Nature draws up funding ‘road map’ for European biotech SMEs
A recent Nature article has peeled back the overlapping layers of national and EU level funding programmes to give biotech SMEs a clear perspective of opportunities available to them. The article is designed as a road map to help navigate the, at times complex, funding schemes designed specifically for SMEs. It breaks down DG Research’s latest funding instrument, FP7, into its individual parts to examine which areas are most suited to young, innovative SMEs looking to boost their research capacity. The article also lists various national level schemes and the amount governments have ear-marked for each one.
The Nature piece, published through its Bioentrepreneur portal,
is proof that many funding opportunities exist, one just has to take the time
to go out and find them. For the uninitiated, the article contains a list of
‘Ten tips for negotiating Framework 7’, with essential advice such
as the importance of a ‘first-rate coordinator’ and necessity of
budget’, to name a few.
the funding opportunities designed specifically for biotech SMEs.
People familiar with the programme offer advice on how to best take advantage
of it. FP7 can serve an SME’s
needs, or be most beneficial in boosting innovation, if it considered as a way
to expand R&D rather than simply as a money tree, Tim Allsopp, CSO of Stem Cell
sciences, a UK-based SME, tells Nature.
SMEs with this approach stand to “progress better than those that do not,” he
is quoted as saying. “Look upon the Framework Programme as an opportunity
to grow as a company and add the breadth and depth of your R&D activities.”
The article points out that competition for funding is fierce, and therefore
careful preparation of a proposal can be as important as the proposal’s scientific
aims. When preparing a proposal, Claire Horton, the UK’s national contact for
life sciences, notes that it’s important that a consortium pitches its idea in
line with “the work that the EU wishes to fund,” according to Nature.
It goes on to examine the ‘nuts and bolts of Framework 7’, identifying
funding opportunities for biotech SMEs programme by programme. For example, the
Research for the Benefit of SMEs, which comes under the “Capacities”,
sets aside around €1.34 billion; the “Cooperation” programme
allocates funds to initiatives like the health theme with an overall budget
billion with numerous possibilities for SME participation; and the “People” programme gives €4.57 billion to the Marie Curie initiative, which supports partnerships
between academia and SMEs.
Along with the main pillars of the Seventh Framework Programme, the EU has launched
the “Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP),” whose
mission is the timely and successful fulfillment of the Lisbon strategy. CIP
includes several potential funding sources for biotech SMEs, and Nature points
to the High Growth and Innovative SME facility and the SME Guarantee Facility
as being of particular interest. Both schemes involve the European Investment
Fund (EIF), where the EIF accepts some of the risk associated with lending to
young SMEs investing in cutting edge research.
The article touches on other EU funding schemes, such as EUROTRANS-BIO and Eureka, both of which are geared specifically towards SMEs, and a list of Member State initiatives.
Overall, the article highlights the myriad of funding opportunities for biotech
start-ups, both at EU and national levels, and stresses that it is up to the
SMEs to determine which one best fits their R&D profile and long term goals.