Horizon 2020
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

New report assesses the role of crowdfunding and other forms of alternative finance for research and innovation

This report provides an assessment of whether alternative finance has the potential to help Europe address the problem of access to finance for innovative companies and bridge the gap in terms of access to risk capital, and if EU action is needed to support development of the sector.

The study demonstrates that Alternative Finance (AF) plays an important role in funding R&I. In quantitative terms, it provides a sizeable contribution to funding R&I, although not living up to the hype embodied by the headlines about "AF overtaking Venture Capital". It can’t be considered as a solution to the current R&I funding gap in Europe, also because its growth in Europe appears to be lagging behind other regions of the world.

Yet, AF plays an even more important role from a qualitative point of view. There is no such thing as "AF for R&I": different instruments can provide a different contribution to different phases of the innovation cycle. Hence, there is no space for a "one size fits all" policy intervention. The role of AF extends far beyond the pure provision of funding, especially in the domain of R&I. It helps researchers raise awareness about science and create support networks that add value to the research. It helps entrepreneurs test the project potential at an early stage and market their innovations. It helps investors diversify their risks and enter new markets. Moreover, platforms themselves are not pure neutral matchmaking players: they assess and filter projects, provide financial education, and help bring the ecosystem together. Even looking at policies only, the introduction of bespoke regimes has not just been substantial to incentivise investment, but also to generate wider awareness and trust in AF.

Looking ahead, one challenging area appears to be related to understanding the wider role of AF in terms of signal creation, usage, and propagation within the financial ecosystem. This is particularly true in a context such as R&I, characterised by high information asymmetry as the main barrier to investment.

Author: 
EY, Open Evidence, Politecnico di Milano, European Crowdfunding Network
Article
#H2020