The European Commission is about to launch its new funding program Horizon Europe of 100 billion for research and innovation. The application period for this year’s EU projects begins soon. The manufacturing industry should seek its own share of the funding.
In EU projects, the Commission funds an R&D project based on the project application. The length of the project is typically three years, and it is implemented together with a project consortium, i.e. companies and research institutes participating in the project work.
Horizon Europe will include a lot of calls that are of interest to the Finnish sustainable manufacturing stakeholders, and most of them will have a deadline in August and September. It might feel like it is a long time until then, but now is the right time to familiarize yourself with the calls and decide if you are going to build a proposal. The reason is the summer vacation season: as Finns return from their vacations, Central Europeans are just starting theirs. In order for the project consortium to have enough time to prepare a competitive application, it should have clear directions already before the vacation season begins.
The most obvious benefit from participating in an EU project is, naturally, the research funding. In other words, EU project provides a chance to significantly grow your R&D resources with public support without, for example, the ownership of your SME being diluted. However, the benefit of EU projects is not just financial. Among other things, EU projects can significantly boost an SME’s export operations. It is not just about networking with the industry’s international value network — at best, the consortium includes one or more potential customers. The project provides you with an excellent opportunity to get direct feedback and tips from potential customers for developing your product and growing your understanding of customer needs and the sector.
In addition, the new capabilities developed in the project increase the partners’ competitiveness on the export market. This is necessary as your competitors are also developing their competitiveness in their own EU projects. In addition, the projects often include regulations and standards related activities — it is always better to be involved in making the regulations that impact your business operations than trying to react to something dictated from above.
EU projects can significantly boost an SME’s export operations.
Furthermore, the application phase in itself is a great sparring opportunity if you want to start exporting: applicants must compare their idea or product against the industry’s top actors and think about how they can differentiate themselves. EU projects never fund activities to get to the same level as your competitors — you need to go beyond the state of the art and develope something truly innovative.
The most important benefit from EU projects is the new partnerships you will gain. Two plus two will often equal five: Cooperating and innovating openly with industry actors creates insights and enables ideas choices that might not be reached otherwise. By interacting closely with the industry’s international value chain during the project, you will likely gain even further beneficial information of your industry’s roadmap, i.e. where the industry’s leading actors are headed to. For example, the performance of your newest product might be assessed as part of the project and reported in a project partners’ scientific publication. It is not easy for an SME that is just launching export operations to gain similar international visibility and trustworthiness with its own marketing resources.
The best thing is that one project will usually lead to an invitation to participate in other projects as well. These subsequent projects will then bring more EU funds for research and development, more competitiveness, increased visibility on the industry’s future and leading actors as well as more customer understanding and potential customers.
If you are interested in applying for EU funding this fall, get in touch! Business Finland’s specialists can provide you with current drafts of the application texts already before the calls are officially published.
Toni Mattila, Business Finland
Tel. +358 40 500 9909
toni.mattila (at) businessfinland.fi