The European Union provides assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from both Member States and candidate countries. They are available in different forms such as grants, loans and, in some cases, guarantees. Support is available either directly or through the European Union's Structural Funds, managed at national level. SMEs can also benefit from a series of non-financial assistance measures in the form of programmes and business support services.
The different forms of funding are mostly organised with thematic objectives - such as environment, research or education - designed and implemented by different European Commission services as with, for example, the following programmes:
- Call for Proposals - Services in support of business and innovation"
As a major component of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (EIP), one of the three Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme (CIP) sub-programmes, the European Commission implements a measure to provide SMEs with integrated services in support of business and innovation.
- Call for Proposals: Conference on research for sustainable development in Europe"
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is organising a conference on research for sustainable development in Europe entitled 'Sustainable Neighbourhood - from Lisbon to Leipzig through Research (L2L)', which will take place from 8 to 10 May 2007 in Leipzig, Germany.
- Agreement on new € 3.6 billion - Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme(CIP)
Between 2007 and 2013, some 350,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will receive € 3.6 billion in EU support to invest in all forms of innovation and growth. The new programme will support actions to help enterprises and industry to innovate.
- PRO-INNO : DG Enterprise and Industry launched on 5 October a call for proposals under FP6, including five strands. The PRO Inno Europe initiative aims to further promote trans-European cooperation among national and/or sub-national innovation programmes or actions
- Europe INNOVA initiative : is an initiative for innovation professionals supported by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme. This initiative builds upon Gate2Growth and further develops the approach of networking innovation players, by combining analytical expertise with grass roots experience. Europe INNOVA will bring together more than 230 contractors from 23 Member States.
- European Commission Proposal for a "Competitiveness and Innovation framework
(COM(2005) 121 final)
The European Commission has adopted on the 6th April 2005 the proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council on establishing a "Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme" (CIP) for the period 2007-2013.
- The Multi-annual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, particular for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises 2001-2005 (the ETF Start-up scheme under the MAP can also provide investment funding to incubators, as long they are operating as funds and investing in the companies they incubate (i.e. not funding to cover overheads of the incubator).
- BONUS scheme - The Bonus scheme is an exciting opportunity for FP6 participants. It is open to organisations that have already signed a contract with the Commission in the context of the 6th RTD Framework Programme - established in an Objective 1 region.
Additional Financial Support from the Structural Funds (Bonus)
- LIFE III - Environment
The specific objective of the LIFE-Environment programme is to contribute to the development of innovative, integrated techniques and methods as well as to the further development of Community environment policy.
- Intelligent Energy Europe (2003-2006)
The new multi-annual programme for energy:
- provides financial support to local, regional and national initiatives in the fields of renewable energies, energy efficiency and energy aspects of transport;
- reinforces the "renewable energies" (ALTENER) and "efficient energy"(SAVE) fields; updates the existing international action (COOPENER) and introduces a new field of action: "energy in transport" (STEER).
- Information Society - E-Content (2002-2005)
E-content is a Multi-annual programme created to stimulate the development of European digital content on global networks and to promote linguistic diversity in the Information Society.
- The Sixth Framework Programme for Research and
Technological Development (2002-2006)
The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) aims to allocate over 15% of its total budget to support research and innovation for SMEs (EUR 2.2 billion)
- EUREKA - A Network for Market Oriented R&D;
The "financing your project" page provides information on the national funding opportunities and offers a list of National Project Co-ordinators.
- Gate2Growth Initiative "Access to Finance" Gate2Growth.com is a unique portal, bringing together a community of entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, and several networks supported by the European Commission.
Structural Funds intervention are designed to help reduce disparities in the development levels of different European regions and to promote economic and social cohesion within the European Union. Thus, the European Commission co-finances regional and horizontal operations in the Member States, through programmes in the fields of agriculture, regional policy, employment and social affairs.
Note that the European Investment Fund (EIF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) do not invest in SMEs directly, but usually work through financial intermediaries.
- ERDF: European Regional Development Fund
Finances infrastructure, job-creating investments, local development projects and aid for small firms.
- European Social Fund
Promotes the return of unemployed and disadvantaged groups to the work force, mainly by financing training measures and systems of recruitment aid.
- European Investment Bank
The task of the European Union's financing institution is to contribute towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of the Member States.
EIB finances large projects only, but SMEs can benefit indirectly from these (For example, through incubators, science parks or guarantee facilities)
- Agreement with the European Commission to boost European research and innovation
- Innovation 2010 Initiative
- European Investment Fund
The EIF's activity is based on two instruments, both of which are complimentary to the Global Loans provided by the EIB to financial intermediaries in support of SME financing:
- EIF's venture capital instruments consist of equity investments in venture capital funds and business incubators that support SMEs, particularly those that are newly created and technology-oriented;
- EIF's guarantee instruments consist of providing guarantees to financial institutions that cover credits to SMEs.
- European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, established in 1991, uses the tools of investment to help build market economies and democracies in 27 countries from central Europe to central Asia. It provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, both for new ventures and investments in existing companies.
- EAGGF: European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund
- Financing of UK Incubators and Incubation Programmes - David N E Rowe: University of Warwick Science Park)
- Regional Development Agency (RDA) for the West Midlands,UK
- The UK 2005 Budget Report, " Investing for our future: Fairness and opportunity for Britain's hard-working families", published on 16 March 2005, £5 million are forseen for business incubation.
- The DTI's Business Support Solutions
- Accelerator Fund (EGF)- for South East England
- Ministère délégué à la Recherche : incubation et capital amorçage des entreprises de technologie
- Claudie Haigneré confirme le re-financement des incubateurs pour 2004-2006 et rend public les résultats du rapport d'évaluation - Etude sur les incubateurs : par Ernst & Young (sept. 2003)
- Starting a Business in Ireland - Enterprise Platform Programmes
- Enterprise-Ireland - Helping Irish Companies to grow in world markets As your company grows, you will need to consider external sources of finance to fund your growth strategy.
- Carbon Trust - The Incubator programme: a development process The Carbon Trust's Incubator programme supports a number of clean energy incubators (Imperial College Innovations, LIFE-IC, and Angle Technology) whose purpose is to increase the likelihood of successfully commercialising technologies with carbon saving potential.
- The Brussels Enterprise Agency - Grants & financing
- Réseau canadien de technologie - Programmes de préincubation et d'incubation
- Summary of Policy Recommendations on Business Incubation (OECD - Alistair Nolan)
- CDTI Financial Support