"Innovative Enterprise Vienna": Improving innovation funding in Europe
In partnership with the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws), the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) and the European Commission are organising the "Innovative Enterprise Vienna 2018" conference on the opportunities of EU funding programmes for highly innovative European enterprises.
Under the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the conference "Innovative Enterprise Vienna 2018 – Access to Finance for Research, Innovation and SMEs" will take place in Vienna on 21 and 22 November 2018. The conference will focus on funding for innovative companies. "A good idea alone does not guarantee international market success", said Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs. "We must go from vision to product more quickly, and funding is a key factor here. European companies need optimal conditions, which is why this conference on innovation funding is important. We want to support the best companies and boost their growth."
FFG Managing Director Henrietta Egerth with Moderator Christian Frey (FFG) at the Paneldiscussion about the European Innovation Council.
"Innovative Enterprise Vienna 2018" brings together companies, financiers, intermediaries and public stakeholders to share ideas about future funding options for innovative European companies. In parallel with the main event, the conference will for the first time include two "investment pitching" sessions, offering highly innovative entrepreneurs the opportunity to be matched with investors. "Pioneers", Austria’s globally successful pitching flagship, which is best known for the annual "Pioneers Festival" in Vienna, will be responsible for the first session. On the second day of the conference, "EuroQuity-Pitching" will accompany the participants. The French pitching platform will focus on outstanding projects submitted to Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, but which still need to close a financing gap.
European Innovation Council to support breakthrough innovation
Under Horizon 2020, the European Innovation Council pilot supports SMEs with radical new ideas to launch their products and services on the market. “In Austria, the EIC pilot is a success story: Austrian SMEs are at the top of their game and we provide them with targeted support”, said Henrietta Egerth, Managing Director of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). To date, just under 90 companies (in phases 1 and 2) have received over €40 million in funding.
The FFG team at the Conference.
In the next Framework Programme, Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the European Innovation Council (EIC) will help Europe’s most innovative enterprises to achieve significant growth momentum through its innovative, blended finance scheme combining grants and equity capital . "We welcome the measures taken by the EU Commission to improve funding opportunities for innovative ideas in the next financial planning phase. We have high hopes for the EIC, in particular. This support is needed in order to enhance the competitiveness of innovative European SMEs on the challenging global market", said Federal Minister Margarete Schramböck. "As a strong national and European partner, the FFG assists the EIC in empowering innovators and bringing their brilliant ideas to market", underlined Egerth.
A brand-new development in the EIC context is the envisaged testing of the blended finance component as early as 2019 and 2020 in an extended pilot. "In June this year, the European Council invited the Commission to launch a new pilot initiative on breakthrough innovation within the remaining period of Horizon 2020. We are preparing to deliver on this challenge by enhancing the current EIC pilot to finance high-risk innovations and ensuring the scale up of European start-ups and SMEs. The Accelerator, to be tested, would bridge the valley of death for high-risk innovators, particularly in the deep tech sector, providing them with the necessary finance to grow and deploy their products and services in European and international markets. Such support is lacking and urgently needed for Europe to lead the future waves of innovation", highlighted Jean-Eric Paquet, Director General for Research and Innovation at the European Commission.
Paneldiscussion about the European Innovation Council with Austrian success stories.
Access to funding is one of the greatest hurdles for the economy. Under the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the European Commission has launched several financial instruments such as InnovFin and COSME, which provide support among other beneficiaries, to SMEs and innovative companies, and which are deployed by the EIB Group. The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) has provided a further boost, helping to close the market gaps and mobilising private investment. As of 2021, the InvestEU Fund will bring together existing EU financial instruments in order to provide for simplification and economies of scale with an EU budgetary guarantee of €38 billion, aiming to trigger €650 billion in additional investment.
In addition to the existing forms of financing, the EU is strengthening access to risk capital for innovation, by providing support to the European venture capital markets through its pan-European Fund-of-Funds (FoF) programme, known as VentureEU. Thanks to VentureEU, selected funds will aim to raise up to €2.1 billion of investment to provide new sources of financing for European innovators. The managers of the first two European FoFs will be present at the conference in Vienna to discuss how to stimulate finance for innovation.
Henrietta Egerth (r.) with Stephane Ouaki (European Commission, l.) and Christian Frey (FFG).
In Austria, the current instruments are available as part of a successful 20-year partnership between the EIF and Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws). Thanks to an InnovFin counter-guarantee provided by the EIF, the aws was one of the first financial intermediaries in the EU to support some 150 highly innovative companies with guarantees between 2016 and 2018. Bernhard Sagmeister, managing director of aws, was pleased to report that: “We can make our instruments even more attractive by combining them with European funding. With counter-guarantees from EU programmes, for example, we can offer higher guarantee volumes at lower rates.” A highlight of the conference will be the signing of a new agreement to extend this counter-guarantee, which has already been utilised, by around €96 million.
Another successful funding programme is "Eurostars", which supports transnational cooperation projects in the area of research and development and is aimed exclusively at innovative SMEs. The EU Member States provide 75% of the funding and the remaining 25% is provided by the European Commission through Horizon 2020. In Austria, the FFG successfully supports Eurostars applicants with comprehensive information and advice resulting in around €22 million in funding pledged to Austrian organisations.
Jozef Sikela (Erste Bank Group), Christoph Schneider (Austrian Federal Economic Chamber), Patrick Child (European Commission), Ulrich Schuh (BMDW), Pier Luigi Gilibert (EIF), FFG Managing Director Henrietta Egerth, Bernhard Sagmeister (aws).
"Research and innovation is one of the greatest and most important challenges for the negotiations during the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Horizon Europe programme and European investment funding are of crucial importance to us. That is why we are making every effort to support the process – including and in particular with the 'Innovative Enterprise Vienna 2018' conference", concluded Federal Minister Schramböck.