Overview of EU support for innovation
Innovation is a source of growth and employment. So, in order to improve and boost it, the EU provides financial and services support. Moreover the EU fosters interaction and cooperation among innovation players, and aims to improve innovation support via regional policy programmes.
Financial support for innovators
The European Union provides direct financial support for innovators (enterprises, start-ups, research institutes, etc.) mainly through three funding programmes: the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) and the European Structural Funds' operational programmes. The programmes offer different types of funding (grants, loan guarantees, etc.) and are suitable for different innovation related activities.
- The European Union supports business innovation with a wide range of EU programmes providing loans, guarantees, venture capital and other equity financing. These financial instruments are managed by financial intermediaries such as banks, venture capital funds and other financial institutions.
If you need a loan, a guarantee or if you are interested in venture capital, please visit the Your Europe - Access to finance website to locate banks or venture capital funds that provide ﬁnance supported by the EU in your country.
- Grants for market replication projects for proof of economic concept and investment readiness under the CIP, can be provided in the field of sustainable energy, eco-innovation and ICT. Besides grants, the CIP is also used for service contracts mainly for the provision of analytical services;
- Research and development projects in a number of fields can be funded from the FP7;
- Structural Funds supply funding in a large number of national, regional and inter-regional operational programmes for a range of innovation-related activities, including research cooperation, technology transfer, ICT take-up, human resource development and support of start-ups and entrepreneurship.
The Practical guide to EU funding opportunities for research and innovation provides information on how the FP7, CIP and Structural Funds may be combined, and contains a checklist with 6 steps that allows potential beneficiaries to identify under which programme they might be able to obtain EU funding for their research or innovation activities.
Support services for innovators
The Commission also provides a number of support services for innovators (enterprises, start-ups, research institutes, etc.). Besides the services provided by the EEN, the services include:
Some are based on direct customized assistance, in particular:
- the IPR Helpdesk mainly provides information on intellectual property issues related to FP7;
- the Business Innovation Centres (BIC) provide innovation related business services on a commercial basis
- the China SME IPR Helpdesk provides free information, first-line advice and training support to European SMEs to protect and enforce their IPR in China
Some are provided through Internet tools, in particular:
- the European e-Business Support Network (eBSN) for SMEs, serves as a one-stop-shop and on-line environment for all European e-business initiatives, launched by (or in collaboration with) public authorities at national, regional or local level, which aim at promoting the adoption of ICT and e-business among SMEs;
- the Innovation Management self-assessment tool provides an Innovation Management consulting process, including benchmarking;
- the Business Plan development tool gives an expert opinion on the completeness of the business plan and allows you to see how an innovative business project looks through the eyes of an investor.
- Europe INNOVA online tools & multimedia presentations
Foster interaction and cooperation among innovation players
Innovation is a systemic process for which the interactions between different innovation players (innovators, enterprises, research centres, innovation and development agencies, technology transfer offices, education and training institutes, investors, etc.) are vital. The EU therefore fosters these interactions, within regions and clusters, and their opening up through initiatives such as:
- many Structural Funds' Operational programmes aim at facilitating and intensifying the interactions of innovation players in regions through cluster initiatives, technology transfer offices or the support of cooperation and networking - between universities and enterprises for example. Beyond the regions' or Member States' boundaries, the Structural Funds can support cross-border and trans-national cooperation of innovation players;
- the European Cluster Observatory helps, among others, to identify regions with clusters of sectoral specialisations that might be interesting for those seeking cooperation partners for an innovation project;
- the LivingLabs provide settings for user-driven open innovation in the field of ICT;
- the Regions of Knowledge part of FP7, supports development across Europe of regional 'research-driven clusters';
- the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) aims to create Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC), which bring together enterprises with research and education;
- the European Cluster Alliance is an open platform for fostering trans-national cluster cooperation, and for improving cluster management capacities;
- the pan-European network of knowledge transfer offices "ProTon", provides access to the largest Europe-wide Network of knowledge transfer offices.
Improve innovation support
The EU Member States and regions have the main competences and resources in Europe to support and facilitate innovation. Experiences with innovation support mechanisms are ample and varying. There is thus a large scope for mutual learning and cooperation, to obtain critical mass and to identify possibilities to improve innovation support provided through national and regional innovation agencies, and technology transfer offices etc. Besides the Europe INNOVA and PRO INNO Europe initiatives, the Commission provides a number of other opportunities to facilitate this, for instance:
- some Structural Funds' operational programmes offer the opportunity to invest in the development of regional innovation strategies tailored to the innovation needs and opportunities of regions, and to experiment with new tools for innovation support;
- the territorial cooperation objective of the Structural Funds also supports the exchange of experiences, and cooperation between innovation support providers and innovation policy-makers in networks of regions or cities. If capitalised on, previous experience and aimed at taking-up good practices in the implementation of the national or regional operational programmes, a "fast track" support under the Regions for Economic Change initiative can be received;
- the Commission provides access to good practices and methodologies for innovation support and transfer to other Member States and regions, for instance through a database of innovation measures of the EU Member States, the PAXIS Manual for Innovation Policy Makers and Practitioners, information on Innovative strategies and actions under Cohesion Policy or innovative actions with regard to new approaches to employment, vocational training and industrial adaptation;
- the Commission also provides know-how on the design and evaluation of regional innovation strategies, and contacts to regional innovation actors who have developed and implemented innovation strategies, for instance in the IRE Network, or the Regional Programmes for Innovative Actions (which ended in 2008), or the regional aspects of FP7 or case studies on regional innovation projects;
- the Commission also supports the capacity building of other important actors that facilitate innovation, such as investors or banks through the JASMINE initiative for micro-credit or raining and education actors with regard to e-skills.