How to get funding from the EU for a startup?

Grants, funding and low-interest loans for startups and scientists are disbursed every year under various programs from the EU. One of the largest of them is Horizon 2020. Read on to learn where to find information about available funding under Horizon 2020 and how to apply for a grant.

  1. I have an innovative business idea. Can I get a grant from the EU?

Yes, you can. Ukraine is a full member of Horizon 2020, a EU program funding research, technological development and innovation.


It means that Ukrainians can apply for innovation grants the same way as companies from the EU. The assistance is provided thanks to EIC Accelerator Pilot, an initiative helping innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas receive funding and enter international markets. You can submit your application as a separate company or together with partners. Funding is available to finance development of an idea (50 thousand euros) and for business projects which already went underway (a grant of 500 thousand to 2.5 million euros + access to loans for up to 15 million euros). This program also offers trainings and mentorship for companies which receive funding.

Innovative enterprises may find it hard to obtain reliable funding, as their products could be complex, technologies untested and demand market still in the making. To solve this problem, the Access to Financial Security of Risks program was designed to help companies and startups receive a loan.


  1. How can I apply?

If you have an innovative idea or project but you aren’t sure about the suitable funding scheme, visit the EIC funding page and use the interactive instrument EIC Wizard, which will help you select an optimal solution.

To apply, you need to register your company in the system and send a completed form containing a description of your idea.

This program is intended for small and medium-sized enterprises with a revolutionary business idea based on innovative technologies. Therefore, you application will be evaluated based on three main criteria:

  • Advantages: what advantages your innovations with high risk / high potential have comparing to advanced technologies in their sector
  • Value: how your innovation would create substantial consumer demand for a particular product, service or model
  • Development: how your innovative product will work, and what specialists have been engaged in your project.

If you’re looking for a loan to finance your project, visit the Access to Financial Security of Risks section of Horizon 2020 website. To find banks, creditors or foundations financing risks in Ukraine under special programs from the EU, go to this section. If you need a consultation, check out the Horizon 2020 national webpage and make sure to contact Horizon 2020 office in Ukraine.


  1. Sounds good, but everything’s not that simple, is it?

Of course, you must be very serious about your application and provide detailed answers to every question. Do not delude yourself into thinking that you can just take a ready text and paste it into your application. The experts evaluating your application will thoroughly examine your answers to every question.

Some people believe that a description of a project should be as complex as possible. That’s not so: the experts do not want to read something scientifically abstract. You have to present your project in layman’s terms. Imagine that you’re trying to “sell” your project to an investor, so try to get him interested and surprised. Remember: it is not enough for your product to be just innovative – you have to demonstrate its commercial value.

Write your proposal in the form of a consistent and coherent narration that makes it easy to read. Avoid repetitions and empty phrases not adding information to the text (the maximum number of pages is really the maximum, not an obligatory requirement). Remember that the expert is a human being. The easier it is for him to read your proposal, the better it is for your project.

Some people could be put off by the requirement for the application to be written in English. The best advice for you is to write your presentation in your native language and have it professionally translated. Even if your application is turned down, you will still have a presentation of your project in English, which you could soon need again for other programs or investors.

If you’re submitting an application for an innovative project as a small enterprise, make sure to read suggestions and recommendations concerning applications for assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises. They are based on testimonials of evaluation experts and representatives of Horizon 2020 national offices. You are also recommended to read an advice from Ihor Arkhypenko, project head at Kyiv’s IT cluster and a Horizon 2020 evaluation expert: What is Horizon 2020, and how to receive a 50,000-euro grant for development of your project?


  1. What companies in Ukraine have already received a grant?

Ukrainian companies do not fully utilize the existing funding opportunities, because only some of them dare to apply. The number of applications coming from Ukraine is ten times lower than that received from, say, Italy or Spain. Still, small companies regularly apply and receive grants from Horizon 2020 to finance development of their ideas.

Dmytro Kovalchuk’s company, Red Wave, develops titanium smelting equipment and technologies for the worldwide clientele. The company’s engineers have patented a unique technology for 3D printing on metal, but additional funding was required for the marketing of this product. Therefore, the company decided to apply for a grant from Horizon 2020. Dmytro Kovalchuk engaged professional consultants: with their help, an application was submitted within two weeks, and several months later, a grant of 50,000 euros was credited to the company’s bank account.

