Interview: EU funds available for tech entrepreneurs

Access to funding is one of the hot topics in the CEE startup ecosystem, so we're eager to offer as much helpful information on the topic as possible. When we heard about the StartUp Europe Roadshow in Bucharest, which also addresses the topic of funding through European Union resources, we took the opportunity and interviewed Viorel Peca, Head of Unit Innovation, DG CONNECT at the European Commission, on the matter. Here is some essential info on the subject from Mr. Peca himself:

"What we see in Europe is a fragmented landscape with some countries where the support for startup phase is not bad at all and where the need is for scaling up. Meanwhile, in other countries there is a bigger need to create or improve the ecosystem for startup phase. Here, of course, Romania is included."

1. What are the top 5 things that entrepreneurs should know about the EU's Digital Agenda?

Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) is one of the 7 pillars of Europe 2020 and it is all about driving the European growth digitally. This is a complex strategy with 7 pillars and over 100 concrete actions.

The lack of a single Digital market, together with access to financing are the top 2 issues mentioned by entrepreneurs as hampering growth.

There are quite some actions with direct and indirect impact on entrepreneurs and startups/SMEs:
* Adapting the copyright regime to the digital age (several actions) * Action 52: Propose measures for �light and fast� access to EU research funds in ICT * Action 54: Develop a new generation of web-based applications and services * Action 127: Set up a more business-friendly environment for startups.

2. What are the main initiatives that support entrepreneurs in the EU, especially in the tech sector?

Startup Europe is the umbrella that gathers numerous support initiatives of ICT and web entrepreneurs, which are already up and running.

The Entrepreneurship 2020 action plan provides a comprehensive view of these initiatives in the domain of entrepreneurship (not only tech). And Digital entrepreneurship is another initiative you can find more about here.

3. What type of EU funds are available to entrepreneurs?

EU funds are distributed both directly and indirectly to entrepreneurs:
* Indirectly via EIB and EIF for debt and risk capital (BA, VCs) via both H2020 and Cosme. * Indirectly via other intermediaries like for example accelerators and incubators. There are several initiatives and projects, to mention only one: phase 3 of FI-PPP. * Directly via Horizon 2020 program, where almost 3B� will be available for startups and SMEs via SME instrument.

But there are also other programs such as Erasmus+, which includes Erasmus for entrepreneurs, creative Europe, etc.

4. Where can entrepreneurs find support and guidance to apply for these funds on a local or regional level?

Indeed an important question. There are at least 2 such a networks: NCPs (national contact points) and EEN (Enterprise Europe Network). In the ICT domain, NCPs are supported via the Ideal-IST project.

5. How does the EU plan to offer ongoing funding and support for tech entrepreneurs in the coming years?

This will only increase. One such example is what we call the Business Angel pilot where 30M� from the European Commission (via H2020) will be matched by another 30M� from EIF to support co-investment by the Business Angels in Europe. Though this is a "pilot" the hope is that this will continue.

Another new initiative is the so called FTI or fast track to innovation with a budget of 100M� in 2015 and another 100M� in 2016. This is a fully bottom up scheme, open to all the sectors (not only ICT) where a strong industry participation (including SMEs) is a pre-requirement. You'll be able to get more details during the event.

If you want to get even more details and recommendations on the subject, make sure to sign up for the StartUp Europe Roadshow in Bucharest happening June 18. Mr. Viorel Peca will be there himself, disclosing more details and offering practical advice.