policy Support Programme (ICT-PSP) and NCPs for eco-innovation actions.

The NCPs provide personalised support, guidance, practical information and assistance on all aspects of participation in those programmes. This includes advice on technical and administrative questions concerning the calls for proposals, partner search, national priorities, and matching national co-financing possibilities, where applicable.

The NCP systems in the various countries have different structures, from highly centralised to decentralised networks, and a number of very different actors, from ministries to universities, research centres, specialist agencies and private consulting companies.

Find the Contact Points in your country in the following web pages:

 

The EAFRD's rules and mechanisms for providing support are similar to those of the Structural Funds.

For the purposes of this guide, FP7 will collectively refer to both Framework Programmes, whereas EC FP7 and Euratom FP7 will refer to each individually where necessary.

In order to simplify the text of the guide, and as the differentiation is not generally relevant for the final beneficiaries, references in this guide to the Structural Funds should be understood as including the Cohesion Fund.

Kosovo UNSCR 1244 is not yet participating to these programmes. Bosnia-Herzegovina is not a member of the CIP.

 (πηγή: Εuropean Commission)

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