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'Seal of Excellence' one year on: over 3000 SMEs benefit

Brussels, 12 October 2016

Since its launch in October 2015, more than 3000 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have received the Seal of Excellence, the EU's quality label marking first-class innovative ideas worthy of investment.

The initiative was announced exactly a year ago by Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Corina Creţu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, at the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels.

Commissioner Moedas said: "The Seal of Excellence is a simple concept with a big impact. It connects great ideas with potential investment that can make them come true. Our research and innovation scheme, Horizon 2020, already offers lots of opportunities to innovative companies to get funding. But the Seal enables them to tap into new sources of investment, public and private, beyond Horizon 2020."

Commissioner Creţu said: "European regional policy is strongly committed to helping smart SME proposals get financing. They are clearly contributing to regional growth, competitiveness and employment. The Seal of Excellence and its Community of Practice is the right approach by fostering a close collaboration between the Commission and its partners."

The Seal is designed to maximise synergies between EU funds available for innovative companies, including under Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding programme, and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).

Background

The Seal is awarded to those proposals that have successfully passed the stringent selection and award criteria under Horizon 2020, but could not be funded under the available call budget. By recognising the high quality of these projects, the Seal acknowledges the effort of excellent SMEs and serves as a potential route to alternative funding, including ESIF.

Holders of the Seal can benefit from alternative sources of grants and loans that may be offered by those national and regional funding bodies that participate in the scheme. They also have access to targeted advisory services and coaching in order to help them develop their innovative ideas.

One of the many successful cases is of an Italian company developing organic fire extinguishers. Thanks to the Seal awarded for its proposed eco-innovation project, the Region of Lombardy supported this idea with €25.000. And the advanced business plan developed with this support was then awarded a grant for full deployment from Horizon 2020.

To date, more than 140 national and regional funding bodies have been exploring ways of implementing the Seal of Excellence initiative across Europe. As members of the so-called Community of Practice, they come together in Brussels quarterly to exchange good practices, bring new ideas to the table and discuss future possibilities.

Next steps for the Seal of Excellence include further simplification in procedures to tap into the full potential of the initiative and a monitoring mechanism for its implementation and successes.