Tuesday, 13 October 2015

'Seal' identifies project proposals which merit funding from alternative sources

TODAY – 13 October 2015 the European Commission has launched a new initiative called "Seal of Excellence". This new scheme will allow regions to recognise the quality label awarded to promising project proposals submitted under Horizon 2020 and promote their access to different funding sources like the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and other national or regional investment programmes. By introducing this new label, the European Commission wants to improve the synergies between EU funding for regional policy and for research.

The initiative was launched today by Commissioners Corina Creţu, responsible for Regional Policy and Carlos Moedas, responsible for Research, Science and Innovation, at the OPEN DAYS - Week of European Regions and Cities.

Commissioner Corina Creţu said: "For 2014-2020, €100 billion worth of investments from the European Regional Development Fund will foster research and innovation, including over €32 billion earmarked to support SMEs, start-ups and entrepreneurs, the main drivers of innovation in Europe. The Seal of Excellence will help identify and support innovative projects and help them grow and compete internationally."

Commissioner Carlos Moedas said: "EU regions are already a major investor in quality research and innovation in Europe. Through the Seal of Excellence they can benefit from the world class Horizon 2020 evaluation system to easily identify the best projects in their regions to support with their  funds".

The "Seal of Excellence" quality label will be awarded to promising projects submitted under Horizon 2020 which could not secure funding due to budgetary constraints but received high assessment scores in the demanding and independent evaluation process. In its pilot phase, the "Seal of Excellence" will first be given to proposals by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) submitted under the SME instrument of Horizon 2020. The action could then be extended to cover more areas of Horizon 2020.

How does the 'Seal of Excellence' work in practice?

The Horizon 2020 'SME instrument' has been selected for the introduction of the 'Seal of Excellence' because of the relevance to regional and national funders, as the project proposals are mostly led by a single SME and address small scale R&I actions close to the market with a clear territorial impact.

The action concerns, for this initial ‘pilot’ phase, only proposals applying for the SME instrument and in particular all those SME instrument proposals evaluated above the quality threshold (13 or more out of 15 in Phase 1, or 12 or more out of 15 in Phase 2) but not receiving Horizon 2020 funding. Later on it could be extended to cover more areas of Horizon 2020. A holder of the certificate can then approach alternative funding sources (regional, national, private or public) and presents the certificate as a label of a high-quality project proposal.

What should the SMEs expect?

While the Commission certifies with the seal the quality of the proposals according to Horizon 2020 criteria, it may not always be the case that, at local level, the SME will find funding schemes ready to provide the required support and, where they have been established, funding will not be automatic simply based on the recognition of the seal.

Further information on funding opportunities can be obtained at the local/national level either directly with the Managing Authorities or through Europe Enterprise Network and National Contact Point network.

Interested in implementing the 'Seal' approach?

In order to allow for exchanges of know-how, the European Commission has established a 'Community of Practice' exploring the best ways to implement funding schemes in support of high-quality projects with the 'Seal of Excellence' through ESIF or other sources. The 'Community of Practice' is reserved for National or Regional authorities that have a funding power for Research and Innovation actions. It is also open to other Funding Agencies for Innovating SMEs (including private banks and investors).

National or Regional authorities that can provide funding for Research and Innovation, interested in being part of the Europe-wide 'Community of Practice', can send an Expression of Interest by e-mail.

Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding programme between 2014 – 2020, offers nearly €80 billion in investments for research and innovation projects to support Europe’s economic
competitiveness. At least 20%, or nearly €9 billion from the programme's 'leadership in industrial technologies' and 'societal challenge' pillars, is expected to benefit SMEs directly in the form of grants, including via the "SME Instrument".

Since 2013, the new rules governing investments under the European Structural and Investment Funds call for a more strategic and synergetic use of different EU funds for a greater impact on growth and jobs. With a budget of €450 billion for the 2014–2020 period, the European Structural and Investment Funds invest in key growth-generating areas such as innovation, support to SMEs, training and education, social inclusion and the low-carbon economy.

The OPEN DAYS – the European Week of Regions and Cities are co-hosted by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions. From 12 to 14 October 2015, 6,000 representatives
from Europe's regions and cities are gathering in Brussels for the 13th annual OPEN DAYS to exchange their views on how to fully exploit the potential of Cohesion Policy in terms of growth and job creation.

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