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Access to Risk Finance and SMEs NCP cooperation network

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ACCESS4SMES (Access to Risk Finance and SMEs NCP cooperation network)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-08-31

ACCESS4SMEs is a 36-month coordination and support action aimed to empower the network of National Contact Points (NCPs) for Small medium-sized enterprises and Access to risk finance (SMEs & ARF) under Horizon 2020 by enabling a systemic and open knowledge and an enhanced provision of services for SMEs, industry and ARF communities. Overall, the network addresses the needs of European SMEs, access to finance stakeholders and industry, notably newcomers established in Member States (MS) and Associated Countries (AC) with a view on stimulating, encouraging and facilitating a more effective participation of European companies into the several funding opportunities of Horizon 2020 and European Innovation Council - EIC Pilot. Project activities focus on actions such as the SME Instrument, Fast Track to Innovation, collaborative projects under the Leadership in Enabling Industrial Technologies – LEITs and Societal Challenges – SCs, and the financial facilities established at European, national and regional level, supported by H2020.

More in particular ACCESS4SMEs aims to achieve the following objectives:
1. Improving NCP capacities to provide systemic knowledge (NCP Curriculum) to clients across different programmes and access to finance opportunities through networks collaboration;
2. Identifying key success factors for SME competitive proposals across different H2020 and EIC, improving the set of tools (e.g. annotated templates, close to market guidance), and consequently the efficacy of the assistance of NCPs;
3. Assessing the impact of SME Instrument on beneficiaries with a view on capturing patterns on SMEs’ growth strategy and value propositions;
4. Spreading knowledge on access to risk finance opportunities under Horizon 2020, notably InnovFin products and sharing information and practices on financial instruments for R&I;
5. Enhancing the outreach of the this Network through strategic communication and dissemination activities to maximize the impact of its activities, services and results to a wider audience of clients and stakeholders and avoid overlapping with further initiatives in those areas.

Access4SMEs consortium comprises 12 beneficiaries, with a good mix of well-experienced and less experienced NCPs. Besides beneficiaries, all officially appointed H2020 SME & ARF NCPs are involved as associated partners and get full access to the project services and achievements.
"The work carried out during the first reporting period reflects the goals outlined in Annex 1 and in particular towards the support and further development of the Small Medium-sized Enterprises - SME and Access to risk finance – ARF National Contact Points – NCPs’ role. On the other hand a number of tools and initiatives have been generated in order to facilitate the access of our target groups, namely SMEs, to the opportunities under H2020/EIC/Financial instruments . Among the main results achieved during the first reporting period we can include:

- Beside the core partners, all the formally appointed SME & ARF NCPs became part of the ""extended network"" and get full access to project services and initiatives. A regular information flow has been established both among NCPs and between NCPs and the Commission.

- Benchmarking of SMEs and ARF NCPs in view of NCP capacity building and establishing effective collaboration with EEN.

- Preparation and continuous updating of the Capacity Building Strategy for SME & ARF NCPs as a result of benchmarking activities and survey including NCP curriculum.

- Organisation of 3 Trainings and Meet & Exchange Workshop (140 participants) and 4 Webinars (186 participants) for increasing competencies of SME & ARF NCPs.

- Publication of an Annotated template for the EIC SME INSTRUMENT, to assist companies to better understand the requirements for filling in (phase 1 and 2), and by so, contributes to writing better applications.

- Publication of ""Analysis report on SME success factors and best practices"" and ""Supporting tool to assess an SME's pre-requisites and suitability to H2020 projects""

- Publication of a toolbox that support proposers, especially SME, to adequately fill-in the market and business dimensions of their close to market proposals in H2020.

- Mapping analysis on financial intermediaries and best practices and publication of a Promotional guide on InnovFin products.

- Arrangement on Access4SMEs/Seal of Excellence Community on Euroquity Platform.

- Pitching events launched to facilitate matchmaking betweek SoE companies and potential private investors.

- Launch of on-site mentoring visits to enhance the use of Eu-Backed financial instruments.

- Development of a project corporate identity and development of a communication strategy (website, social Media, promotional brochure and banner).

- Establishment of ties with relevant Networks such as NCP Academy, Thematic NCP Network, Euroquity, EEN, others.

"Project will run till February 2019. The intention is to extend its duration till the end of Horizon 2020

In the second reporting period a number of activities has been planned to reach the following main results:

- Organization of further 5 trainings/workshops and 4 webinars for NCPs addressing innovation and business aspects under H2020/EIC, including events organized in collaboration with NCP Academy and other NCPs' Networks.

- Publication of a second version of the EIC SME Instrument Annotated Template, including ""How to approach Phase 2 interviews"".

- Publication of an assessment report on SME instrument beneficiaries’ proposals to capture the main elements of their value proposition to their market.

- Publication of an in-depth growth and Valuation analysis of the SME instrument beneficiaries.

- Organization of a networking/pitching event during the Innovative Enterprise Conference to be held in Vienna on November 2018.

- Organization of at least 3 e-pitching events to facilitate matchmaking between Seal of Excellence holders and private investors.

- Organization of 5 on site mentoring visits to analyze in depth the needs of local Financial Intermediaries in order to elaborate a roadmap for a further use of EU financial instruments in a specific national context.

- Organization of two common trainings/events in collaboration with EEN.