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Jukka Lukkari wrote in the Tekniikka & Talous magazine on the 2nd of April 2015 that EU funding is slipping through Finland’s fingers. It is indeed true that the renewed and more innovation-oriented contents of the EU Horizon 2020 funding program, as well as its accelerated processing speeds, have increased the application activity both in Finland and elsewhere in Europe. This has, in turn, led to even tougher competition than before and to somewhat lowered success rates in the EU area.
It is however to be noted that the statistical success rates don’t tell the whole truth. According to the statistics of the European Commission, there have already been over 300 successful applications in Finland during the first year of the program. The EU funds these projects with more than 119.7 million euros in total. These projects are very significant for the participants: the smallest projects of tens of thousands of euros enable SMEs to conduct feasibility and market studies for their new innovations, whereas bigger projects of tens of millions of euros make it possible to e.g. build pilot plants for the testing of the innovations on an industrial scale, right before taking them to the market.
As a concrete example of Finnish EU funding success, MetGen, a producer of industrial enzymes from Kaarina, can be mentioned. The company’s SME Instrument Phase 2 project of 2,2 million euros enables production development and demonstrations on an industrial scale – thus enabling the growth of the company in its target markets. This way, EU support enables and speeds up these necessary final steps of the R&D process. In addition to funding, the consortium projects of several participants – and already their preparation – make it possible for the participants to form international partnerships and broaden their know-how.
However, a funded project doesn’t come out of nowhere. Especially in the tough international competition of the H2020 program, every successful project needs a good idea, a strong consortium, as well as a preparation phase with dedication, know-how and allocation of enough resources. The experts working on the application must have enough know-how and time to focus on the application preparation, according to the EU guidelines and the requirements of application reviewers. Specific know-how is still needed for the application formation phase. Tekes also supports the acquirement of expert assistance. It is possible to gain success in the tough competition when the good idea is formulated well, a suitable funding instrument as well as partners that complement each other are found, and enough time is reserved for the writing of the application. The application must clearly communicate the project contents as well as its technical and business impact to the reader.
Compared to earlier framework programs, in H2020 innovation funding is aimed at creating new jobs in Europe. Research has not been forgotten, but it also has to be reasoned with a commercial benefit. Finland needs new jobs enabled by new innovations and thus, we would like to encourage also Finnish companies to apply for EU funding more actively.
Laura Koponen, CEO, Spinverse Innovation Management Oy
Terhi Marttila, Project Manager