EU Funding for Innovation
12 April 2010, News release from Pera
"EU funding is all about helping business to be come more profitable through innovation and getting somebody else to mitigate the financial risk.
It has also created robust business supply-chains to help take the product to market". Tony Lesowiec, Practice Leader at Pera email@example.com
In essence, the prosperity and well-being of SME's is essential to the EU economy, particularly as margins continue to be squeezed by low labour rate economies such as India and China, as well as high-technology competition from the likes of the US and Japan (where it is estimated that about 25% of the global research and development budget is spent). It is no wonder therefore, that Japanese technology products often continue to lead their markets, from hand held electronic gadgets to industrial scale metal cutting machinery.
A Catch 22...
So what can SMEs do to respond? Historically, the message from business gurus was to compete on quality, cost and customer relationships. However, good as these things are, they are often not sufficient in today's markets. Instead, the message is to develop novel products for existing and new markets. The majority of businesses would endorse this approach, which can be described as innovation.
Many SME's are limited, however, and frustrated by being unable to take their ideas forward. Some are unable to finance the next product development stage. Others feel the risk is too great or are unable to access the specialised skills to develop the products. Even if they can overcome these barriers, many SMEs struggle to form business partnerships to take the final product to market.
Why 7 could be your lucky number!
The European Union (EU) successfully recognises the need to support businesses to develop new technologies, so they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is particularly concerned for SME's, since over 99% of EU businesses fall into this category (fewer than 250 employees), and account for about 90% of employment. And it is in part for these reasons that the EU offers funding for Research and Technological Development. It is an instrument known as Framework Programme 7, worth €53bn, more commonly known as FP7. Surprisingly, however, the subject of FP7 is almost unheard of by UK industry.
So what exactly is FP7? The answer is certainly simpler than its name. FP7 enables companies with an interest in developing new technologies in key sectors such as renewable energy, environment, health, food and agriculture, electronics, security, transport to seek funding. And that, as you can imagine, can mean millions of pounds in financial support. FP7 has helpfully bundled all research-related EU initiatives together under one common roof.
Due to the ambition of the EU's Lisbon Strategy to become the "most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world", there are a great number of such initiatives out there - especially when you include all the EU development programmes and support measures that have sprouted over recent years. Thanks to FP7, companies now have easier access to the knowledge-support funding that is currently available at EU level.
Clearly with a budget of €53billion, FP7 has lofty objectives. However, it can, on a more down-to-earth level, be seen as existing to support companies involved with innovative development. Funding arranged through FP7 can help create sustainable success for companies involved in technology development, even for a company you're currently involved with.
Help in such matters will always be welcomed, especially when you consider that many companies find that their involvement in a high profile EU project can suddenly elevate them to a new level and achieve a much higher profile. Companies can also retain Intellectual Property.
Companies often find that an EU project can lead to supplier agreements to manufacture components for the actual project or related spin-off developments. Similarly, they can also use the knowledge gained through involvement to extend their existing product ranges.
It can be difficult to optimise the chances of winning a FP7 funding award, without the support of an expert adviser. And in choosing an adviser you need to understand that the value they can add to your bid equates to the level of fees they charge. The best way to identify this is to ask for evidence of success rates of bids previously made for clients and to make sure that your adviser has the sector expertise and connectivity within your industry to build a bid with the best chance of success.
One of the champions for helping UK SMEs for the past two decades is Pera Innovation, which specialises in the innovation market. It works closely with firms to develop ideas, products and services, but more importantly, it also helps to implement innovation as a robust and continuous business tool. It is able to assist its clients in creating a "total business" from the complete supply chain to a range of customers, including global corporates who commit to placing orders as part of the process.
In the last year alone, Pera helped over 200 SMEs apply for funding worth more than €150m giving it one of the best rates of success as drawing down funding from FP7 programmes in the EU. As a starting point for your enquiries into whether your business would be able to lead or participate in a bid, you could do worse than contact Tony Lesowiec, Practice Leader at Pera firstname.lastname@example.org, whose track record is amongst the best in the market.
For further information please email Pera