Awareness of sustainability issues and the circular economy have exploded in the last few years, and that's a good thing. Melting icebergs, unusually extreme weather and throw-away culture are calling us to action and simultaneously presenting new business opportunities.
Horizon 2020 is answering this call with around 500 million euros of funding of circular economy topics. They cover a wide range of projects relating to industrial sustainability, greening the economy in line with SDGs, sustainable food security, blue growth, food and natural resources and sustainable health systems – lots of choices! For bioeconomy there is even more possibility through the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking.
The necessity and the business opportunity have obviously not escaped Finnish organizations, and it is wonderful to see so many becoming front-runners with circular economy solutions. Nationally Business Finland's Bio and Circular Finland Program can provide a boost.
While we can get started here at home, in the long term we need to look to Europe and beyond to scale up. Horizon 2020 provides significant funding, but that's just one side of the story. Most of the projects require working together in consortia with other European organizations and this has definite benefits.
In fact, SMEs that have participated in Horizon 2020 actually say that the most substantial benefits of participation are the contacts and networks, working with the best of the best in your field (partners and competitors alike), having access to a whole value chain or network and growing your customer base. Far beyond project finance.
We often hear SMEs lament the difficulty of finding partners for the initial EU project. The upside is that the ones who have managed to get into the first consortium and do their jobs well are often invited for follow-up projects. In the meanwhile, the best advice is to rummage through your existing contacts and call anyone who might be able to help. Attend Horizon 2020 info days and brokerage events strategically (Hint! The BF Bio and Circular Finland Program is organizing Brussels trips this summer and fall). Join a European Technology Platform or other European "clubs" in your area and become active!
At Business Finland we can support you through the application process. We can help you find the right call and explain the call text and application procedures. In addition, we can read and comment your application. Business Finland also provides proposal preparation funding for the application phase. EU funding can seem like a bureaucratic maze to a beginner, but we are here to support you.
We hope that you will get your piece of the European circular economy pie in 2020!