Firms urged to take advantage as EU offers €80bn for research
BUSINESSES are being urged to take advantage of a huge new EU funding programme which opens today, making billions of euro available to Irish researchers and companies at no cost to the taxpayer.
The programme, called Horizon 2020, will distribute €80bn over seven years to European research projects. It is 30pc larger than its predecessor, FP7.
Ireland played a key role in securing the Horizon2020, as political agreement was agreed under the Irish presidency in June this year.
The funding comes mostly in the form of straightforward grants, not loans. Unlike Enterprise Ireland, the funding is not limited to export-orientated companies, and carries looser eligibility criteria than Science Foundation Ireland grants.
The Government has doubled its targets for how much Ireland should receive in comparison to the last programme. Some 400 projects won nearly €600m from FP7 -- recipients included Intel, IBM and Hewlett Packard, as well as a host of smaller businesses and academics -- but the State is now targeting €1.25bn worth of awards. The funding favours partnerships between multiple companies and academics, particularly partnerships across several EU countries. Trade body Enterprise Ireland, which is responsible for supporting Irish applicants, will help interested companies find suitable partners.
All EU public and private entities of all sizes are eligible. Applications from non-EU countries are also welcome, once there is an EU partner involved.
Since the previous seven-year scheme was criticised as unsuitable for small businesses, Horizon2020 has a dedicated 'SME instrument'. This is a simpler process that covers all research fields and allows SMEs to apply alone, with less documentation required.
Applications are invited throughout the year through regular 'calls for proposals'. Each 'call' usually covers a specific research area and has a set budget.
Enterprise Ireland will run workshops and seminars around the country for the lifespan of the fund, and will help companies and researchers with the application process.
EU officials say the bureaucracy involved in applying has been massively reduced.
"We have slashed red tape," said EU Commissioner Marie Geoghegan-Quinn, when she launched the fund in Dublin to an audience of more than 2,000 people yesterday.