Raccoon, a Ukrainian startup specializing in virtual interaction technologies, is developing solutions for rehabilitation of patients with arm injuries. To fund its project, Raccoon received 50,000 euros from Horizon 2020. But the grant was not the end of it: the fact that a EU grant helped gain trust from potential partners, investors and customers and drew attention from mass media is no less important. It opened the door for additional private investors. Learn more about Ukrainian companies which have already received funding from the EU. They are also marked on the interactive map.


  1. Are private individuals eligible for funding, or it is provided to companies only?

If you are a researcher who wants to make a career abroad, you can apply for individual scholarship under Horizon 2020’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. To be eligible, an applicant must have a PhD degree or at least four years of experience in a research field. Funding is available for research works in any discipline: from physics to linguistics and from health sciences to mathematical modeling. Grants for a period of up to two years cover accommodation, travel and family expenses. In addition, the EU partially covers the costs of your studies, establishing scientific contacts and research, and also, project management costs and some indirect expenses (for details, read the applicant’s manual). Grants are disbursed to the receiving organizations, usually a university, research center or company in Europe.

The European Research Council (ERC) also offers funding to prominent scientists from any country to do research work in Europe. With a start grant from the ERC, young scientists can receive up to 1.5 million euros for five years of research. More experienced researchers can count on a larger amount.

An important point: to promote innovations, most European research foundations purposefully support international partnerships. Therefore, if you are a scientist, your best bet in getting funding from the EU is collaboration. Horizon 2020 funds research projects in all fields: from space exploration to humanities, agriculture, biotechnologies and energy.


  1. What chances do Ukrainian scientists and researchers have to receive a grant?

Ukraine is full member of Horizon 2020 program, along with European Union member states. It means that Ukrainian scientists have the same chances to get funding as do their colleagues from the EU.

But Horizon 2020 is not just about money. Most projects require your collaboration with at least three other institutions or enterprises from different countries. This way, Horizon 2020 creates conditions for better contacts between Ukrainian scientists and their international colleagues, and also, business partners from the EU and the entire world.

“Science develops via communication,” Oleksandra Antoniuk, a researcher working with her colleagues from Germany, Austria and Italy on a project within the Horizon 2020 framework explains. “Imagine that we have one apple each. We swapped them, but still have one apple each. But if you have an idea and I also have one, each of us already has two ideas in total. And maybe even three, because we together can invent something new.” As a result of collaboration, Oleksandra and her colleagues have developed a device controlling sugar content in blood, and they also help Italian surgeons to do operations on patients with heart valve pathology. Read their story here.

This is just one example of many projects which received funding. In 2014-2018, Horizon 2020 provided funding worth the total of almost 21.7 million euros to 184 projects featuring participation of 110 Ukrainian private and state enterprises, research institutes and universities. M.Y. Zhukovsky National Aerospace University “Kharkiv Institute of Aviation” received several grants. To learn more about how the university received over 1.8 million euros for aviation and cybersecurity projects, read here.

To stay on top of all news, events and opportunities related to the EU’s support of research and innovations, bookmark the EU4Innovation website.


  1. Where else a EU funding for startups could be found?

Horizon 2020 provides funding to research and innovations, but Ukraine also has much more opportunities to receive assistance from the EU.

If you have your own business, you can apply for various forms of funding and assistance provided as part of EU4Business initiative. Ukrainian entrepreneurs also have access to the EU’s COSME program providing grants for development of small and medium-sized enterprises, and to Erasmus program for young entrepreneurs offering beginner and future entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn from their experienced colleagues running a small business in other participating countries. Take a look at the interactive map of opportunities for Ukrainian companies to find out what option is right for you.

If you are a scientist or a student, Erasmus+ offers opportunities for research and exchange in all fields and at all levels. Contact Erasmus+ National Office Ukraine for detailed information, and read our cards concerning Erasmus+.

Ukraine is also a full member of the EU’s Creative Europe program supporting cultural and mass media projects.

For your information: Horizon 2020 is a European Union’s framework program funding research, technological development, and innovation. It provides funding of research and innovations for multinational collaboration projects and to individual researchers, and supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using a special funding instrument.

Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are involved in Horizon 2020 program and participate in it according to the same rules as European Union member states. Researchers from Azerbaijan and Belarus are also eligible to receive funding.

Horizon 2020 is intended to stimulate sustainable economic growth and create new jobs, bringing research and innovations together with the emphasis on advanced science, industrial leadership and solution of social problems. Its purpose is to contribute to the development of world-class science, eliminate barriers for innovations and facilitate joint efforts of the public and private sectors in providing innovations.

Source: Segodnya