Horizon 2020 is the European Union program to promote research and innovation grants between 2014 and 2020. It plans to address the main challenges of society, create and maintain Europe’s leadership and reinforce the excellence of the scientific base. To do this, it brings together all the entities involved in the process: companies (large and small), research centers, universities and administrations.

One of the ways of financing these projects is that the European Commission is going to mobilize 77,028 million euros for H2020 that are concentrated in three areas: excellent science, industrial leadership and social challenges. The first includes the amount of 24,441 million euros that will basically be used to develop projects linked to universities and research centers. The great novelty lies in the other two sections that reserve 9,000 million euros (20% of the total) exclusively for SMEs. Of these, 3,000 million will be allocated to the so-called SME Instrument and the remaining 6,000 to collaboration projects. Spain aspires to get at least 8% of these funds, since it coincides with its share of participation in European budgets. Within the SME Instrument, for the first time aid will be granted that will support a subsidy intensity of up to 70%.

However, the way in which they can participate is that any legal entity established in any EU country can qualify for H2020 funds. Small and medium-sized companies can participate in grants alone (through the SME Instrument) or in consortia with other institutions or similar or larger companies. They must respect the EC rules, work as a team, assume and share knowledge with European partners and invest the resources and time necessary for the proper development of the project. SMEs must already have a track record, since H2020 is not aimed at new entrepreneurs, but at obtaining products derived from R&D carried out in companies. They should want to grow in Europe and have a business plan that encompasses this internationalization. The EC aims to generate employment and wealth by enhancing the technology that emerges in SMEs.

The main characteristics of Horizon 2020 are:

The financing rate of the activities is around 20%
The duration of the projects is about 3 years and the budget is greater than € 2 million with exceptions.
The objective is that the beneficiaries can begin their work in an average period of 8 months from the closing of the calls.
Under these conditions, it is not surprising that H2020 has optimal financing conditions: generally 100% of direct costs for all types of entities and 70% in the case of companies working in the innovation phases; indirect costs will be considered 25% of direct costs.

Now, this question may arise: How do I know if my project or idea is valid? The participation success rate has increased in relation to previous European projects. If before one of four Spanish proposals was chosen, the figure has risen to one of 10. “You will not try your luck for the Horizon 2020 Grant, you are leaving because there is potential,” he says. Miranda recommends SMEs to follow the logical sequence of participation and start with regional R&D projects, continue with national ones, and finally finish in H2020. If the company is clear on this point, you can consult with CDTI or one of its 50 collaborating entities to guide you along the way.

The time for preparing a project can be “very complex.” To be sure of the selection, a work of more than a year of preparation must be carried out. Just planning the proposal, the company spends on average “about four months.” If the European Union approves it, the negotiation of the contract arrives and until the signing of the agreement, “a year” may have passed. Participation in H2020 requires an investment from Human Resources and a “commitment to collaboration” on the part of companies.

Once it has been decided whether the company will opt for an individual or collective project, the SME has to be clear about how to present its idea. The Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) has organized in recent months different meetings in all the autonomous communities to explain to companies what H2020 consists of. In these days, known as Infodays, the institution also provides personalized advice to all companies that require it so that the managers themselves know if they have an idea capable of attracting these funds.

For your project to be valid and ready, each SME must be clear that it has to present a realistic and viable project. To do this, the CDTI offers free support and advice to all companies that need help to find out how to qualify for H2020 funds. In this new framework program, proposals must be submitted in response to the calls for proposals that the EU will launch in the 2014-2020 period through the EC Participant Portal.

In the case of companies that opt ​​for the SME Instrument, they will go through three phases. Once the selection of projects is over, in the first stage SMEs will have six months to develop a concrete plan for their idea. That is, they will have to create a business plan, a market study and test the technical-economic viability of the idea. In this phase the company will be subsidized with 50,000 euros. Expert estimates place the rate of companies that will pass this litmus test at 10%. Those that do succeed will go to phase two, where the company will be able to materialize its idea and turn R&D into a tangible and commercial product. In this stage, companies will receive between 500,000 euros and 2.5 million euros, with a subsidy intensity of 70%, the highest registered to date. This period could last up to 24 months after which they would enter phase three, in which the EC helps companies find investors and financing.

EASME is the agency in charge of managing the evaluations of the projects presented and selecting the panel of evaluators, which will be made up of independent experts who score the proposals according to different criteria, such as impact, innovation and implementation of the idea. On a maximum mark of 15 points, only projects that obtain a mark of 13 will be able to access the first phase of the grant since the EC has set itself the goal of supporting only European excellence.