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Headlines Published on 22 February 2007

Title 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.

<em>Bioentrepreneur</em> brings into focus the funding opportunities designed for specifically for biotech SMEs. © Matt+
Bioentrepreneur highlights the funding opportunities designed specifically for biotech SMEs.
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 a ‘realistic budget’, to name a few.

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 of €6 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.

More information:

  • Bioentrepreneur portal
  • FP7 portal
  • CIP portal
  • EUROTRANS-BIO homepage
  • EUREKA homepage

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