The EU provides a number of funding programmes targeting EGNOS and Galileo, including for developers of downstream applications. To further motivate innovation and entrepreneurship in this sector, and make sure Galileo becomes a success, the EU provides a range of funding instruments that are relevant to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) active in the development of downstream satellite navigation applications.
The first Horizon 2020 (H2020) Call for Applications in Satellite Navigation is now closed.
Horizon 2020 opportunities for European GNSS applications development
With a budget of EUR 70 billion for the period 2014-2020, the H2020 programme uses simplified rules to provide opportunities for the development of applications (apps) for use with EGNOS and Galileo Early Services. The EGNSS applications will be part of the programme’s Space Theme, having synergies with such societal challenges topics as transportation, maritime, agriculture, energy and climate change. The EUR 38 million first call for proposals, managed by the GSA, covers the following areas:
- E-GNSS applications
- Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) based E-GNSS applications
- Releasing the potential of E-GNSS applications through international cooperation
All proposals are expected to address concrete solutions and applications in the GNSS sectors of road, aviation, LBS, maritime, rail, agriculture or mapping. The topics are aimed at supporting creating innovative applications, products, feasibility studies and market tests that can have a substantial impact on the European innovation know-how and economy.
Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7)
FP7 is the EU's main instrument for funding research. FP7, which began funding research in 2007 will run until 2013. The European Commission’s budget for this programme for the seven years is €50.5 billion. SMEs are actively encouraged to participate in all FP7 research actions.
Within FP7 there are several opportunities for GNSS-related applications. Within the transport and aeronautics funds have been allocated specifically to GNSS research. GNSS applications can also be relevant to other FP7 areas such as transport, health and information and communication technologies. The capacities programme on the other hand offers opportunities for cluster development and SME support.
Funding is in the form of grants which can cover 50-100% of eligible costs depending on the type of activity and the type of applicant. To be eligible for these grants you need to form a consortium with at least three companies/institutions from three different countries.
You could apply for FP7 funding for:
- Pre-commercial research and development activities;
- International cooperation;
- Specific topics related to call for proposals for Galileo.
The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) aims to encourage the competitiveness of European enterprises. With small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as its main target, the programme will support innovation activities, provide better access to finance and deliver business support services in the regions. It will encourage better take-up and use of information and communications technologies (ICT) and help to develop the information society. It will also promote the increased use of renewable energies and energy efficiency.
CIP has two main financial instruments for SMEs:
- 1) The SME Guarantee facility (SMEG), under which the European Investment Fund (EIF) provides loan guarantees to financial intermediaries who provide (or guarantee) loans to SMEs. The EIF manages the SMEG on behalf of the European Commission. The objective is to improve access to finance for the start-up and growth of SMEs, and investment in innovation activities, including eco-innovation. The instrument primarily supports the provision of loans to all types of SMEs and start-ups, including those in hi-tech and fast growing industries. However, those with very high growth potential are more likely to require substantial equity financing as well (see GIF section below). SMEs should not apply directly to the EIF but to the participating financial intermediaries that provide the loans.
- 2) Under the High Growth and Innovative SME Facility (GIF), the EIF invests in specialised funds, which provide venture capital to SMEs. The objective is to improve access to finance for the start-up and growth of SMEs, and investment in innovation activities. The EIF manages the GIF on behalf of the European Commission. SMEs should not apply directly to the EIF but to participating venture capital funds.
Venture capital funds have a track record of backing successful innovative companies. Their added value usually goes beyond funding and includes support on the strategic issues that start-ups face. These firms are very selective and only accept start-ups with a solid business plan, a history of strong growth, an able management team and a unique, sustainable competitive advantage.
This type of funding is for SMEs with high growth potential.
Further information on how to find venture capital can be found at: http://www.gate2growth.com
The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) joined forces to set up the Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF). RSFF is an innovative scheme to improve access to debt financing for private companies or public institutions promoting activities in the field of research, technological development, demonstration, and Innovation investments.
RSFF complements FP7 by bridging the gap between the FP7 research grants that are more intended for pre-commercial research and traditional bank loans that are mostly used by mature companies for low risk projects. RSFF is built on the principle of credit risk sharing between the European Commission and the EIB and extends the ability of the EIB to provide loans or guarantees with a low and sub-investment grade risk profile - involving financial risks above those normally accepted by investors.
In practice SMEs would not apply directly to the EIB but should contact their ‘house bank’ or one of the EIB's partner banks. Alternatively, SMEs can join larger "Common legal entities" when applying for a large loan. Up to 50% of eligible costs can be funded.
The ideal candidates are relatively large companies or groups of SMEs with ambitious R&D plans as they can apply directly to EIB. SMEs have to apply through EIB's partner banks. In both cases beneficiaries need to implement an eligible RDI project and demonstrate their ability to service their financial obligations.
More information: http://www.eib.org/products/loans/index.htm
The PRO INNO Europe Business Angels Network to support knowledge based companies to access early stage finance.
The programme is targeted at companies looking for ‘seed’ funding and who are accessing business angels, seed funds and early stage venture capital funds.
More information: http://www.eban.org/
European Space Agency initiatives
European Special Applications Fund
ESA is raising a venture capital fund that will specialise in space applications. Recently, E-Synergy Ltd (based in England and Switzerland) was selected by the European Space Agency ESA as the business entity in charge of the establishment and the subsequent management of this European Special Applications Fund (formerly known as the ESINET Fund).
More information: www.e-synergy.com
ESA Technology Transfer Programme
The main mission of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) is to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications and to further demonstrate the benefit of the European Space Programme to the European citizens.
The Technology Transfer Programme Office is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies and systems, including the incubation of start-up companies and their funding.
More information: www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Technology/TTP2
ESA Investment Forum
Jointly with European Commission projects INVESaT, FINANCE Space and the European Special Application Fund ESA hosts the ESA Investment Forum. This forum brings together promising start-up companies using space technology with the finance and investment communities.
More information: http://www.congrex.nl/index.aspx
Finding your way: FINANCE Space and INVESaT
To help space related SMEs find their way among the various funding tools, two networks are supported via the Europe Innova initiative. Europe INNOVA is an initiative for innovation professionals, supported by the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission.
Finance Innovation Network Addressing New Commercial Enterprise using Space (Finance Space): The goal of this network is to increase investment activity in innovative space companies and projects across Europe, which aim to commercialise space technology for non-space applications and services. More space innovations will receive funding through an increasing number of active and potential investments in the space sector.
Bridging the gap between INnovative enterprises and financial InVEstors n the emerging ICT markets of SaTellite applications (INVESaT).
The network’s goal is to consolidate and disseminate in a coordinated way the knowledge components required to stimulate and support more efficient investment in innovative services. Satellite capabilities in earth observation, navigation, timing, geo-positioning and telecommunications are available.