Gillian Kears-Fricker


Last calls for EU funding....

Over the next few months the European Commission will announce the last of their funding calls for 2013. In 2014, a new stream of funding named ‘Horizon 2020’ will come into play. Whilst the Commission has said that they are looking to engage with more small-to-medium sized companies, the exact details have yet to be finalised.

However, there are still opportunities in 2013. Funding calls or competitions as they are known include the Eco-Innovation programme - to be announced in May - which will fund innovative products that mitigate environmental impacts or promote more efficient use of resources; Life+ which supports environmental and nature conservation projects, including green regeneration. Both provide opportunities for companies to take advantage of generous rates of funding.

If you ask anyone who has previously applied for EU funding, they will tell you “it is not for the faint hearted”. Whilst the levels of funding are high, up to 65% for small companies and 50% for large companies, it is a competition, with only the best proposals winning and a 1 in 7 chance of success, mainly as a result of blood, sweat and tears.

Whilst there is no secret winning formula there is a simple set of guidelines that can help you to ensure what you are submitting meets the criteria and maintains the interest of the evaluator.

So here are seven steps to a relatively painful project submission.

  • Number 1. Before you do anything contact your local Enterprise Europe Network, who can provide practical advice and support before, during and after the application process.
  • Number 2. You need a great idea - it doesn’t need to be blue sky or cutting edge - although it helps - but it can be a new method or new process, using new or old technology. Think tin cans to mobile phones!!
  • Number 3. You need willing and able partners - most EU funding programmes require multiple partners from at least one other EU country. This does not include Pedro the friendly bar man who served you tequilas on holiday to Spain, unless of course bar tending is a hobby and he is in fact the largest manufacturer of widgets.
  • Number 4. You need to read the application guidelines and then read them again - it is surprising how many applicants miss out important information. Skimming does not count as reading and unfortunately the information is not provided in audio format yet - although that is a great idea.
  • Number 5. You need to have a strong constitution to handle a group of Europeans – think language barriers, time differences, different work styles and ethics. Think afternoon siestas when there are deadlines and the month of August when industry practically shuts down.
  • Number 6. First impressions count - when writing that first paragraph or abstract of your idea, make it snappy, eye catching and informative. If your evaluator is yawning on the first page… is not a good sign.
  • Number 7. Be prepared - give yourself plenty of time. Things can and often do go wrong. Be prepared for partners dropping out, tight deadlines etc. Just make sure you have a plan B or enough time to make one. During the submission stage think sleepless nights and a few more grey hairs.

So if you are wondering just why should you bother with EU funding?

The European Commission offers the most generous levels of funding to small and large companies looking to innovate. In the current economic climate it is understandable that it is not always possible for companies to look at research or diversification but these funding schemes, if successful, allow you to establish a long term plan of action.

It is an opportunity to take an idea, work with some great partners in Europe, develop good long term relationships and build a supply chain.

The Enterprise Europe Network North East is one of over 500 organisations in Europe and beyond helping companies build partnerships to carry out research and development. Our team of experts are on hand to help you navigate the funding landscape, find partners and review any project proposals.

During the next few months we will be holding ‘Information Days’ in conjunction with the National Contact Points and running workshops on ‘Writing Grant Applications’. Both of which are free to attend.

If you want to learn more about EU or national funding programmes, have an idea that you would like to take to the next stage. Then contact us at

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Gillian Kears-Fricker .

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