Irish SMEs get €44m from EU Horizon 2020 scheme
Fund has €3bn to help SMEs develop products, services or processes
Luxcel Biosciences chief executive Richard Fernandez: Cork firm received €1.03 million to develop advanced solutions for high-sensitivity metabolism and toxicity assays. Photograph: Gerard McCarthy
Some 24 innovative Irish SMEs have secured a total of €44 million in second-phase funding under the SME instrument of the EU Horizon 2020 programme. The €80 billion Horizon 2020 programme is the EU framework programme for research and innovation and the SME instrument has €3 billion in funding available to help high-potential SMEs develop ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes that can be launched on global markets.
Funding is available for projects under 13 broad topic areas which include healthcare, ICT, security, nanotechnology, space research and development, biotechnology, agri-food, low-carbon energy, transport and smart cities, and climate action.
Most importantly, the funding is available to individual SMEs and does not require them to form consortiums or other collaborations. “It’s not like other Horizon 2020 instruments which generally require some type of collaboration,” says Jill Leonard, the Horizon 2020 national contact point for innovation in SMEs within Enterprise Ireland.
Funding is available principally in two phases. The first phase offers support in the form of €50,000 for studies to establish the technical feasibility and commercial potential of a new idea. Phase two offers grants of between €500,000 and €3 million for a very generous 70 per cent of the cost of the further development of the idea into a market-ready product, service or process.
To date, 47 Irish companies have received funding under phases of the instrument. In the latest round, three Dublin-based firms and one company from Galway received awards.
Caraglass was successful in its funding application for iSafe, an internet safety awareness programme for European primary school children; Accucolour received support for Pet-Yield, a new more efficient and lower waste manufacturing method for plastic bottles; InvizBox is to get a grant for InvizBox GO 4G – an innovative approach to securing data on the internet; and Mbryonics has received a grant for Raven – real-time access to a virtual earth observation network.
Free business coaching
Each company is also entitled to up to three days of free business coaching.
In the latest phase, two funding round four Enterprise Ireland clients and one client of Udaras na Gaeltachta secured grants totalling €10 million.
DP DesignPro Ltd of Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, was awarded €1.93 million to develop new, affordable and reliable hydrokinetic turbines that can exploit the huge potential of clean, predictable energy in rivers, canals and estuaries; Luxcel Biosciences in Cork received €1.03 million to develop advanced solutions for high-sensitivity metabolism and toxicity assays; Axonista of Dublin secured €1.7 million to work on a video app for smart devices; Slainte Beoga Teo of Galway and a client of Udaras na Gaeltachta won €2.5 million to develop a non-antibiotic antimicrobial treatment for bovine mastitis; and Altratech of Shannon received €2.97 million for a portable battery-operated kit for fast detection of the HIV virus.
The companies will also benefit from 12 days of business coaching.
Another very important aspect of the programme, according to Leonard, is its relative simplicity. “The application process is not very difficult at all,” she says. “All you have to do is register online to get a participant identification code. After that you go through a self-assessment process, download and complete the documentation and submit it.”
There is also no necessity to go through the phases in sequence. “Companies don’t have to apply for phase one first,” Leonard points out. “If they are already sufficiently advanced with a project they can apply for phase-two funding straight away.”
She also points out that, unlike the most other programmes within Horizon 2020, the SME Instrument is not about research. “Traditionally funding has been for research,” she says. “This is funding for innovation. A firm has to have a technology at what the EU calls level six, which means that the technology development is quite advanced and ready for demonstration. It has to be something tangible and not something that will be ready in six months’ time. You also have to be planning to commercialise it. We are looking for companies that are going to grow, create jobs and launch new products and services on to European and global markets.”
While the application process is very straightforward, Leonard does point out that Enterprise Ireland is available to guide companies through it. “Any company engaged in the development of new products or services in one of the topic areas should give very serious consideration to applying for funding under the SME instrument. We can help them with the application process to give them the best chance of success.” Horizon2020.ie