Horizon 2020: Paving the Way for a Digital Europe

In Europe, information and communication technologies will continue to spur on innovation, economic growth and progress. That, at least, is the stated aim of the Digital Agenda for Europe. To achieve this objective the European Commission has launched a multi-billion euro research program, Horizon 2020.

Innovation is expensive, as the manufacturers of machine-to-machine and Internet of Things solutions know only too well. For companies – especially small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups – the question that repeatedly arises during the innovation process is: “How are we to finance it?” In addition to borrowing, mezzanine and investment capital there are a large number of public funding programs, including the EU framework program Horizon 2020. Its aim is to promote and support the development of new technologies and their implementation by investing around €80 billion.

 

Funding for European SMEs

 

A special funding instrument for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) provides for grants of between €50,000 and €2.5 million. It is arranged in three phases. SMEs are assisted from the preparation of a feasibility study via demonstration and prototype development to marketing. For commercialisation SMEs do not receive direct grants; they merely gain easier access to loans, guarantees or risk capital. The following chart shows which companies stand a good chance of qualifying if they apply.

 

 

The European Commission recently published its initial findings. 155 SMEs from 21 countries are receiving €50,000 in funding toward the cost of feasibility studies or to develop their innovation strategies. They also benefit from three-day business coaching.

 

Extend leading role in industry

 

Supporting SMEs is part of the focal point Industrial Leadership that is aimed at industrial research. Horizon 2020 bundles three such focal points that in principle constitute separate programs. The aim of Industrial Leadership is to extend a leading role in basic and industrial technologies and ease access to risk capital.

 

National initiatives pursue similar objectives, especially those of industrial nations. The German government, for example, has launched its future project Industry 4.0. Up to €200 million is to be invested in making German industry more competitive – and German industry is in relatively good shape compared with others. The United States, for example, must first re-industrialize, having in recent years increasingly outsourced production. That is why the US government is investing €2 billion in Industrial Internet research and development.

 

Coping with societal challenges

 

Another focal point of Horizon 2020 is societal challenges in different areas, such as health, energy, security, the environment and transport. Many M2M and IoT solutions are already helping us to deal with current challenges. Connected parking spaces, for example, reduce both traffic volumes and, at the same time, COlevels. With the right funding, developers can set further priorities in this area in the years ahead.

 

Scientific excellence is a focal point aimed in particular at developers and researchers. It seeks to assist Europe’s brightest and best in all stages of their scientific careers by improving networking among research scientists and by facilitating research stays in other countries.

 

Scientists and companies must first apply for funding, however. The first companies have already done so. If others follow, Horizon 2020 could pave the way for a digital Europe.

Tags: innovation , digital europe , Startups , Horizon 2020 , European Commission , SMEs

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