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Access to finance, entrepreneurs and innovation of SMEs are at the core of EU2020 strategy and its major instruments H2020, COSME and Regional Funds. The EC through its H2020 flagship initiative recognises the need of new financing instruments to be implemented in Horizon 2020 aimed at innovative, high-growth companies. The EU once again demonstrated its solidarity to SME’s in answer to the increasing difficulty to find funds and investors. On the 25th of June the European Commission expanded the single portal on EU finance by including to it the EU structural funds (European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund).
This tool was created to help SMEs find investments by regrouping all the back-up programmes set by the EU. The merge will enable an easier access to information, advice and expertise for businesses longing for finance. The Commission’s series of initiatives to help SME’s find proper funding, answer a worsening financial environment, a situation that has developed since the beginning of the economic crisis. Banks and other investors are taking fewer risks and are much more hesitant when it comes to funding SMEs. From 2011 to 2013 alone, 1/3 of SMEs were refused a loan from a bank.
The new single online portal for all EU financial instruments for SMEs launched early May in Dublin provides easy, complete and up-to-date information on how entrepreneurs and SMEs can access over €100 billion of EU financing from various 2007-2013 programmes. The latest additions will double the number of partner banks and funds to over 1 000, further strengthening a vital information source for SME financing through guarantees, loans and venture capital. As EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn further explained: “The EU also wants to encourage Member States and regions to use EU financial instruments since they can enhance the impact of cohesion policy. They are catalysts for crucial investments needed to provide a vital boost to the European economy and create jobs.”
The EUREKA Network very much welcomes this initiative. In the spirit of finding synergies between innovation and regional policy, EUREKA network has made a number of steps inn exploring the regional dimension of EUREKA in firm belief that EUREKA’s long-established experience in local outreach to innovation actors through its wide network can efficiently facilitate regional, cross-border projects aiming at responding to specific regional technological challenges. The European Commission’s cohesion policy for the period of 2014-2020 is welcome by EUREKA which is a natural partner to implement innovation components of cohesion policy. In addition, the Eurostars Joint Programme is one of the activities under H2020 which is also supported by EU Research and Innovation Commissioner as a programme that will help the EU to reach the budgetary target for SMEs within the future Horizon 2020 scheme of 15% of its total budget - a target that had not been reached within the current Framework Programme.