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Eurostars is a joint programme between EUREKA and the European Union, specifically dedicated to innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. The first call for Eurostars under Horizon 2020 will open in 2014, and many improvements to the programme will be implemented. As a complement to other tools addressing SMEs within Horizon 2020, Eurostars will play the crucial role of putting knowledge into the market place.
EUREKA publishes a series of short interviews with Dr. Peter Chisnall, a former industrial chemist and the great machinist behind each Eurostars call for projects. Today he explains us everything you have to know when filling your application form.
Peter, can you explain to us briefly what the principle of a Eurostars call is?
The principle of a Eurostars call is the following: to receive funding from Eurostars for your research project, you have to fill in an application form. This can be done from the opening of the call to the call’s published deadline, which is approximately 2-3 months. Two calls are organised every year, so that people that have a good idea right now and want to put it on the market before their competitors do not have to wait too long to access potential funding.
A central evaluation of the applications we have received is done according to criteria agreed on by all 33 participating countries. Those criteria are publicly available and the evaluation is done by a panel of international experts renowned in their field.
A Eurostars call should be seen as a competition, and the output of this competition is like for any other one a ranking list, where the experts decide which of the projects are the very best according to their overall quality.
You have been working on the Eurostars programme practically since the start. You have read thousands of project applications, good and bad ones. What is the best advice you could give to a person willing to apply for funding through Eurostars?
First of all, always talk to your EUREKA National Project Coordinator before sending an application. Secondly, Eurostars is a market-oriented programme. This means that an applicant should justify in clear ways why he thinks that people will buy his new product or pay for the new service he is developing.
When filling-out your application form you should ask yourself a few essential questions: ‘how feasible is it to put on the market the new technology you want to develop?’ Or even: ‘does the product already exist?’ If I can already buy something similar to it on Amazon, then why should I buy yours, why is it better? Another source of problems could be existing regulatory barriers: just because something is a good idea does not mean that public regulators will let you put it on the market.
Applying for Eurostars funding does not seem too different from pitching to a private investor.
It is all about the applicant’s capacity to explain four simple things. What do you want to do? How are you going to do it? Why will people buy it? Will this business be profitable? Nobody will ever invest in your idea if you are not able to explain and properly justify it.
But you also have to be concise: no one likes to sit there and read a hundred buzz words. I have read very long application forms where there was actually no description of what the companies and organisations involved where actually making. Don’t forget to describe the project and especially the marketing of your new tech product or service.
The new application forms created for Eurostars in Horizon 2020 will reflect our demand for more focus from the applicants on the business strategy.
What about the description of a new technology in an application form?
That is the part that people are usually good at. But if you are a small business coming with an idea for making a great Internet search engine, the first questions I would ask myself are the following: why hasn’t a bigger player like Google tried it before you? And if they have tried but failed, why will you succeed?