The Innovation Union is one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy which was agreed by Member States in June 2010 and which builds on the progress made under the Lisbon Strategy. The Innovation Union has a central role in achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. It is aimed at improving conditions and access to finance for research and innovation in Europe, to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.
The Innovation Union contains over thirty action points among which, a key point for ‘Enhancing access to finance for innovative companies’. According to the Commission’s proposal, the European Union needs to put in place financial instruments to attract a major increase in private finance and close the market gaps in investing in research and innovation. Contributions from the European Union budget should create a major leverage effect and expand on the success of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development as well as on the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme.
Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument aimed at implementing the Innovation Union. By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 focuses on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. Under the 'Industrial Leadership' pillar, Horizon 2020 supports companies and other organisations engaged in research and innovation (R&I) to gain easier access, via financial instruments, to loans, guarantees, counter-guarantees and hybrid, mezzanine and equity finance.
Currently, the priority is to continue and build on activities that have been worthwhile in supporting Research & Innovation in 2007-2013 such as the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) and the Risk-Sharing Instrument for SMEs (RSI), together with GIF-1, the early-stage part of the High-Growth & Innovative SMEs Facility in the Competitiveness & Innovation Framework Programme.
Horizon 2020's financial instrument facilities will operate in conjunction with the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), and the coming two years will anticipate:
- a significant participation by Horizon 2020 in the proposed SME Finance Initiative;
- the launch of a pilot facility supporting the technology transfer process; and
- a new focus on improving access to risk finance by larger midcap firms.
The European Union will offer robust support to organisations and companies of all sizes, through advice on how to be considered more positively by banks and potential investors. To this end, Horizon 2020 seeks to encourage more business angel and crowd-funding investments in Research & Innovation, in order to explore the potential for pan-European venture capital funds-of-funds and to assess the possibilities of an EU prizes scheme.
Under Horizon 2020 debt and equity facilities will be run in a demand-driven manner. Nonetheless, the priorities of particular sectors or other EU programmes will be also targeted if top-up funding is made available, including from managing authorities wishing to invest part of their European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) programme contribution.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF) have a central role, as entrusted entities, in implementing each financial instrument facility on behalf of and in partnership with the European Commission.
Hence, the overall objective of the conference is to raise awareness of the potential of the financial instruments, facilities and accompanying measures launched under Horizon 2020 which aim to enhance access to finance for research, innovation and growth. Several aspects will be analysed including the organisation of potential synergies and/or interactions among the H2020 financial instruments, COSME the European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) and instruments at national or local level.