How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Armenia?
1. I have an innovative business idea: can I receive a grant from the EU?

Yes, you can. Armenia has full access to the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, which means you can apply for innovation grants in exactly the same way as companies in the EU.

Horizon2020

Support is grouped under the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) accelerator pilot, which supports innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally. You can apply both as an individual SME or together with partners: a first phase of funding for early phase projects (€50,000 grants) ended on 5 September 2019,  but more mature innovative business projects can still apply for support to bring their product to market, with grants of between €500,000 and € 2.5 million, and access to loans up to €15 million). The programme also offers coaching and mentoring to companies that receive funding.

Indeed, innovative businesses can find it difficult to secure finance: their products can be complex, their technologies untested, and their markets may not even yet exist. To meet this challenge, H2020 Access to Risk Finance helps companies and start-ups to gain easier access to loans.

2. How do I apply?

If you have a brilliant idea or innovation but you’re not sure which funding scheme is right for you, visit the EIC funding page and check out the EIC wizard – a great interactive funding assistant – to help you identify the best solution for your company.

To apply, you’ll need to register your company in the system and submit an application form outlining your idea.

Remember, the programme is aimed at SMEs with a revolutionary business idea based on developing an innovative technology. Three main criteria are used to evaluate your proposal:

  • Excellence: how your high-risk/high-potential innovation goes beyond the state of the art in its field.
  • Impact: how your innovation will create substantial demand (including willingness to pay) for the product, service or model.
  • Implementation: how the innovative product will be managed, and which team resources are available to do so.

If you are looking for a loan to finance your innovation, you’ll need to check out the H2020 Access to Risk Finance page.

If you need help, visit the Horizon 2020 national portal, and make sure to contact the H2020 National Contact Points in Armenia.

3. It sounds good, but these applications are never simple are they?

Definitely. You need to take the application seriously, and to answer each question thoroughly. Don’t think you can take an existing text and copy-paste it into the application – the evaluators will be looking in detail at your answers to each question. 

Some people think the project’s description must be as academic as possible, but this is not true – evaluators do NOT want to read a scientific abstract, they want you to sell your project in a way that is understandable to a non-specialist. Imagine that you are pitching to investors, so look for the WOW effect, and remember, it’s not enough for your product to be innovative, you must be able to demonstrate its commercial value.

Your proposal needs to tell a coherent story, it should be written in a way that’s easy to read, without repetitions and ‘hot air’ to fill the space (the maximum number of pages is a maximum – not a requirement). Remember that the evaluator is a human being and it’s better for you when your proposal is easier to read.

Some people will be put off by the fact that everything must be submitted in English. But you should see this as an opportunity: write your presentation in Armenian and have it professionally translated. You’ll be at ease answering the questions in Armenian, but the final application will be in fluent English. And you’ll end up with an English pitch for your project, which will be useful for other programmes or investors.

If you’re filing an SME innovation application, make sure to read the step-by-step guide to the proposal template for the SME Instrument, which contains priceless tips and advice on submitting a proposal. This advice is based on feedback from evaluators and Horizon 2020 national contact points who deal daily with SME applications.

4. Have any Armenian companies received grants?

Last year, Grovf became the first company from Armenia and the whole Caucasus to win a grant under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument. Grovf is a start-up established in 2017 and working on data processing solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT). At their second attempt – and with the support of the EU4Business project ‘Support to SME Development in Armenia’ (EU-SMEDA) – Grovf won a €50,000 grant under the SME Instrument. The funding will be used to support research and development initiatives, and will enable the team to invest in the company’s technological improvement, making its product more competitive.

Find out more about how Grovf is conquering new tech horizons with EU support, and also check out the interactive map of beneficiaries under the SME Instrument.

5. Are there any funding opportunities for individuals?

If you’re a researcher looking to give your career a boost by working abroad, you can apply for an individual fellowship under the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. To apply, you need a PhD or at least four years’ full-time research experience. Research in all disciplines can be funded – from physics to linguistics, from health-sciences to mathematical modelling. The grants of up to two years cover living, travel and family costs, and the EU also contributes to your training, networking and research costs, as well as to the management and indirect costs of the project (see guide for applicants for full details). The grant is awarded to the host organisation, usually a university, research centre or a company in Europe.

The European Research Council (ERC) also provides funding for top researchers of any nationality to conduct research in Europe. With an ERC Starting Grant, early career researchers can get up to €1.5 million for five years of research. Even more attractive grants are available for more senior, established researchers.

Having said that, most European research funding aims to support international partnerships to advance innovation, so if you are an academic your most likely route to EU funding is through collaboration. Horizon 2020 funds research projects in all areas – from space to humanities, from ICT to agriculture, from biotechnology to energy…

6. What chance do Armenian scientists and researchers have to receive grants?

Armenia benefits from Horizon 2020 in the same way as European Union member states, which means Armenian scientists have exactly the same chance of funding as their colleagues from the EU.

But Horizon 2020 is not just about the money. Most projects require you to work with at least three other institutions or enterprises from different countries. So Horizon 2020 opens the door to better collaboration between Armenian scientists and their international colleagues, as well as business partners from the EU and across the world.

Gohar Tsakanova is a scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences. A few years ago, she took part in a meeting and training organised in Brussels under H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, developing the contacts that have since led her to work on a cancer research project with scientists in Germany, developing less invasive treatments for malignant and non-malignant pathologies that could save people’s lives in the future. Read Gohar’s story here.

Armine Abramyan heads the International Research Programme Coordinating Unit at the Armenian National Agrarian University, developing innovative areas in agri-food ecosystems based on international scientific projects. She too has worked on several Horizon 2020 projects aimed at the effective and sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity. “I intend to use all my knowledge and experience acquired abroad for the development of our university,” she says. Read Armine’s story here.

By the end of 2018, 25 joint projects involving Armenian partners under Horizon 2020 had been implemented since the country became a full member of the programme in May 2016, while 47 individual Armenian researchers had received funding under the latest phase of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (2014-2020).

7. Where else can I search for funding to support my start-up?

Horizon 2020 is dedicated to research and innovation funding, but there are plenty of other EU opportunities for support that are available in Armenia:

If you are a business: you can apply for a ranging of funding and support opportunities under the EU4Business initiative (its EU-SMEDA project has a particular focus on business innovation). Armenian entrepreneurs also have access to the EU’s COSME programme, which includes grants for SME development, and also funds the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps Armenian SMEs find business and technology partners across Europe and beyond. If you are starting out in business, you can benefit from the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other Participating Countries.

If you are an academic or a student: Erasmus+ offers a wealth of research and exchange opportunities across all fields and for all levels. Visit the National Erasmus+ Office in Armenia for details, as well as check our Erasmus+ e-cards for youth opportunities funded under the programme.

If you are in culture or media: Armenia participates fully in the culture and media programmes of the EU’s Creative Europe programme.

To keep up with all the news, events and opportunities about EU support for research and innovation, bookmark the EU4Innovation page.