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Innovative Enterprise week SOFIA 2018 - Financial instruments fostering Research and Innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IEWSofia2018 (Innovative Enterprise week SOFIA 2018 - Financial instruments fostering Research and Innovation)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2018-07-31

"The Innovative Enterprise week SOFIA 2018 - Financial instruments fostering Research and Innovation, was organized as a 1-day conference to raise awareness of the potential for the financial instruments, facilities and accompanying measures launched, in particular, under Horizon 2020 vision to enhance access to finance for research and innovation. Access to Risk Finance in Horizon 2020 helps companies and other types of organisations engaged in research and innovation (R&I) to have easier access to debt and equity finance. To this end, the 'InnovFin' (EU Finance for Innovators) product range consists of a suite of tailored financial instruments complemented by a set of accompanying measures to facilitate access to debt and equity finance for SMEs and (medium and large) midcaps. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF) (altogether the ""EIB Group"") are the entrusted entities that implement each financial instrument facility on behalf of and in partnership with the European Commission. As of November 2018, the SME Instrument (SMEI) and Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) will become the central part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, supporting top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally. The EIC brings together the parts of Horizon 2020 that provide funding, advice and networking opportunities for those at cutting edge of innovation targeting radically new, breakthrough products, services, processes or business models that open up new markets.

The Innovative Enterprise week SOFIA 2018 focused was on the interactions possible between these instruments, COSME's financial instruments, European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF), the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), instruments at national and local level as well as with the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot supporting innovators developing breakthrough innovations.

The conference successfully reached its main objectives to:
- Ensure proper awareness and popularization of the financial instruments, especially among SMEs and midcaps, financial intermediaries (banks as well as risk capital funds including private investors and corporate investors);
- Create interactions possible between these financial instruments, COSME's, European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), instruments at national and local level as well as with the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot
- Bring together the main stakeholders (EU, national and regional Policy makers, Financial intermediaries, representatives from Research, Innovation and Business) to discuss the best uptake of the available financial instruments and the improvement of existing and development of new financial instruments that will support R&I in the upcoming years.
- Shade lights on important happenings, initiatives and announcements related to Research & Innovation and particularly on the financial instruments resulting to support these new initiatives
"
The Innovative Enterprise week SOFIA 2018 (IEWSofia2018) planed, prepared and organized a 1-day conference, the “Innovative Enterprise week SOFIA 2018 - Financial instruments fostering Research and Innovation” to raise awareness of the potential for the financial instruments, facilities and accompanying measures launched, in particular, under Horizon 2020 to enhance access to finance for research and innovation.
The conference brought together experts, policy makers, financial intermediaries and representatives of the different financial instruments of the EU, the research, innovation and business communities, including SMEs and midcaps

IEWSofia2018 addressed 5 key sub-objectives implemented in 4 phases

Phase 1 – Preparatory tasks

- Setting up a High Level Advisory Board
- Setting up a high-level conference plan
- Define initial conference programme
- Prepare Dissemination & Communication plan
- Define logistics & facilities requirements

Phase 2 – Pre-conference:

- Bring forward the very draft programme proposed in the proposal to a very elaborated programme co-defined and agreed with the Advisory Board
- Defining all the sessions with their respective topics, speakers, panelists and moderators
- Engage speakers, VIPs and relevant participants

Phase 3 - Conference

- Conduct a successful conference
- Create synergies with other actions, events, conferences

Phase 4 – Post-conference

- Conduct a follow-up survey
- Disseminate conference results
The conference emphasised on raising awareness about the potential for the financial instruments to enhance access to finance and foster the development of world-class research & innovation. Presenting the available financial instruments as well as announcements about new initiatives and novel instruments by the European Commission and its mandated bodies undoubtedly helped financial intermediaries, SMEs and midacaps understand which financial instruments the right ones for them are and therefore, will stimulate their adoption.
This impact was achieved by setting up an attractive programme, giving prominence to the potential of the existing instruments as well as new initiatives which will be presented by high level speakers and VIPs which will attract relevant and massive audience. The impact was maximised by doing intense dissemination and communication about these instruments and initiatives before, during and after the conference.

This impact has been achieved by:
- Involving the high-level Advisory Board in identifying the most relevant and hottest topics to be addressed and set up the programme accordingly, giving prominent slots in the programme to ensure maximum impact
- Identify the best speakers at highest level and top-names panelists for each session (at the level of commissioner or high-level leaders of these initiatives) to raise the highest interest which will result in an increase in the number of participants
- An efficient dissemination and communication strategy thoroughly implemented and relying on all possible channels, networks and databases to reach out as widely as possible.

The financial instruments were launched in 2014-2015 and have so far shown real success. There have been some improvements in some of them, new instruments were also launched since then. However, many novelties are expected to pop up. With the SME Instrument and Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) becoming central part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, Budgets and priorities for the Post-2020 Work Programme – Invest Europe – published at the time of the conference. As we expected important announcements were made at this specific conference which undoubtedly resulted positively for increasing interest and impact.
The conference showed not only the available financial instruments to access funding but also showcased successful Bulgarian, Balkan and European tech start-ups to investors and corporations. The event programme demonstrated success cases of the use of financial instruments in the region of Eastern Europe and countries that are still Modest or Moderate innovators under the European Innovation Scoreboard. This popularized further the available instruments and engage more to adopt them.